Mobile shoppers aren’t as flaky as retailers believe according to a new study on the cause and frequency of “showrooming” by Aimia and Columbia Business School.
Of 3,000 shoppers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada who say they use smartphones and tablets while they’re-in store, 70% say they have showroomed (viewed a product in store, and then bought it from an e-tailer online) in the past 12 months. But only a quarter said they entered the store intending to buy online, and 58% said they had at least once bought a product in store even though they knew it could be purchased for an equal or lower price online.
“Our findings debunk many of the common assumptions about the threat of showrooming and who is doing it,” said Matthew Quint, director of CBS’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and a recent speaker at Marketing‘s Data-Driven Marketing conference, in a release. “Many shoppers with smartphones care about more than just the lowest price on every item. In fact, while roughly 25% of mobile shoppers may require a discount to motivate in-store purchases, a clear majority can be entied to purchase in-store through information assistance, engagement strategies, and strong loyalty rewards programs.”
The study addresses an issue that’s concerning many retailers. Best Buy CEO Mike Mikan identified showrooming as a priority threat last June, while Target issued a letter to vendors in January seeking help to prevent it.
In exploring why shoppers buy online instead of in-store, Aimia and CBS report that the dominant reason, cited by 69% of respondents, was price; second place at 48% was free shipping. Reasons that mattered very little were lack of sales taxes online (16%), negative in-store consumer experiences (8%), and more trust in e-tailers (8%).
Digging deeper on price-points, the researchers identified showrooming peak discounts – the discount that e-tailers would need to offer to draw 30% of mobile shoppers away from in-store purchasing. For $50 items, shoppers wanted a 20% discount; for $200 items, they wanted a 10% discount; and for $500 items, they wanted just 5%. That might be why appliances and electronics is the category hardest hit by showrooming, with 45% of shoppers saying they regularly price-check electronics on mobile, and 83% saying they do so occasionally.
But the news wasn’t all bad. For one thing, mobile shoppers who buy online while they’re in a brick-and-mortar store are just as likely to buy from the retailer’s own online store as a competitor’s. Most mobile shoppers also said that the appeal of getting a product immediately by buying in-store had stopped them from showrooming — the top three drivers for buying in-store rather than online were that the shopper needed the product right away (59%), they didn’t want to wait for an online purchase to be delivered (53%) and that they found buying in store more convenient (51%).
The study’s core sample of 18+ shoppers included 1,000 respondents each from Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. who said they owned a smartphone or tablet and had used it to aid in in-store shopping in the last year; respondents who said they weren’t mobile shoppers were included in the ratio of mobile to non-mobile shoppers but excluded from the rest of the survey. Data was age-weighted to reflect the general population in each country.