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REPORT: ‘Showrooming’ trend on the rise

By Retail Technology | Friday November 15 2013

New study into UK shopping habits in the digital age reveals more consumers than ever are using their smartphones to browse while in High Street stores

Retailers are being warned that ‘showrooming’ is on the rise in the UK, with 40% of British shoppers aged 35 or under having browsed products on a smartphone while visiting a store.

That’s according to research findings announced by Ipsos at Digital Shopper’s Day at BAFTA in London today, which also revealed the UK is catching up with the US, where 60% of all shoppers have engaged in showrooming.

It is one of a number of trends identified by Ipsos, which was commissioned by the organiser of Digital Shopper’s Day, HighCo MRM, to conduct a pan-European study on the digitisation of shopping.

Mobile becomes mainstream

More than 200 delegates at the event will hear that smartphones are becoming an increasingly integral feature of the shopping experience, with one in six having purchased a product from a smartphone in the past four weeks.

One of the ways in which retailers are responding is by making discount coupons available on smartphones. The research found that while only 17% of UK shoppers have already downloaded a discount coupon to their smartphone, 87% would consider doing so. A majority said such coupons could influence their choice of brand and encourage them to try products they would not normally buy.

Another growing trend is ‘click & collect’ shopping. With only 16% of British shoppers regularly using click & collect services at present, the UK lags behind other large European countries such as France, where the practice is far more prevalent. But there is room for growth, with 50% of consumers in the survey expressing an interest in taking advantage of click & collect offerings.

The report, British Shoppers in the Digital Age, demonstrates that consumers in are becoming more digitally savvy in their shopping habits. Other key findings included two-thirds of British adults have ordered groceries online, while 42% have used a quick response (QR) code and 35% follow a brand on social media. 

Online research dominates

One in six British adults have bought a product from a smartphone in the past four weeks, with one in five from a tablet device. Two-thirds have browsed products on a PC in the past four weeks, while less than half have browsed products in a physical store. And two-thirds regularly use the web to gather information about products before buying.

Organiser HighCo MRM, a multi-channel marketing services specialist, staged the event in conjunction with the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

“We are in the midst of a digital revolution,” said Peter Kerr of HighCo MRM. “Our Digital Shopper’s Day aims to equip marketers with even greater insight into what consumers now expect of brands, and knowledge of the tools available to engage with them in valuable ways whenever and wherever they shop.”

Kristin Brewe, UK director of marketing and communications for the Internet Advertising Bureau, said: “British shoppers are some of the most online savvy on earth, which is why it’s so important for marketers to stay up to speed on all the latest in digital. That’s also why the Internet Advertising Bureau UK supports industry efforts like Digital Shopper’s Day. 

Brewe said marketers found keeping up with this consumer-led technology revolution a big challenge and that ongoing education was paramount in that regard. “Mobile and tablet devices represent a huge opportunity for today’s marketers interested in reaching the ‘always on’ consumer,” she added. 

“That being said, effective shopping solutions for smart phones and tablets aren’t one-size-fits-all and require thought and planning to make the most of them. Listening to consumers is key in crafting solutions that connect your brand with today’s on-the-go-consumer, in addition to staying up to speed with best practice from other marketers.”  

Key shopping habit trends

The report, presented to delegates by Stephen Yap, Ipsos head of market understanding & measurement, identifies five key trends that are reshaping shopping habits:

1. Convergence of physical and virtual worlds

Examples include the rise of ‘showrooming’ and the growing use of click & collect services, which are being championed by retailers such as Selfridges and Amazon, with its Amazon Locker initiative. The new partnership between eBay and Argos is expected to further catapult click & collect into the mainstream. Other examples include Marks and Spencer and Asda equipping staff with iPads to speed up the ordering of items that are out of stock.

2. Technology enhancing experiences

In an environment where so many brands, messages and touchpoints are competing for the attention of shoppers, interactivity is one way to cut through the clutter. In France, retailers including Carrefour have been trialling near field communication (NFC) tags on products, enabling shoppers to tap them with their smartphones to call up product information and add items to a virtual shopping basket. Augmented reality and QR codes are also proving valuable in enhancing consumer experiences.

3. Gamification of consumption

Making brand interaction fun, and providing brand content in the form of a game, is one way to attract consumers to your content and drive word-of-mouth. In Germany, McDonald’s ran a ‘McSundae Melt’ campaign, in which customers scanned QR codes on billboards to receive a digital coupon for a free ice cream at their nearest store. But the McSundae image on the coupon began to melt away over time, requiring customers to act quickly to redeem the offer.

4. Social shopping

The convergence between social networking and shopping is accelerating. For example, one in five 18 to 24-year-olds regularly share images of their purchases on social networks. Additionally, one in three British consumers follow brands on social networks, with Facebook engagement continuing to be important.

5. Smartphone-powered loyalty

This is the age of the connected shopper. Four out of five British smartphone owners reach for their phone within 15 minutes of walking up. The HighCo MRM survey, conducted by Ipsos, showed that an overwhelming majority of these consumers are open to downloading discount coupons onto their smartphone. An example is the Harris + Hoole coffee chain, part owned by Tesco, which incentivises customers to download the mobile app with a free coffee. The app allows users to save their favourite coffee order – information that is captured on the brand’s database.

Commenting on the support for Digital Shopper’s Day, Paul Godwin, head of insights at the Institute of Promotional Marketing, added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insight, not only into the way consumers behave across digital and physical retail, but also into the rapidly developing technologies with which brands can align their activity towards those behaviours.”

The Digital Shopping Survey was conducted by Ipsos in seven countries: France, Belgium, Spain, UK, Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey. A total of 1,700 online interviews were undertaken between 27 November and 11 December 2012. Respondents were aged between 18 and 65.

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