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Adapting the model to embrace consumers’ mobile behaviours

‘Showrooming’ is a feature of retail today and should be embraced by retailers who must ensure mobile is a key element of their multi-channel strategies. By Glynn Davis


Adapting the model to embrace consumers’ mobile behaviours

Ahead of taking part in a panel discussion at the 3rd Retail Bulletin Mobile Retailing Summit 2013 in London on September 24 Jon Copestake, chief retail and consumer goods analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, says: “Bricks and mortar retailers face huge challenges and they have to meet them head on. They need a multi-channel strategy and this has to embrace mobile and showrooming.” 

The use of phones in-store to compare prices is a global phenomenon and is affecting retail in different ways. In the US Best Buy initially tried to counter it by changing to bar codes that could not be scanned. However, Copestake says this “alienated” shoppers and the company has reversed the decision.

Retailers should in fact promote the use of smart-phones in-store by providing free Wi-Fi, according to Copestake who cites Robin Terrell, multi-channel director at Tesco, as being among the advocates of Wi-Fi because “you can’t fight it and it helps to keep people in-store longer”.

Clearly some shoppers use the Wi-Fi connectivity for price comparisons but there is also a lot of other activity on Facebook and checking the football scores: “It often keeps the other halves happy as they can use their phones to check the football while their partners shop.”

This suggests retailers need to embrace showrooming. “It’s here and so they need to turn it into an opportunity,” says Copestake, adding that they should develop apps that work with their brands and that help with the sales process, but do not necessarily result in the sale being completed in the store channel.

“The stores of the future won’t be judged on how much they sell but on the impact they have had on overall sales,” he explains. Copestake also believes retailers should seek to differentiate themselves from the competition by offering additional services in-store whereby the lowest price is not the only factor in a customers’ buying decision.

Not only is mobile affecting how bricks and mortar retailers use their existing stores but pure play operators have recognised how mobile devices can enable them to open stores. Copestake says in China bar-code stores are being opened, which involve a physical store with a wall of product photos and codes that can be scanned and the goods ordered online.

Such initiatives are undoubtedly driven by the high penetration of smart-phones in China that Copestake calculates as being at nearly 100%. When this is combined with infrastructures that have not typically involved broad band connectivity, but where consumers have gone straight to mobile internet connections, then the opportunity for retailers in these countries is even greater at this point than in the UK.

But it is inevitable that over time mobile will have just as much impact on mature retailing markets like Britain and is why retailers have to accept showrooming and customer behaviours that are driven by the increasingly ubiquitous mobile device.

Jon will be sharing his knowledge along with our other impressive speakers from John Lewis, EE, Miista, The Body Shop UK, Domino’s Pizza Group, Historic Scotland, IMRG, Star Micronics, InfoStretch, Solebery Advisory Ltd., Mobileweb Company. Network with your peers at this one day, interactive event.

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