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Shoppers are combining the digital and non-digital worlds when it comes to making product purchase decisions, rather than exclusively relying on one or the other, according to new research from Perception Research Services (PRS), the Teaneck, N.J.-based shopper and packaging research company.
PRS' research revealed that ownership of smart phones now outpaces that of traditional mobile phones. More than half (54 percent) of the shoppers surveyed are smart phone owners -- versus 45 percent for traditional -- and a majority (76 percent) use them while shopping.
While some shoppers use smart phones to make purchases, many use them to gather information. Roughly half of those who do use their smart phones while shopping use them to check prices, find promotions, read product reviews, or get product information. The most common categories to shop with smart phones include electronics (64 percent), consumer packaged goods (57 percent) and clothing/apparel (54 percent).
"While the digital age has changed the retail landscape, it does not mean the end of all brick and mortar stores as we know them,” said Jonathan Asher, EVP at PRS. “It does, however, mean that retailers and manufacturers need to adapt to a world in which shoppers are armed with a tremendous amount of information at their fingertips (literally) – about the brand to choose, the price to pay and the place to buy.”
The use of QR codes may also play a role in shopping with smart phones, especially for gathering product information, comparing prices and seeking promotions. Although not broadly known by name -- only 57 percent are aware of the term "QR code" -- most (94 percent) recognize them when seeing one, and nearly half (44 percent) of those who use smart phones while shopping have used QR codes.
The PRS study also examined "showrooming" -- the process of examining a product in-store but purchasing it online. Showrooming has received much attention lately, and big box retailers are concerned about their stores being used as a convenient display area for the products of online sellers.
In fact, PRS’ data shows that about half (45 percent) of online purchases are made after viewing the product in a store, and this behavior is very much dependent on the type of product. Not surprisingly, showrooming occurs mostly for big ticket items that are purchased infrequently such as electronics, appliances, and baby products. The amount of money that can be saved makes spending the extra time and effort worthwhile, but shoppers also want to be sure that the products meet their requirements.
"Retailers know that they will continue to lose a certain amount of sales to online purchases, and they must accept that some showrooming will occur,” Asher added. “The key is to find ways to capitalize on those opportunities in which shoppers are in their store examining products, and make it compelling for them to make purchases there rather than go online - or to some other retailer – to do so."
PRS’ research was conducted in June 2012 among 1,450 consumers drawn from a nationally representative online sample of adults who are responsible for at least half of their household grocery shopping.
PRS specializes in shopper research to develop, assess and improve in-store communications, including packaging and merchandising systems. The company conducts over 800 studies annually on behalf of marketers, designers and manufacturers.