Whether you're a showroomer, or one of those shoppers who gets up and out of the house at 4 am for in-store Black Friday sales, having your smartphone nearby is a smart move this holiday season. While nearly 86 million U.S. consumers are already using smartphones to shop, this holiday season is set to see even higher numbers from m-commerce. From special QR codes to price matching via your smartphone, retailers will rely on the latest technologies to deliver discounts right into the hands of shoppers.
This move comes in an effort to combat last year's less-than-stellar in-store sales. "What we aren't willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick and mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices without making investments," says Steinhafel CEO and Target Chairman. Target, like many other retailers, has specifically set out to challenge suppliers, demanding more exclusive merchandise and/or lower prices on goods in order to entice customers to find great bargains in-store. In addition to these exclusives, retailers are actively trying to integrate more developed mobile strategies to their in-store shopping experience.
QR Codes and Price Matching
In an effort to meet those mostly-online-only shoppers half-way, Target has begun to merchandise its Top 20 toys by planting QR codes in stores, print ads, and on TV spots in order to provide instant access for shoppers via their mobile devices. Each toy's code can be scanned and then purchased via the Target app for the advertised price. To boot, all QR code-bought toys receive free shipping, which is traditionally not offered without a minimum purchase to customers who shop online.
Not only does the Target app allow shoppers to maintain a level of secrecy from those little prying eyes, but shoppers will also be able to "do product comparisons, read reviews, and get more info about products instantly," says Laura Marriott, CEO of NeoMedia.
Most of this marketing is designed to keep consumers from comparison shopping. However, most stores begrudgingly accept the fact that shoppers are out for deals, especially during the holidays. As a result, a number of retailers are becoming lenient with their price-matching policies and are meeting other stores' prices that consumers find on items via their smartphones. This season through December 24, Target will match prices that consumers find at online retailers including Amazon, and the online arms of Walmart, Best Buy, and Toys "R" Us.
Best Buy, however, requires shoppers to jump through a few more hoops before it will match competitors' prices. The big box retailer will match prices on "new, identical, immediately available current pre-tax appliance and electronics hardware products" from a long list of major retailers including Amazon, Apple, Buy.com, hhgregg, Home Depot, Lowe's, newegg, Sears, Target, TigerDirect, and Walmart. Customers will have to ask for (and in some cases, insist on) the matched price. And beware, Best Buy also reserves the right to "amend these terms at any time."
Third Party Apps
In addition to an abundance of QR codes, smartphone savvy shoppers will also see an increase in scannable coupons and rewards for checking into stores via Foursquare and Shopkick this season.
The Shopkick app has traditionally offered users a variety of in-store coupons to a number of retailers; its updated mobile app now includes digital catalogs and "lookbooks," which allow potential customers to know what's available in-store and at what price. Shopkick is also introducing a new function that lets customers tag and like certain products in the app, and then save these items to a list. The location-based app then pushes a notification reminder about favorited items when a shopper enters participating stores.
Not a Shopkick subscriber? There are dozens of shopping apps cropping up that offer rewards to shoppers in the form of cash back, points, and the like. Endorse, for example, sends out promotional discounts to customers and gives shoppers cash back after their first purchase. And there are no rebate-like hoops to jump through, either: Simply take a photo of your receipt, and Endorse then makes note of the items you bought, and credits your account with whatever discount should be applied. A similar app called Smoopa answers the question, "Is it better to shop locally or online?" by comparing the prices of an item in-store with its counterpart online. If you find an item in-store for less than Smoopa can find online, you'll receive a special offer and rewards points, which can be redeemed for cash back.
While mobile shopping apps are becoming more useful — especially as holiday shopping aids — social shopping via Facebook has yet to see the same excitement. However, apps like myShopanion are promoting positive shopping habits for shoppers by not only price-checking potential purchases, but letting users check in with friends for their opinions about items.
Alternatively, Shopycat (a Walmart-developed app) accesses Facebook "Likes," then delivers gift suggestions for friends based on their activity. While it's still confined to Facebook, Vice President of Retail Insights at Kantar Retail and all-around retail expert, Anne Zybowski, speculates that this could change in November as retailers begin announcing holiday promotions in earnest.
Even though a number of retailers are still slowly developing their own apps, consumers will continue to benefit from comparison shopping. In fact, shopping apps, like the recently updated dealnews app, that allow a consumer to find lower prices will make it easier for consumers to request price-matching from big-box retailers this season. So whether you're an in-store shopper or a traditionally just a showroomer, this holiday season you may find that the best deals are securely in the palm of your hand.