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56pc of holiday shoppers will engage in showrooming: Accenture

The practice of showrooming is likely to play a key role in the upcoming holiday shopping season, with 56 percent of shoppers saying they will compare prices online using a smartphone, according to a new study from Accenture.

As smartphone penetration grows and consumers get comfortable using their devices for an array of activities, retailers are seeing more in-store shoppers pull out their smartphones in the aisles to compare the online price for a product. The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey found that 27 percent showrooming shoppers will likely make an online purchase using their smartphone or tablet while they are still out shopping.

“We are seeing the expansion in mobile shopping accelerating, and this is primarily driven from the growth of tablet ownership and usage,” said Nathaniel Fry, executive director of the retail practice at Accenture, New York.

“This will have contributed to the number of shoppers that tell us they will be showrooming this holiday season, and then buying while out on the same shopping trip,” he said.

“This will be of real concern to traditional retailers and, already this season, we are seeing many of them respond with tactics such as price matching against online pure-plays.”

Seamless shopping
The growth in showrooming shows that consumers are looking for simple, seamless shopping experiences that offer convenience and value.

The top reason cited by consumers for using a tablet or smartphone for holiday shopping is to compare prices while in a store, according to the report.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers are empowering store associates to match online prices when they see a shopper using their phone to compare prices in an effort to address showrooming.

However, not all shoppers using a smartphone in a store aisle are showrooming, which means retailers need to tread carefully in their efforts to retain a sale or they might annoy shoppers.

It is also important for retailers to strengthen their customer service and product availability if they want to fight back against showrooming, per Accenture.

Cyber Monday
The report also found that the use of tablets and smartphones to make holiday purchases is on the rise, with 25 percent of consumers planning to use these devices to buy holiday gifts, compared to 17 percent in 2011.

The results suggest Cyber Monday will once again be a big day for online and mobile retailers. For several years now, online retailers have been offering special deals and promotions on the first Monday after Thanksgiving to encourage online shopping.

According to the Accenture survey, 34 percent of consumers say they are likely to shop on Cyber Monday. Of these, 45 percent will be looking for free shipping offers from retailers while 40 percent will do so because they feel the best online deals will be available.

More than 37 percent of consumers planning to shop on Cyber Monday are doing so simply to avoid the crowds.

Other key findings include that 54 percent of shoppers would choose to shop online if a retailer offered the same product both online and in a physical store. Half of shoppers would also be willing to shop online on Thanksgiving Day if retailers offer discounts.

Unique offers
The survey also points to the return in interest to shopping on Black Friday following several years of declining interest, with 53 percent planning to shop on Black Friday this year. Last year, only 44 percent were interested in shopping on Black Friday, down from 47 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2009.

While spending on holiday gifts will be slightly up this year, consumers will still be looking for discounts as concerns about the high cost of living persist, per Accenture.

“Traditional retailers should focus on personalizing the shopping experience, offers and content, and on making the store an environment in which shoppers want to linger,” Mr. Fry said.

“Their product offering needs to be unique and they should reduce commodity products, which makes showrooming more difficult and therefore less relevant,” he said.

“Also, it is about arming store associates and management with mobile tools to better, and more quickly, serve consumers demonstrating showrooming behaviors to convert them into a store sale on the spot.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York