The latest wave in the way mobile disrupts retail is already here and putting even more power in the hands of consumers as the path to purchase continues to fragment. Using mobile devices in-store has been influencing customer choices for some time, but generally that’s based on a several factors accessible from devices, including social input and reviews. (In fact, mobile comparison shopping has been on the rise and is even one of the key factors for Google’s micro-moments concept.) Price comparison apps make the third aspect much, much simpler.
Benefits to Customers
Data has changed the way retailers can develop content and market products, however, it’s also changing the way consumers are shopping. Price comparison apps give customers the opportunity to showroom, that is to say, they can go into a store and handle a product (e.g., trying on clothes, using a demo tablet) before finding it at the best price and purchasing it elsewhere. They can determine whether they want to purchase it online, or even locate a different store to make the purchase. There’s an array of alerts and notifications (which we’ll discuss in a moment) that ensure they always know when the best deal is available at the price they want to pay no matter where they are. What’s more, many apps also access information like consumer ratings, reviews, or even nutritional information (as applicable). The likelihood of mobile comparison shopping fading away as a mere fad is fairly low, so it’s better to understand what you’re up against.
Types of Apps
Like most other major trends in mobile or on the Internet in general, there’s a proliferation of options for price comparison apps. Customers can select an app with exactly the tools they want to access to find the right price, or indeed, the right deal. Some apps even offer a combination of these types of tools.
Customers merely have to open the app, take a picture of the barcode on the product or price tag, and the data is automatically at their fingertips, no additional searching required. These were among the first to roll out, and they’ve only gotten more advanced, in some cases allowing customers to take a photo of the product without the barcode to pull up the same comparison information. Some apps can also scan other types of codes, such as QR codes. Examples include:
Smart Alerts and Notifications
As the title suggests, there’s two aspects to this type of app. Smart alerts track products either on specific sites or at large and notify users when an offer becomes available or when the price drops. Smart notifications utilize geofencing to notify customers when deals are going on at their favorite stores as soon as they come within a certain physical distance of them. Examples include:
Even before mobile comparison shopping came into play, people were utilizing the internet to hunt for the best coupons, rebates, and more. For customers, price comparison apps have only made these activities easier, streamlining them into one, simple to use program. Often, they even let customers compare prices after coupons and other discounts have been applied. Examples include:
How to Stay Competitive
Unfortunately, mobile comparison shopping has been a bane upon brick-and-mortar retailers. And yet, the Internet has yet to kill off the existence of brick-and-mortar stores. That’s because there are some things that influence the consumer more than just the lowest prices, although low prices certainly shouldn’t be dismissed.
It’s also worth mentioning that showrooming may not necessarily end with a customer purchasing from a competitor. If you offer online shopping, they may end up making their purchase from you, but not in-store. The tactic you choose to combat the potential loss of sales from mobile comparison shopping needs to avoid deterring your customers. You want your brand to be more attractive to them, whether you’re competing over price specifically or not. After all, showrooming isn’t likely to be going anywhere any time soon.
Price matching is perhaps the most direct response to showrooming, however, it’s also one of the riskiest. Chances are good that you’ve priced your products at a number that meets your business’ needs, including things like overhead. Slash your prices too low in an attempt to meet the prices that mega companies like Amazon can manage and you may end up hurting your business instead. However, with the right limitations, price matching (or even the willingness to price match) can help retain customers or influence trial purchases.
Walmart has taken this to a whole new level with their app. Customers can take a photo of their receipt in the app, and it will automatically do a search to determine whether there are better prices locally. If there are, Walmart applies the difference in price as a gift card, which allows the company to not only ensure brand loyalty, but better ensure future purchases.
Not everything is about the lowest price, not directly, in any case. It’s possible to offer all sorts of amazing deals that don’t include dropping your prices in a race to the bottom dollar. Here’s just a few options for possible solutions:
- Loyalty programs — Every customer likes to participate in something that makes them feel like they’re a part of something exclusive; in fact, 87% of consumers want retailers to offer loyalty programs, while another 54% would increase spending at a retailer in order to achieve a loyalty reward.
- Branded app — Apart from being a direct link to your customer, this can provide one of the best personalized experiences that generates qualified engagement, which in turn makes your brand a top option. A branded app can also tap directly into the loyalty program, offering users a quick way to check their points, sign up for contests, carry in-store coupons linked to their loyalty card, or even replace carrying a separate card altogether. Furthermore, it’s possible to offer app-only deals, discounts, and offers, giving customers what they want without breaking your bank.
- Bundling — This is as straightforward as it sounds, and while it doesn’t involve price dropping (or dropping the price as much) you earn more customer confidence by providing better perceived value for their dollar.
- In-store reviews / social media tie-ins — This may sound counterintuitive at first, but remember that by providing this information first (whether it’s by interactive displays, signage, or innovative steps like QR codes), your brand can control the conversation. It may not reduce the need to showroom, but it can also engender trust and positive sentiment, especially if you take the extra step of promoting customer content and recommendations.
Unique or Superior Experience
For companies that can’t necessarily afford the freebies, programs, and price drops that somewhat larger businesses can, it’s important to remember what customers are willing to pay for—customer service, personalized experiences, and unique options. These are the very same factors that let mom-and-pop shops thrive even in the shadow of big box corporate retailers. Whether it’s higher quality on more unique products or the store’s personality and the way it fits into and supports the community, small businesses have something special to offer that isn’t summed up with dollar signs.
There’s no going backward from the inherently integrated, synchronized, and very mobile world that retail has become. Now that you understand how price comparison apps play into customer experience and can affect your business, it’s time to determine ways in which to turn mobile comparison shopping to your advantage. Make this potentially harmful challenge into an opportunity, and win your customer’s loyalty in the process.