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Shoppers really are just teasing stores

Brick-and-mortar retailers’ darkest suspicions are true: Shoppers are using them.

Nearly eight in 10 shoppers surveyed have “showroomed” (78 percent) and “webroomed” (76 percent) in the past 12 months, according to a new report by Chicago-based Market Track.

Showrooming takes place when a shopper uses his or her mobile device to check prices and do research online for cheaper merchandise while shopping inside a store. Webrooming takes place when a shopper researches a product online but decides to buy it right away in a store.

Technology has put shoppers in charge, and challenges retailers’ best efforts to offer loyalty cards, frequent-buyer rewards and other efforts, says Mark Detelich, senior vice president of product development at Market Track.

Nicole Duhoski, founding partner of public relations firm VineSprout, says the research shows it is easier than ever to find the best price.

“Online shoppers are becoming more and more savvy,” she says. “They know how to find coupons, promo codes and discounted gift cards, and they know how to avoid sales tax and shipping.”

The Market Track research shows 80 percent of shoppers relied on a promotion to make an unplanned purchase or to change the store they went to or the brand they’d typically buy.

Yet retailers and manufacturers surveyed estimated only 42 to 45 percent of their shoppers would spurn them for a better deal.

Shoppers jumped ship for different types of purchases — with shoes, toys and video games most frequently bought for price alone — and for different types of promotions, ranging from free shipping to a bundled offer, the research shows.

Top performers are starting to target shoppers by behavior and preference by paying attention to shoppers’ Web activity, mobile engagement, emails that shoppers click on, their opt-in preferences and when they shop in a store, says Ian Michiels, managing director of Evanston-based IT market research firm Gleanster.

Some retailers use “retargeting,” so that a shopper who has viewed a pair of jeans at Bloomingdales.com will be served ads displaying that specific pair of jeans everywhere on the Web or on sites like Facebook.

“The ad looks like a page post, but it is a post specially targeted to me in my newsfeed,” Duhoski says, citing Nordstrom ads on Facebook as an example. “Nordstrom is constantly showing me images of shoes that I’ve looked at online, and telling me things like, ‘Go ahead, you know you want them.’ At times, it can feel like a brand is stalking you online, but when it is a product that I plan to purchase, I appreciate the nudge.”

Yet only 20 percent of 100 midsize to large retailers surveyed by Gleanster use more than basic purchase behavior and profile information to communicate with shoppers, according to a new report by Gleanster and Yesmail Interactive.

“Big data is a great concept in theory, but it’s not yet a reality,” Michiels says. “Retailers have to start bringing together data about customers that isn’t accessible in one place. … It’s really about building a relationship with a customer.”