Reversing ‘ROBO’ Through Mobile Shopping

We’ve long looked at the online-offline gap. This comes down to the challenge in connecting the dots between increasing levels of online research and the sheer volume of offline spending (95 percent of U.S. retail). This is ROBO: research online to buy offline.

Now we’re not only seeing things like retail inventory feeds (i.e., Milo), mobile shopping and payments start to connect those dots, but they’re even starting to reverse the flow. In other words, flipping ROBO on its head: using offline research to facilitate online buying.

This is also known as “showrooming,” essentually using physical stores as showrooms for product research before buying from a more price-competetive online marketplace like Amazon. And of course smartphones, shopping apps, and cameras (read: barcode scanners) empower this.

This will be an ongoing area of research and analysis in the days to come. In the meantime, you can check out my column over at Street Fight, which introduces and starts to bat around the concept. Read some below and stay tuned for much more to come on this topic.

In the ever expanding universe of tech & media parlance, we’ve recently been given our newest term: ‘showrooming.’ Tied to the emergence of smartphones and shopping apps, it refers to the act of using local stores as showrooms for more price-competitive online purchases.

What’s interesting is that it essentially reverses the ‘research online to buy offline’ (ROBO) phenomenon, we’ve been talking about for years. Just as e-commerce players were relegated to research tools under ROBO, the tables have now turned on their offline counterparts.

Amazon has even gone as far as offering discounts on purchases scanned in stores (using its app), to further push its vested interest in this trend. And lots of local physical stores have retorted with futile lobbying and letter-writing, rather than competing head on.

But to what degree is showrooming actually happening? One indication was offered this week through a new report from Pew. During the holiday shopping season, it found that 52 percent of adult mobile users relied on their devices while shopping in local stores.

38 percent called a friend for advice, 24 percent looked up reviews, and 25 percent looked to see if they could find a better price elsewhere (both online and offline). And the numbers tend to skew higher for users 18-49, urban, and college educated.

But when asked what was the outcome of this in-store mobile research, 35 percent made a purchase at that store. That’s good right? Perhaps not, if you consider that this mobile activity drove 65 percent of shoppers away (glass half full or empty, etc.).

But here’s the kicker: many of those mobile price shoppers were driven straight into the arms of competitors. Specifically 37 percent didn’t purchase at all while 19 purchased the product online and 8 percent did so at another store. That’s a full 27 percent that bought somewhere else.

Read the rest here.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sally Bretton

    Quite informative post. I quite like the idea of ROBO or research online to buy online. This is both beneficial and easy for the customers and the entrepreneurs. However, as there is a lot of competition in attracting and targeting mobile users, a company should build a robust online mobile marketing strategies.

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