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David Rogers, Faculty Director of Digital Marketing Strategy, Columbia University

David Rogers, Faculty Director, Digital Marketing Strategy, Columbia Business School

By David Rogers

Ever since the rise of online shopping sites like, brick-and-mortar-retail stores haved struggled with the threat of “showrooming” consumers – those who visit a store to see a product in person, but then opt to purchase it later online.

With the rapid adoption of smartphones, this phenomenon has grown even stronger. Today retailers operate in a world in which in-store shoppers have every competing offer in the palm of her hands.

Though retailers are not powerless, to survive, it is critical that they understand the true impact of mobile devices on shopper behavior. Doing so will enable them to shape a retail experience that gives consumers a compelling reason to buy directly from the brick-and-mortar store.

To uncover the truth about today’s “mobile-assisted shoppers,” Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and global loyalty experts, Aimia, have just conducted a global study on the impact of smartphones on shopper behavior, called: “Showrooming and the Rise of the Mobile-Assisted Shopper.” With my co-authors, Matthew Quint and Rick Ferguson, we were able to survey the behaviors and motivations of 3,000 leading-edge consumers in three countries, who represent the omni-channel future of retail.

Surprising Findings

Our findings contradict many of the common assumptions about the threat of “showrooming” and how shoppers are using mobile devices in-store. For example:SP M-Shopper-Infographic

  • 21% of all consumers in the US, UK, and Canada are “M-Shoppers,” using mobile devices in stores to assist their shopping experience
  • It’s not just the Millenial Generation: 74% of M-Shoppers are over 29 years old
  • 30% of M-Shoppers never showroom; they just use smartphones in-store to find information and consult friends
  • Convenience, urgency, and immediacythese are the top three reasons why M-Shoppers will buy in-store even if they find the same product cheaper online
  • 60% of M-Shoppers are more likely to buy in-store if they find product reviews on smartphone
  • Loyalty programs work: 48% of M-Shoppers are more likely to purchase in-store thanks to the programs they have joined


Understanding the Five Different Types of M-Shoppers

Our study found that all M-Shoppers are not the same. We identified five unique segments of M-Shoppers, each with different attitudes toward physical stores, patterns of showrooming, and motivations to pull out their phone or tablet within a store.

  • The Exploiters – “premeditated about lower prices” (6% of M-Shoppers).  When they pull out their mobile device, they are nearly as likely to search for a product on the store’s own website as on a competitor’s site. Retailers best bet? Optimize their website for mobile.
  • The Savvys – “calculating, but persuadable” (13%).  They are the ripest target for retailers to try out new offers in the mobile space. They are more digitally-savvy, more willing to sign up for loyalty programs, and more likely to be motivated by retailer offers and rewards.
  • The Price-Sensitives – “don’t plan, but always opt for deals” (19%). They use their devices in stores periodically, but not consistently. Often, the right in-store experience will be enough to earn the Price-Sensitives’ business.
  • The Experience-Seekers – “value the best experience, not just price” (32%). As the largest segment of M-Shoppers, they demonstrate why retailers still need to invest in providing a unique and compelling in-store experience.
  • The Traditionalists – “prefer the in-store shopping experience” (30%). These shoppers are committed to purchasing in-store, making them the least threatening segment for retailers. They are open to interacting with retail stores on their mobile devices, whether by website, store app, or even scanning a QR code.

Opportunities for retailers

Retailers don’t have to resort to automatic price-matching to compete with online shopping. We uncovered several opportunities for retailers to engage M-Shoppers on their phones as part of the shopping experience. These range from varied discount strategies, to exclusive in-store experiences, providing the right mobile-ready information, engaging shoppers in social media, and designing loyalty programs that build long-term relationships with customers.

David Rogers is a globally recognized leader on brands and digital business strategy. At Columbia Business School, he is faculty director of Digital Marketing Strategy programs for executives, and founder of the acclaimed BRITE conference on brands, innovation, and technology, now in its 7th year in New York. David speaks at conferences worldwide, consults to startups and Fortune 500 companies, and is author of three books, most recently, “The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age.” David tweets at @david_rogers and blogs at


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