November 16, 2012, 11:04 AM

One in five online adults are showrooming

33% of those who checked prices in-store with their smartphones bought elsewhere, Aprimo finds.

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20% of U.S. online adults are using their smartphones in stores to compare prices between the retailer they’re visiting and other retailers online, a practice known as showrooming, according to new research from marketing software and services vendor Aprimo, performed in conjunction with Forrester Research Inc. analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.

Of consumers who are showrooming, 33% say they ultimately used information they found to buy a product elsewhere, either at another physical store or online, the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. online adults says. 96% of showrooming consumers say they plan to use their smartphone to research prices the same way or more in the future.

“This research confirms what many in the retail industry have suspected: Showrooming is here to stay,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Retailers must seriously consider ways to avoid losing sales this way by using strategies such as price matching, personalized in-store service and loyalty programs.”

Aprimo asked consumers what retail tactics might encourage them to buy a product at the store they’re visiting. 57% of survey respondents say price matching would help, 36% say personalized coupons, 30% loyalty points from the retailer, 29% better customer service in the store, and 23% having an item shipped directly to their homes.

Showrooming may just be getting started—one third of those who have not used their smartphones for in-store research haven’t done so simply because the idea hadn’t yet occurred to them, the survey finds. And showrooming isn’t just for big-ticket items—while 39% of consumers who engaged in showrooming checked prices on consumer electronics, 37% researched prices on groceries and 33% on apparel/footwear.

“The opportunity here is to leverage technology and common sense and shift to a customer-centric value proposition through better service, smarter timing and relevant offers,” says Marc Schroeder, vice president of industry solutions at Aprimo. “Retailers need new ways to build loyalty and brand value; store retailers will not win in the long run by focusing only on price matching.”

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