November 14, 2012, 4:02 PM

48 million consumers will engage in showrooming during the holidays

Shoppers are more likely to buy from retailers with m-commerce sites and apps, IDC finds.

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This holiday season, 48 million shoppers—about 20% of the U.S. adult population—will use their smartphones to compare prices and research products while shopping in stores, a practice known as “showrooming,” IDC Retail Insights finds in a new survey. This represents a 134% increase from 2011 when 20.5 million shoppers engaged in showrooming. IDC forecasts the number of showrooming shoppers will grow to 59 million next year, 69 million in 2014 and 78 million in 2015. This year, according to the new research, showrooming will influence $700 million to $1.7 billion in holiday retail purchases.

Big-ticket items, in particular those that consumers can easily evaluate by reading descriptions, specifications, ratings and reviews, will be the biggest target of consumers shopping with smartphones, according to the IDC report, “Business Strategy: At Hand Versus In Hand—Will Consumers Have the Upper Hand in the 2012 Holiday Showroom Showdown?” IDC surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults with Internet access.

Between 7% and 13% of consumer electronics shoppers will use their smartphones at least once in stores this season; showrooming activities will touch 1.4% of consumer electronic sales, IDC says. Apparel and footwear follows consumer electronics. Between 4% and 8% of shoppers will showroom this category this year, affecting about 1% of sales, IDC says.

64% of survey respondents think what they’ll learn in the store with their smartphones will have at least as much influence on their decisions as what they’ll learn online before coming into the store. 56-60% of shoppers with their smartphones in-hand say they will be more likely or much more likely to buy what they find in the store when assisted by knowledgeable store associates.

Retailers that provide consistently superior customer service, run outstanding loyalty programs, and rely on low prices have natural barriers against showrooming, IDC says.

“The merchandising and customer services strategies that differentiate a retailer and define its value bear on showrooming shoppers’ propensity to rely on their smartphones in stores,” says Greg Girard, program director at IDC Retail Insights. “Private labels or exclusive brands, customer service, and loyalty stand out as the most promising strategies for dealing with showrooming.”

70% of shoppers planning to showroom this season say they will be more likely to buy from retailers that offer mobile commerce web sites, support smartphone shopping apps or offer price comparisons via QR codes.

“We see leaders running headlong toward omnichannel customer engagement technology,” Girard says. “Retailers from Wal-Mart to Luxottica Retail acknowledge the critical importance of engaging today’s savvy consumer through dynamic technology to improve the customer experience and increase sales.”

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