RSR Research: Why I Might Take My Tablet Shopping

Discussion
Aug 02, 2013

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.

About two months ago, I spotted my first tablet shopper in the wild.

IPad propped up in the child seat of his grocery cart, he was hunched over so most of his weight was resting on the cart handles, and walking very slowly (down the middle of the aisle, of course). As far as I could tell, he was checking items off a grocery list, but he could have been checking e-mail or doing any number of things.

Annoyed as I passed his lane-hogging cart, I thought at the time I could never see a need to take my iPad with me to shop. I was wrong. Here’s why.

Retailers who complain about showrooming — defined as the act of visiting a store with the express purpose of examining the item to be purchased before ultimately buying it online — have been complaining as if this behavior is new. It’s not. Fifteen or twenty years ago, showrooming meant driving to a retailer, checking out selections and prices, then driving to the next competitive retailer down the road to check selection and prices. It just took longer.

But I would argue that almost every shopping behavior — including researching products and deciding where to shop — is being similarly shortened by technology.

And I’ve found that the disruption doesn’t end there. My family is getting new appliances as part of a kitchen remodel. We definitely wanted to see all of the items that we were purchasing — particularly the range and the refrigerator — both for aesthetic and practical reasons. But it required traveling to three different retailers to see all the options — Home Depot, Sears, and Best Buy.

And that was the first time I found myself wishing I’d brought my iPad. Looking at the LG refrigerator from Home Depot on my phone while standing in front of the Kenmore refrigerator at Sears was not an ideal experience for making product comparisons. There just wasn’t enough real estate on my phone screen. And the multi-store comparison was necessary because none of the retailers stocked representative examples of all of the options.

My point: we’re not done seeing a shift in shopping behaviors. My own path to purchase that normally would’ve taken a couple of weeks was collapsed down to one weekend because of a mobile phone, and it probably would’ve collapsed down to one afternoon with the iPad. Granted, appliances are practically the definition of "high consideration" item; they’re expensive and generally an infrequent purchase. But I’ve also found that what starts out as a high consideration item behavior rapidly becomes something accessible to much lower consideration items. The trend is two-fold: disrupting the pattern of online to store to purchase, and collapsing it into something that happens much more quickly.

Do you see the impact of mobile devices extending beyond showrooming as part of the in-store shopping experience? What is retail missing around how technology is streamlining the overall shopping process?

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20 Comments on "RSR Research: Why I Might Take My Tablet Shopping"

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Frank Riso
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

The purchase of big ticket items seem to be the exception, but I do not see tablets in a grocery, club, or supercenter. I’ve seen one retailer remove tablet technology from shopping carts once they observed that customers spent too much time looking at the screen and not shopping. Many other shoppers complained of being hit in the ankles by shopping carts where the shopper was looking at the screen and not where they were going. They took them out and I think the same will be true of folks bringing their own…so beware of shoppers with tablets. They are going to hit you sooner or later….

Ian Percy
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

First of all Nikki you should have gone right to the Samsung RSG257 series side by side refrigerator…it’s beautiful and amazing. 🙂 You’re welcome.

Anyone else get the feeling that shopping is just getting to be too much work? You’ve got to carry a range of devices, stand there and play around the internet, always trying to undermine every retailer. Where’s the fun and anticipation in that?

Apparently this internet thing is here to stay. So if you must go online, do it at home. Check out your options, read reviews, see who is selling it for what…and go buy the damn thing. And stop blocking the aisles!

Steve Montgomery
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I agree with Frank that it makes sense for big ticket items that fit the very definition of shopping goods, but not for frequently purchased items. Consumers are smart enough to realize when the effort extended exceeds the reward received. To have to leave the store you are in to go to another store to save pennies, unfortunately, will cost more in gas than the amount saved.

Mark Heckman
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Some say shopping apps need to be more comprehensive in their content, all the way to enabling the shopper to pay with their device. Others say locational functionality is vital, so that shoppers can receive relevant offers when then enter the area of the retail store where the offer is to be found. Still others believe that shopping apps must represent time savings, making the trip more efficient.

Most say that all of the above will be necessary to reach even the most implacable traditional shopper.

I would add one more key ingredient for increased adaption of these mobile apps…CONTENT. Meaningful offers and relevant content that can be found in no other customer touch point will drive adaption faster than all the other attributes combined.

We are sneaking up on application-aided shopping, but still have a ways to go to catch up to the customer!

Max Goldberg
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Technology will continue to gain usage in shopping experiences. From comparing prices to virtual reality, consumers will being devices into the buying experience. Retailers need to embrace this technology. Whether it’s Lowe’s storing your purchases online so it’s easy to find the same color paint you bought last year, to clothing stores enabling consumers to electronically show consumers how they would look in a new outfit, technology can enhance the shopping experience, regardless of retail category.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Great thoughts, Nikki, as usual! Mobile is making literally every aspect of our lives more convenient. This evolution is accelerating even faster in emerging markets, where old, tired shopping and living habits aren’t an obstacle to progress. Mobile (large and small devices) make individuals of virtually any income demographic have the ability to have a personal assistant, in the basic sense of the word. This assistant gives a wealth of productivity, far beyond even a decade ago, when we accomplished far less in any given day.

CPG brands and retailers, of all sizes and product segments, need to establish their mobile strategy right now. This requires the buy-in of the CEO on down the organization… in each business function (Supply Chain, Marketing, Finance, HR, etc.) There are specific advantages in each one of those areas with mobile.

It’s a cool time to be alive.

Todd Sherman
Guest
Todd Sherman
4 years 4 months ago
Yes. And lots. (And apologies in advance for the longer-than-usual response.) The impact of mobile devices in the shopping experience goes WAY beyond showrooming. Showrooming gets a lot of airplay because it tends to be about pitting traditional retailers against Amazon – and that drives a lot of interest and readership. (Admittedly, Nikki’s example is somewhat different than that.) But, in many ways, showrooming is more prevalent in particular categories where brands and prices are easily shopped between retailers, such as consumer electronics, kitchen wares and appliances. An interesting aspect of showrooming is that it’s something that shoppers can do outside the control of the retailers they are visiting. And that’s an important point: customers are bringing their own technologies into the store to assist with their purchase decisions – out of the control of the retailers. In this case, customers are leading the technology and shopping process changes, not the retailer. A classic case of disruption. But the increasing use of mobile technology in the shopping process goes much further. More than 80% of… Read more »
Herb Sorensen
Guest
4 years 4 months ago
This confirms the pathetic impact of mobile devices in stores—Apple stores and a few other places excepted. The problem is that apps mostly address issues that are of negligible significance to everyday shopping. Wayfinding sounds like a GREAT idea, but pretty worthless for routine shopping, you know, the kind that is ROUTINE!!! Same goes for shopping lists, much more popular amongst rational thinkers about shopping than among real-world shoppers. Lists are NOT rare, but they certainly don’t dominate the shopping scene. What does dominate the shopping scene is the end of the trip at checkout, a perennial inconvenience when YOU are THROUGH, but now the store has to do its thing at checkout, albeit shoving as much as they can off on you—unloading the cart, maybe helping with bagging, and fiddling with a bunch of buttons. This is why the mobile wallet where scanning and paying as you shop “eliminates” checkout as we have known it, will revolutionize the in-store experience. It will also eventually re-introduce the idea of personally mediated sales, only this round… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Technology is growing to the point that at some point, my grandsons will do everything they need, including shopping from wherever they are, home, in a store, anywhere. For me, I am still from the old(er) school. I need to see and touch the item we are looking for.

Lee Kent
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Absolutely! For example, I was recently shopping for a function I would be attending and wanted to dress up a skirt that I had. I took a picture of the skirt and a few top selections and headed for Chicos. I wanted to add a jacket and accessories.

Call that what you will, but it is another example of taking my tablet shopping. Not an app, not a high tech thing, just an aid to making my shopping experience quicker and easier. Just think of all the ways your tablet can help you.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

On this subject, one only needs to look at grocery chains and customers to learn that mobile technology is an excellent way to make the shopping experience better and not only on high ticket items.

Safeway’s “Just for You” program and free WiFi at the stores has customers picking up e-coupons, adding items to their shopping cart, expanding shopping lists, and saving on grocery items while spending on offers they might have passed on without the online tool.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
4 years 4 months ago

I see technical shopping as ultimately eliminating the showroom all together. You shop online, order online, and take delivery/complete the transaction upon delivery. People in the hinterlands have been doing this for several decades. It’s not new, just becoming more streamlined. Manufacturers have been looking for ways to eliminate the middlemen for years and the internet is making it possible.

Elly Valas
Guest
Elly Valas
4 years 4 months ago

Yes! And retailers should encourage in-store mobile browsing. If your prospects get their questions answered while in your store and if you’ve done a good job in matching their needs to your offering, you’ll turn them into buyers.

Offer free guest Wi-Fi. Make sure your associates have their own mobile devices so that they can take customers to manufacturer’s sites for more information and, if needed, even to competitors’ sites.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
4 years 4 months ago

A couple of points: First, like Ian Percy, I recently purchased a Samsung refrigerator (RF323TEDBSR – LOVE that interior lighting). B-b-but, I didn’t b-b-budge from my office chair. I did it all online—the comparisons between brands, retailers, reviews, and prices. I paid and arranged for delivery, installation, and removal of my old KitchenAid on my computer. To me, that seems like the most efficient technological method of shopping, and it’s been around for a while. Why go to the store with your tablet to photograph a refrigerator when there are abundant photos available online?

And second, we older folks remember “bag phones.” For you youngsters, they were the first cellphones and were so bulky they had to be carried in a bag with a strap over your shoulder. And all they could do was make and receive phone calls in very limited geographical areas (horrors!). But that didn’t stop the most pretentious among us from lugging one around just to show off. And now, IMHO, the same dynamic produces people shopping with tablets and, yes, cellphones.

Brian Fletcher
Guest
Brian Fletcher
4 years 4 months ago

As stated a number of times here, technology is changing the way we shop and how we interact with the retail experience. It seems that there is an opportunity to evolve the experience from a search and compare function to one where the pad can interact with the store, category and brand as the shopper goes through the store.

In this way, retailers can promote items, help with meal suggestions (in grocery) to increase the basket ring or suggest related items to what may be on a list. It seems that as this technology becomes more accessible both retailer and manufacturers may need to formulate how to interact with shoppers in store to help make shopping more streamlined and efficient while increasing sales in the process.

Ray Lippert
Guest
Ray Lippert
4 years 4 months ago
I walk into my favorite supermarket and the systems recognize the app on my tablet and smartphone. I grab a smartcart and begin shopping. I have placed my tablet in a special holder or the one provided, and it recognizes my smartphone and me. It has already downloaded coupons it knows I use and has alerts as I walk down the aisles of items I have interest in because of my frequent shopper profile. The store manager has info on each shopper and it notifies him that I am in the store. He has some basic profile information so he can engage me in some conversation and make the trip a little more friendly if he has time. The smartcart has a smartbagging system that I use to bag my purchases. The smartcart is tabulating the purchases and streaming them to the tablet. As I finish up, a note pops up reminding me that my wife’s birthday is coming up. I can order a cake from the cart, from my home or go to the… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

A transformative technology takes previous shortages or limitations and creates new abundances. In the process, new shortages or limitations are created. If you can read the play, you thrive, if not, you whither. Whether the railroad, transatlantic cable, or automobile, these advances alter culture. Mobile technology can intervene and add value during all shopping moments—and it begins when we discover that fire is not something to fear or resent, but something that can warm and cook.

richard mader
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Reading the comments of consumers being hit by shopping carts, I so expect to see signs at store entrance, “No surfing while operating shopping carts” similar to texting and driving. I agree that digital information is invaluable when shopping for large purchases, electronics for example. Perhaps the Samsung Notes II is the perfect size to compromise size with readability.

My forecast for principal use of phones or reduced size tablets is for locating products, receiving appropriate offers and dialoging with network store service associates for pertinent/helpful information while shopping.

Just read eMarketer forecasts that the number of U.S. mobile coupon users has risen from 12.3 million in 2010 and is on track to grow to 53.2 million by 2014. The perfect place to issue coupons for the highest rate of redemption is standing beside the product.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Disruption in the marketplace is the new norm and yes, mobile devices are definitely part of the in-store shopping experience.

Consumers have integrated smartphones and tablets into their daily lives and will frequent retailers who accomodate with in-store Wi-Fi, targeted promotions, price matching, reminders on items they like (Shopkick app), emailing receipts, etc.

Retailers need to adapt with CRM that works for tech savvy consumers.

Dan Frechtling
Guest
4 years 4 months ago
As Nikki notes, the behavior that most immediately comes to mind is showrooming. But there are other areas where mobile is faster, cheaper, and better. Scanning. Walmart’s Scan & Go iPhone app allows shoppers to scan product barcodes and add to their cart. At check out, the app displays a QR code screen to wirelessly transfer the list of scanned items into the register and pay. Indoor Mapping. Walgreens has mapped 7,000 to 8,000 stores and connected inventory data with in-store location. This is a natural fit with shopping lists and an opportunity to serve relevant offers. Usage rates are an open question. E-receipts. They’re convenient for shoppers and good for the environment. They also are a gold mine for retailers. E-receipt opt-ins build a retailer’s database of email addresses of recent active shoppers. They also create a new direct response channel. Shoppers and retailers occasionally are at odds over mobile technology. Shoppers see that mobile shortens the time and distance of shopping. Retailers fear price transparency. But viewing mobile as an opportunity for retailers… Read more »
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