A New Level of Window Shopping
By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
I recently had to renew my cell phone contract, so I went shopping for a new phone. It never occurred to me that a new phone could soon help me do my shopping.
Deals these days generally include a “free” phone. Of course, the logical way to choose a phone would be to hear someone speaking over it and be able to see some information on signal strength and reception. It would also be nice to know how much RF radiation you are exposed to while using it. Logic aside, the way I made my choice was to get the most features that came with a free phone. I never really understood how I would use them all but, since they didn’t cost me anything, I figured, “Why not?”
One of the features offered was the ability to take pictures. To my surprise, I have made use of both the picture phone and the text messaging while on a ski vacation to Utah. The difference in time zones allowed me to leave late night messages on the east coast and the picture phone allowed me to let others know where I was while they were hard at work. Both things were either unnecessary or could have been handled another way but I wanted to try my new capabilities.
Now The Economist magazine in their latest technology quarterly has shown the real purpose for a cell phone camera. Grocery shoppers in Japan are able to photograph the barcode on their fresh fish selection and see when it was caught, by what boat, and even the fisherman. Another service offering allows shoppers to scan the barcode on a retail item and see the prices being charged by other retailers. This brings “window shopping” to a whole new level as shoppers armed with cell phones compare appliance prices while standing in the showroom.
Moderator’s Comment: How should retailers respond to their newly informed consumers? Should they combat the use of these tools? How should the salespeople
be prepared to react when a shopper displays competitor prices?
Retailers always have the “service card” to play, but in today’s world that is often taken over by the manufacturer. In many cases, retailers have said
all warranty service is between the manufacturer and the consumer. I am not sure how to address this new level of window shopping.
If the consumer is so price conscious that they are willing to walk around the retail store with price comparison charts, then I guess the retailer is going
to have to give his sales people some “wiggle room.” Salespeople will need to be able to validate the competitor price and then offer an alternative of their own. This may open
up an opportunity for the “no haggle retailer” format similar to what we have seen in automobiles with Saturn. –
Bill Bittner – Moderator