Advice for Retailers

Retailer Reactions to Price-Checking Consumers with Smart Phones

Smartphones are a consumer phenomenon that is changing the retail landscape. But how are retailers reacting to consumers who use their mobile devices to check prices?

Ten years ago, few retailers could have predicted the impact smartphones and other mobile devices would have on the U.S. retail sector.

Yet today, many retail businesses find themselves racing to catch up with the radical shifts that are occurring in consumer shopping patterns. More than ever before, modern consumers are savvy shoppers who are equipped with sophisticated technologies and a network of buying advisors who are only a few clicks away.

In the old days, a consumer got in the car, drove to a retail store, and looked for items on the store's shelves. If the store had the item he wanted, he bought it because he lacked the ability to conveniently compare prices and access product reviews. Consequently, the retail formula was simply to get shoppers in the store and let consumer purchasing tendencies take care of the rest.

Despite the inroads made by online retailing, consumers still shop at brick-and-mortar stores. But now that they are equipped with smartphones, many consumers perform on-the-spot price checks before making a purchase. If they can find the same item through another retail brand or online retailer, they will leave the store and take their business elsewhere. In fact, mobile consumers will often purchase someone else's lower-priced product before they walk out your door.

The ramifications of a smartphone-equipped customer base are frightening for retailers. Price is more important than ever, but it isn't the only thing you need to be concerned about. Here are some of the strategies other stores are using to respond to the mobile revolution.

  • In-store assistance. Retailers offer shoppers customer service and in-store assistance. Sometimes this means using store clerks to re-direct mobile device shoppers to similar products that have been priced more competitively. In other cases, retailers are equipping clerks with their own smartphones and encouraging them to participate in their customers' mobile shopping experience as a way of directing attention toward an in-store purchase.
  • Unique products. Another strategy retailers are employing is to stock their shelves with unique products that can't be easily compared to the products carried by other brands. Although the products are essentially the same, inconsequential variations and labeling can frustrate consumers' efforts to perform mobile price shopping.
  • Value-added. Retailers that can't compete on price are focusing on value-added strategies. In-store service and product support can be an enticing add-on for some consumers, especially buyers of technology products.
  • Price matching. At this point, very few retailers are willing to match online pricing. Print ad price matching is common, but it may only be a matter of time before online pricing also becomes standard retail procedure.

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