Mobile 'showrooming' on increase

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Mid adult woman looking at mobile phone in city

Almost half of British consumers now use their mobile device to browse for better deals while out shopping, according to a new survey.

The practice, known as "showrooming", has been on the increase in recent years, coinciding with the smartphone revolution and the increasing power of mobile devices.

According to the research, which was carried out by mobile operator EE, 44% of consumers - more than 20 million Britons - now visit a physical store while browsing products online in the hope of finding a better deal.

Online shopping is ever-growing in popularity, with the amount spent online breaking the £10 billion barrier for the first time at the end of 2013, a 10% increase on the previous year. Meanwhile, retail on
the high street fell by nearly 3% in the same period.

As part of their own plan to benefit from the phenomenon, EE has introduced free WiFi in stores that enables staff to connect with customers as they shop. The service, called Connected Retail, is similar to other schemes introduced to take advantage of the "showrooming" trend.

Agata Laight, senior propositions manager for Connected Retail at EE, said: "Our research shows the practice of showrooming isn't going away, but it also presents a significant omni-channel opportunity for retailers.

"John Lewis has turned the trend to its advantage by introducing a mobile app that encourages customers to use their device to get additional information on products in-store, by providing free Wi-Fi and by offering price promises.

"By doing this, John Lewis is building loyalty with its customers so they're more likely to buy from them, whether in-store or online. As a result, mobile now accounts for 40% of their customer traffic."

Through smartphone apps and more general online shopping, consumers believe they can find better deals than walking from store to store, according to the survey. Seventy-seven per cent said they prefer to browse product ranges online, and 88% said they think they are more likely to find a good deal by looking online as opposed to visiting the store.

London is the UK's most active area for "showrooming", with more than half the population saying they have tried the practice. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the large amount of interaction with technology, the younger generation of shoppers - those aged between 18 and 34 - were the most
prolific users of devices while in store.

Online shopping could also see some further innovation in the coming years, with e-commerce site Amazon confirming they are testing the use of remote-controlled drones to deliver packages in some areas. A video posted to the company's official YouTube page last year showed a drone delivering a trademark Amazon package, with the US from saying testing is still ongoing.

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