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Maybe Showrooming Isn’t as Scary as You Think

February 28th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

During this past holiday shopping season, media reports were full of stories about how brick-and-mortar shoppers were “showrooming”—viewing products in-store, then checking their mobile phones to find lower prices at other retailers or online. The trend struck fear into the hearts of retailers, but those fears may be unfounded, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Consumers are using mobile phones while shopping like never before—that much is true.  The report, In-Store Mobile Commerce During the 2012 Holiday Season, found that nearly six in 10 cell owners used their phone inside a physical store for assistance or guidance in making a purchasing decision during the 2012 holiday season. But they’re not just comparing prices. Here’s what they’re doing:

  • 46 percent of cell owners used their phone while inside a store to call a friend or family member for advice about a purchase they were considering. Women and young adults (age 18 to 29) are more likely to do this.
  • 28 percent of cell owners used their phone while inside a store to look up product reviews to help them decide whether to buy a product it or not. Young adults (18 to 29), smartphone owners, and those with at least some college experience are more likely than average to use their phones to search for product reviews in-store.
  • 27 percent of cell owners used their phone while inside a store to look up the price of a product and see if they could get a better price either online or at another retail store. Young adults, smartphone owners and those with some college experience were most likely to do price comparisons.

Altogether, more than half (58 percent) of cell owners used their phone for at least one of these purposes. As you might expect, young adults and smartphone owners led the way, with 78 percent of those aged 18-29 and 72 percent of smartphone owners using their phones for at least one of these purposes in the 2012 holiday season.

But here’s the good news: Even among those who look up prices in-store, a majority end up either buying the item in the store or not buying it at all. Some 46 percent of “mobile price matchers” report they ultimately bought the product in that store. That’s an 11-point increase from the 35 percent who said this in last year’s study. Just 12 percent ended up buying the product online, compared to 19 percent who did so in last year’s survey. So while consumers are becoming more sophisticated in using their cell phones to become savvier shoppers, what they learn from doing so is persuading more of them to make purchases in-store.

Image by Flickr user Rebecca L. Daily (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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