Showrooming trend is on the rise as shopping habit of the digital age, retailers warned

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Retailers are being warned showrooming is on the rise in the UK, with 40% of British shoppers aged 35 or under having browsed products on a smartphone while visiting a store, according to research findings to be announced by Ipsos at Digital Shopper’s Day at BAFTA in London today (15 November, 2013).

The UK is catching up with the US, where 60% of all shoppers have engaged in showrooming.

It is one of a number of trends identified by Ipsos, which was commissioned by the organiser of Digital Shopper’s Day, HighCo MRM, to conduct a pan-European study on the digitisation of shopping.

More than 200 delegates at the event will hear that smartphones are becoming an increasingly integral feature of the shopping experience, with one in six having purchased a product from a smartphone in the past four weeks.

One of the ways in which retailers are responding is by making discount coupons available on smartphones. The research shows that while only 17% of UK shoppers have already downloaded a discount coupon to their smartphone, 87% would consider doing so, with a majority saying such coupons could influence their choice of brand and encourage them to try products they would not normally buy.

Another growing trend is click-and-collect shopping. With only 16% of British shoppers regularly using click-and-collect services at present, the UK lags behind other large European countries such as France, where the practice is far more prevalent. But there is room for growth, with 50% of consumers in the survey expressing an interest in taking advantage of click-and-collect offerings.

The report – British Shoppers in the Digital Age – demonstrates that consumers are becoming more digitally-savvy in their shopping habits. Key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of British adults have ordered groceries online
  • One in six British adults have bought a product from a smartphone in the past four weeks – and one in five from a tablet device
  • Two-thirds regularly use the web to gather information about products before buying
  • Two-thirds have browsed products on a PC in the past four weeks, while less than half have browsed products in a physical store
  • 42% have used a QR code
  • 35% follow a brand on social media
  • 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds enjoy posting pictures of their purchases on social networks

The report, presented to delegates by Stephen Yap, Ipsos head of market understanding & measurement, identifies five key trends which are reshaping shopping habits:

1. Convergence of physical and virtual worlds

Examples include the rise of showrooming and the growing use of click-and-collect services, which are being championed by retailers such as Selfridges and Amazon, with its Amazon Locker initiative. The new partnership between eBay and Argos is expected to further catapult click-and-collect into the mainstream. Other examples include M&S and Asda equipping staff with iPads to speed up the ordering of items that are out of stock.

2. Technology enhancing experiences

In an environment where so many brands, messages and touchpoints are competing for the attention of shoppers, interactivity is one way to cut through the clutter. In France, retailers including Carrefour have been trialing NFC tags on products, enabling shoppers to tap them with their smartphones to call up product information and add items to a virtual shopping basket. Augmented reality and QR codes are also proving valuable in enhancing consumer experiences.

3. Gamification of consumption

Making brand interaction fun, and providing brand content in the form of a game, is one way to attract consumers to your content and drive word-of-mouth. In Germany, McDonald’s ran a ‘McSundae Melt’ campaign, in which customers scanned QR codes on billboards to receive a digital coupon for a free ice cream at their nearest store. But the McSundae image on the coupon began to melt away over time, requiring customers to act quickly to redeem the offer.

4. Social shopping

The convergence between social networking and shopping is accelerating. For example, one in five 18 to 24-year-olds regularly share images of their purchases on social networks. Additionally, one in three British consumers follow brands on social networks, with Facebook engagement continuing to be important.

5. Smartphone-powered loyalty

This is the age of the connected shopper. Four out of five British smartphone owners reach for their phone within 15 minutes of walking up. The HighCo MRM survey, conducted by Ipsos, showed that an overwhelming majority of these consumers are open to downloading discount coupons onto their smartphone. An example is the Harris + Hoole coffee chain, part-owned by Tesco, which incentivises customers to download the mobile app with a free coffee. The app allows users to save their favourite coffee order – information which is captured on the brand’s database.

Organiser HighCo MRM, a multi-channel marketing services specialist, staged the event in conjunction with the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Introduced by event host Peter Kerr, managing director of HighCo MRM, the guest panel includes:

Magz Fallon, EU shopper marketing director, Coca-Cola

Kristin Berg, director of shopper marketing for Europe, Coca-Cola

Adrian Percival, UK e-commerce manager, Kimberly-Clark

Steve Mader, director of digital retail insights, Kantar

Sienne Veit, former head of mobile for Morrisons and previously digital lead at Marks & Spencer

Olivier Michel, managing director of HighCo

Kristin Brewe, director of marketing & communications, IAB

Paul Godwin, head of insight, IPM

Merric Mercer, director of Hive Online

Alex Meisl, chairman, Sponge Group

“We are in the midst of a digital revolution,” said Kerr. “Our Digital Shopper’s Day aims to equip marketers with even greater insight into what consumers now expect of brands, and knowledge of the tools available to engage with them in valuable ways whenever and wherever they shop.”

The Internet Advertising Bureau’s UK director of marketing & communications, Kristin Brewe, said: “British shoppers are some of the most online savvy on Earth, which is why it’s so important for marketers to stay up to speed on all the latest in digital. That’s also why the Internet Advertising Bureau UK supports industry efforts like Digital Shopper’s Day. A big challenge for marketers is keeping up with this consumer-led technology revolution and ongoing education is paramount in that regard. Mobile and tablet devices represent a huge opportunity for today’s marketers interested in reaching the ‘always on’ consumer. That being said, effective shopping solutions for smart phones and tablets aren’t one-size-fits-all and require thought and planning to make the most of them. Listening to consumers is key in crafting solutions that connect your brand with today’s on-the-go-consumer, in addition to staying up to speed with best practice from other marketers.” 

Paul Godwin, head of insights at the Institute of Promotional Marketing, said: “As an organisation, we continue to champion best practice across the full spectrum of promotional marketing, and as such we are very pleased to be supporting the Digital Shopper’s Day. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insight, not only into the way consumers behave across digital and physical retail, but also into the rapidly developing technologies with which brands can align their activity towards those behaviours.”