A recent study of showrooming activity is more bad news for retailers that subscribe to the conventional wisdom that mobile is a threat. But a couple of forward-thinking merchants -- Nordstrom and Best Buy -- are looking to use mobile to their advantage.
Some 43 percent of consumers showroom, according to a Harris Poll released this week. Best Buy and Walmart are the most popular showrooming destinations (24 percent and 22 percent). And Amazon is the most likely beneficiary of showrooming; more than half of showroomers said that's where they buy (57 percent), according to the poll.
Showroomers spend an average $211.80 per purchase.
But retailers aren't taking the competition lying down. In the latest effort to make brick-and-mortar shopping more attractive, retailers are tossing cash registers onto the junk heap, replacing them with mobile devices, according to a report on NPR.
The benefits: Mobile associates are more convenient than asking consumers to stand in cash register lines. And no cash register lines means less time for customers to change their minds about buying products and walk out. Also, mobile technology is often less expensive than traditional PoS, and removing cash registers frees up real estate in the store.
Nordstrom is a leader in this trend. It's replacing cash registers with modified iPod touch devices containing barcode scanners and credit card readers. When a customer finds merchandise they're ready to buy, a sales associate simply swipes the bar code and credit card, the customer signs with a fingertip, and is good to walk out the door.
"We think the days of the big clunky cash register... anchoring down a department are really going away," Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson told NPR.
And mobile is key to turnaround plans for Best Buy, says Stephen Gillett, the company's new VP of digital, global, marketing, and strategy, told Wired.
"We have a range of opportunities," he says. "There are challenges, but I like the set of cards I have been given."
Best Buy is closing stores -- a process that is limited by long-term leases. And the company is looking to turn remaining stores into an advantage by striking at mobile commerce's Achilles' heel. "People want to try before they buy, and they can't do that on Amazon," writes Wired.
And Best Buy marries its brick-and-mortar presence with its own online business. By revenue, it's the 11th largest e-commerce site, at about $3 billion per year. "That's a fraction of Amazon's electronics business and just 6 percent of Best Buy's total revenue, but it's growing by 15 to 20 percent every quarter," Wired says.
Retailers like Best Buy and Nordstrom are showing the way to beat showrooming. Instead of running away from mobile competition, retailers need to embrace it.
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— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution