Price-checking apps make retail shoppers more fickle

All it takes is a long lineup at the checkout for shoppers to take out their phone, do a quick price-check and decide at the last minute to take their business elsewhere.

Nearly half of consumers who say they use apps as part of their in-store experience will leave for a retailer that offers the same item cheaper, according to a recent report from market research firm The Yankee Group. In fact, almost a quarter of those surveyed said they consider mobile price-comparison tools essential, and 54 percent have downloaded one. Overall, the report, "How Brick-and-Mortars Can Thrive in a Smartphone World," shows usage of such apps up about five percent.

Price-comparison apps aren't just used while in stores, of course. As an article on "mission shoppers" in Bloomberg Businessweek noted, retailers are increasingly meeting customers who conduct background research on products long before they arrive at a retail location. The Yankee Group study also suggests it is the consumer segment with the biggest wallets who may use price-comparison apps to avoid stores altogether: those whose income is over $200,000 are likely to purchase goods online instead.

Source: The Yankee Group

It probably won't be good enough for retailers to offer their own price-comparison apps, however. The Yankee Group said 56 percent of those surveyed put more faith in online firms such as Amazon.com than traditional brick-and-mortar retailers for details on cost. The opportunity for mobile developers is to create more value-added apps that enhance the overall retail experience. These include:

  • Inventory availability -- If a customer shows up because a price-comparison app told him an item was cheaper but the retailer has run out of stock, it could lose that customer for good.
  • Real-time personalized offers -- If a competitor's item is cheaper, retailers may be able to tailor apps that give a discount in exchange for more information about a customer, building customer loyalty and gathering vital market intelligence.
  • Personal shoppers -- Many customers come to stores to buy one item, but smartphone apps could offer them ideas on accessories or related products that they may never have considered otherwise.
  • Self-checkout -- If you can compare prices on an item in the store, why not offer the ability to scan it and speed up the purchase process?

Source: The Yankee Group

For more:
- see the complete report

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