RSR Research: Why I Might Take My Tablet Shopping
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?