Mobile Shopping and Showrooming: How Does It Impact Retailers? [Study]

Showrooming and M-Commerce: a studyAre you part of the “showrooming” phenomenon?  Showrooming – now a common term among retailers – refers to consumers who find a product in a store, but then purchase it online (whether in-store via a mobile device, or back at home).

“Among brick-and-mortar retailers, showrooming has become a dirtier word than shoplifting,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek.  Should retailers really be so concerned?

Maybe not, according to a new study from Columbia Business School and Aimia. The study examines the behavior of shoppers showrooming with their mobile device in store aisles (referred to as “M-Shoppers”); it breaks M-Shoppers down into five different categories and examines their behavior in-store.

M-Shopper types and behavior via Columbia, Aimia study

Here are the highlights:

  • 21% of all consumers are M-Shoppers — using mobile devices while in retail stores to assist in their shopping decision
  • gender of M-Shoppers is pretty evenly split (52% male, 48% female)
  • 74% of M-Shoppers are over 29 years old (M-Shoppers are not just Millennials)
  • only 6% of M-Shoppers are “Exploiters” — already planning to buy online, and always opting for the lowest price
  • 30% are “Traditionalists” — committed to purchasing in-store, and only using their smartphones to find more information
  • M-Shoppers are more likely to use a store’s mobile app (42%) than to use deal-hunting apps such as those offered by RedLaser or EBay (26%)

In summary, M-Shoppers are not as disruptive to brick-and-mortar retailers as you might think.  One of the report authors, Columbia professor David Rogers, says “Basically, it shows we should dial back the panic a little bit.”

But how can retailers convince consumers to purchase in-store, at the actual cash register?  Nearly half of respondents (48%) were more likely to buy in stores when tempted by loyalty programs.  And the majority – 55% – of respondents are willing to sign up for a store loyalty program in order to gain benefits on their smartphone while in the store.

The research also suggests that retailers offering price-matching and free shipping stand a better chance of converting customers to purchase. Half of respondents who had engaged in showrooming said an offer of free shipping convinced them to purchase online (48%); even more cited lower prices (69%).

Some retailers take a different tack, and actually encourage shoppers to buy on their mobile device; Walmart’s “geo-fencing” mobile app offers hyperlocal deals to users located near the physical store.  Walmart now gets 12% of online revenue from customers shopping (via mobile) within a brick-and-mortar store location.

The full report, Showrooming and the Rise of the Mobile-Assisted Shopper, is based on a survey of 3,000 consumers in the US, UK and Canada.  The results were also compiled into this infographic.