NEW YORK: Showrooming, where consumers check prices in stores using smartphones and then buy online, could influence US sales worth up to $1.7bn during the holiday period, a study has argued.

IDC, the insights provider, estimated that roughly 48m shoppers - or in five US adults - would engage in showrooming between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It predicted that US retail sales worth between a total of $700m and $1.7bn could be affected as a result.

The number of US consumers using showrooming during the festive shopping season is thought to have more than doubled in the last year. IDC predicts the number will rise to 59m in 2013 and reach 78m by 2015.

A 64% majority of the survey panel expected this activity to exert at least as much influence on their purchase choices as information gained from the web before going to a retail outlet.

Elsewhere, some 41% of respondents identified one context for showrooming was when they wanted to compare in store an own label good or one sold only in certain stores to a wider range of products viewed via their smartphones.   

Depending on the category, 56% to 60% of people keen on showrooming agreed the probability of their buying in stores was higher if they received help from trustworthy and knowledgeable staff.

More specifically, the analysis predicted that 1.4% of consumer electronics sales, and 13% of category shoppers, would be influenced by this emerging habit.

Similarly, IDC estimated that 1% of purchases in the apparel and footwear sector would be impacted by this trend, with 8% of buyers potentially pursuing this route.

The study found that around 70% of the showrooming audience were more likely to buy from retailers that offered excellent mobile websites and apps, strong multichannel service and price comparisons via QR codes.

"Private labels or exclusive brands, customer service, and loyalty stand out as the most promising strategies for dealing with showrooming," said Greg Girard, IDC's programme director, retail insights.

Separately, Aprimo, the software group, and Harris Interactive, the research firm, polled 2,025 US adults, and also estimated that around 20% had participated in showrooming.

Of the early adopters of this habit, 39% had checked consumer electronic prices in store, ahead of 37% for groceries, and apparel ad footwear on 33%. Only 6%, however, regularly found cheaper prices online.

Data sourced from IDC; additional content by Warc staff