Smartphones have revolutionized the shopping experience by giving consumers faster access to larger volumes of information than they've ever had before. Shoppers that like to try before they buy can use physical storefronts to look at, touch and wear products before scanning the barcode to make sure they're getting the best price. Buffalo News columnist Emma Sapong referred to this trend as "showrooming," and, although it is seen as a threat to some retailers , other businesses are wisely adapting to accommodate the preferences of their mobile customers.
Citing statistics from a 2011 InsightExpress study, Sapong pointed out that showrooming has gained significant traction in recent years. Although only 14 percent of smartphone owners used their devices to compare in-store prices with online products in 2009, that number rose to 59 percent by 2011.
Businesses across the country are still exploring ways to respond to the trend, according to Sapong. One common strategy has been to integrate in-store and online experiences. Walmart, for example, supports in-store pick-up for products purchased online. Many other businesses have turned to ecommerce hosting solutions to design online shopping websites to complement their physical locations.
Matt Cava, director of mobile solutions for marketing company Vibes, told Buffalo News that traditional retailers should develop their own mobile solutions to better communicate with customers. Cava used the example of mobile applications to help customers locate products they're looking for.
Some businesses thrive despite showrooming trend
While many businesses have taken steps to mitigate showrooming, limiting the freedom of mobile consumers may do more harm than good. InvestorPlace contributor James Brumley pointed out that several businesses aren't fighting against the trend and are thriving. Brumley highlighted Dick's Sporting Goods as an example of how traditional retailers can embrace consumer mobility. The retailer, along with Foot Locker and Cabelas, have all done exceptionally well in the market, despite claims by other stores that showrooming has hurt sales.
"Dick’s created its own interactive iPad app before the beginning of youth football season this year, essentially serving as an aggregated checklist for the needed equipment," Brumley wrote. "Better still, the app itself was feature-rich, including links to online videos about each piece of equipment in question. Simply put, the app wasn’t just a checklist, but it was a complete experience in which a buyer could become immersed … a shopping experience so rich that the consumer didn’t even want to bother looking for a better price."
According to Brumley, the mobile app turned out to be highly beneficial to Dick's, which observed that the average purchases were 20 percent larger from the iPad app than transactions on the company's website. Mobile hosting solutions can help businesses ensure that they are delivering significant value to increasingly mobile consumers.