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Retailers face new showrooming challenges in Asia, Mexico: survey

Shoppers in stores in Asia, Mexico and other parts of the world are increasingly using smartphones to obtain advice from friends and family members at the moment a purchase decision occurs, creating a significant new external challenge for sales staff, according to a new study.

GfK’s survey of mobile phone users in 23 countries showed 40 percent of shoppers in-store are comparing prices and contacting a friend or family member for advice, while 36 percent are taking pictures of products they might buyAlthough mobile marketing plays have helped bricks-and-mortar stores of late make up ground in the battle against showrooming, the research suggests that keeping a close and real-time eye on the pricing of online competitors and reacting quickly are now key success factors for physical retailers, as well as online ones.

“The commonality around the world is that we all use mobile phones, alarmingly even more than toothbrushes,” said Jeff Hasen, founder/CEO of Gotta Mobilize, a Seattle-based marketing consulting firm. “As this study and others show, however, there are vast differences in usage.

“Among the reasons are the varying costs of service and hardware, the wide range of capabilities of devices, the level of use of the Internet on a PC, and the efforts of brands to engage consumers,” he said.

Mr. Hasen is not affilated with GfK. His comments are based on his experience.

Comparing prices
Shoppers in South Korea are the most likely to compare prices in-store on their mobile phones, at 59 percent, followed by China (54 percent) and Turkey (53 percent), according to the survey.

Shoppers in Ukraine are the least likely to participate in this activity, at 11 percent, trailed by South Africa (15) and India (17).

Breaking down showrooming, by nation.

The survey found that shoppers in Mexico are the most likely to use their mobile phones to contact a friend or family for advice while in a store, at 55 percent, followed by Poland (53 percent) and Turkey (52 percent).

By comparison, shoppers in Japan, Indonesia and Germany are the least likely to do so, with just 16, 21 and 24 percent respectively.

Shoppers in Mexico (49 percent), China (49 percent) and Turkey (47 percent) are the most likely to use their mobile phones in a store to take pictures of products they might buy. By comparison, this activity is still nascent in markets such as India (12 percent), Ukraine (13 percent) and Indonesia (16 percent), but the trend needs to be watched closely as smartphone penetration increases.

Worldwide, four in 10 shoppers are using their mobile phones while shopping inside a store to compare prices. Four in 10 are contacting friends or family for advice and more than one third take pictures of products they might buy.

By contrast, in the United States, 37 percent of shoppers compare prices via mobile while in a store (37 percent men and 36 percent women).

GfK asked mobile phone users in 23 countries what activities they regularly do on their mobile phones while they are inside a store.

Half of global shoppers, aged 20-29, compare prices online, while inside a store.

Globally, men outweigh women on using their mobile phone inside a store to compare prices on a regular basis, standing at 42 percent and 37 percent respectively.

The most active age group is shoppers aged 20-29, with nearly half (49 percent) saying they regularly do this, followed by those aged 15-19 and 30-39, both at 45 percent.

Globally, men and women are almost equally likely to use their mobile phones inside a store to contact a friend or family member for advice (40 percent of women and 39 percent of men say they regularly do this). Young adults aged 20-29 lead on this particular activity at 48 percent, while teens aged 15-19 follow closely (47 percent) and those aged 30-39 trail at 40 percent.

Taking photographs of actual products that they might buy is the third most popular activity that shoppers use their mobiles for while they are inside a store. Globally, men and women stand equal on this activity, with over a third (36 percent) of each routinely taking photos of products while shopping. Globally, teens (aged 15-19) and young adults (aged 20-29) are ahead of the curve on snapping photos inside a store (44 percent and 43 percent respectively), while the 30-39 year old shoppers follow at 39 percent.

Understanding differences
“The differences were apparent to me when I traveled to South Africa to keynote a marketing conference,” Mr. Hasen said. “Many of the attendees had not one, but two BlackBerry phones – one for work, another for personal use.

Looking closely at regional interests.

“Of course, in the U.S., that was a scene pre-iPhone and Android,” he said. “Now, we often raise an eyebrow when we see someone in the States using even one BlackBerry given its limited functionality.”

“The lesson for marketers is that we need to consider regional interests and behaviors rather than look to create on global mobile marketing initiative,” he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York