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Not All Retailers Overreacting To Mobile Phone Wielding Shoppers

from the nice-to-see dept

The WSJ recently had an article about how shoppers in retail stores are increasingly wielding smartphones which they use to comparison shop on the fly -- sometimes even buying products online for less while standing in the store looking at the products themselves. While some store owners are definitely freaked out about this, the article did point out that some are recognizing this is actually an opportunity to either poach customers from other stores and/or to entice them with more offers directly:
Through a partnership with TheFind, Best Buy now targets personalized advertisements to shoppers when the program detects that they are in stores such as Wal-Mart.

If shoppers use TheFind's free app to compare prices on TVs at Wal-Mart, for example, the phone gleans the particulars from their recent search and shows them ads of similar electronics for sale at Best Buy. The items aren't always identical, and the prices aren't always better, but it is an attempt by Best Buy to enter the competition, similar to the way that marketers now target special offers to consumers based on what they are searching for on home computers.

...

The hard sell doesn't stop there. If a customer inside a Best Buy compares prices through TheFind and discovers a better deal elsewhere, the retailer also makes one last pitch for the sale with ads showing them deals on other products at the store, such as a similar Blu-ray player that comes with a free movie disc.
Elsewhere in the article, it's noted that shoppers with mobile phones often are much more happy to ask questions via their phone and a browser or app, rather than having to talk to someone in the store, which also suggests that stores might not need to staff as many people to help customers.

Of course, some of what's in the article sounds like it may be wishful thinking. I'm not sure that all of those localized offers will really work all that well, but at the very least it's a starting point, and it's nice to see Best Buy at least trying to embrace the new technology rather than just fight it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 12:38am

    Good Job, Best Buy!

    "Through a partnership with TheFind, Best Buy now targets personalized advertisements to shoppers when the program detects that they are in stores such as Wal-Mart."

    You know, this is a good start. But I would feel much better if Best Buy hired a phone bank of Indian customer service or "Concierge" agents that would automatically call and answer technical questions and provide product locations whenever I entered a WalMart. Maybe when I enter a Super WalMart they could provide me with recipies based on sale and overstock items in the food section.

    I wouldn't find this to be quite so creepy.

     

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  2.  
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    Adam Turetzky (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 12:58am

    Wow, most stores around here deal with this by banning photography inside their stores and confiscate cameras and delete the photos if your caught taking pictures of their prices. They then ban you from shopping there.

     

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  3.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 1:30am

    Re:

    The jewelry store that I used to work at was all too happy to let you take photos of items. We'd even offer to e-mail stock shots of your chosen item to you, because it's hard to take a photo of light-refracting objects with a camera phone. :P

    I remember one notable occasion when I walked a customer down to a competitor's store with an item, so she could compare the items in-person. (The other store? Not happy.) Our item was more money, but better quality and we got the sale.

    Just one more way that we were better than everyone else.

     

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  4.  
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    Pete, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 1:36am

    @Adam Turetzky. Wow! A phone ban would seriously stop me buying there, because if I'm buying anything expensive for home I like to send a photo to my partner first.

    Re the article, this is just the converse of old method where you would compare prices online, then buy locally to support local businesses and get a better return policy.

    The main problem with comparison shopping is if you know exactly what you want, but don't know what they are called. For example I recently wasted hours trying to compare prices on specialised table legs (the ones with a big disk on the top and the bottom). I only succeeded when I found they are called "table bases". We need image-based search!

     

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  5.  
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    Al, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 3:53am

    Re: Re:

    That is the way to do it!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 4:24am

    The way things are going all smartphones will come with GPS aware phones and big stores will pay for the carriers to intercept the traffic and show you other things then the competition LoL

     

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  7.  
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    getta clue, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 4:28am

    Re: Shopping in the real world

    We are talking about the free world not Russia

     

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  8.  
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    Dan, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 4:45am

    Customer Service

    Customers using their cellphones in retail stores is more indicative of bad customer service than anything else. If the staff is neither able to adequately answer your questions nor have some insight into what others are charging for similar products, then it makes sense that customers would be willing to take the longer and more awkward route of standing in the store with their mobile browser out.

     

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  9.  
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    NullOp, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:28am

    Signals

    Mobiles should be banned in stores. Better yet, they should be jammed!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:41am

    Re: Signals

    That would do wonders for business.

     

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  11.  
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    Chargone (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:49am

    Re: Re: Shopping in the real world

    exactly.
    mind you, what the hell rates as the 'free world' these days? it certainly isn't equivalent to 'the west' anymore.

     

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  12.  
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    Chargone (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:51am

    Re: Re: Signals

    indeed. one's competitors' business ^_^

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:01am

    "Elsewhere in the article, it's noted that shoppers with mobile phones often are much more happy to ask questions via their phone and a browser or app, rather than having to talk to someone in the store, which also suggests that stores might not need to staff as many people to help customers. "

    Or perhaps they could try hiring staff who actually have a freaking clue about what they are selling. ;)

     

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  14.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:47am

    Re: Customer Service

    Even the best customer service isn't going to walk up to you and tell you that you can get the item cheaper from Amazon.

     

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  15.  
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    Stephen, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:53am

    maybe the only reason i would buy a smartphone

    i wasted an hour in the mall yesterday looking for a silver money clip for my father. i should have just checked online before i left because i would have then discovered that the ridiculous price of silver now has caused the price of moneyclips to skyrocket ($125 was the cheapest). even a crappy silver plated one at bloomingdales was $80. so i just bought him a neat leather magnetic one at johnston and murphy for $18. granted, i wouldn't have found that one had i not actually gone to the mall, but at least with a smart phone comp shop i would have known from the first store, bloomingdales, what i was in for.

    as to best buy, their floor workers know nothing. when i asked a guy about a flat screen tv's aspect ratio being that of a computer monitor, not a tv, because it was printed on the box, he said there was no such thing as that aspect ration. when i pointed to the box, he just said that was wrong. another time i asked whether i could play .avi files via usb drive on another tv. not only didn't they know, but they couldn't even find out, their only resource being the same website i'd looked at previously. in their defense, they did say i could bring a usb in to see if it worked.

     

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  16.  
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    Andy (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 7:49am

    Phones in stores

    I use my phone in stores all the time for comparison shopping, shopping list building - or to get a consultation from my wife via text message. If any person in a store tried to take my phone to confiscate pictures I would use it to call the police instead. Stores need to embrace this, and maybe even provide devices to their employees to do their own comparisons. Any store that banned this would never get my business, no matter what their prices.

     

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  17.  
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    Dan (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Customer Service

    Of course, I agree that you're rarely going to be redirected by an employee at one store to another... I just think that to say the use of mobile phones is a sign that stores can cut back on staffing or should be spending more money on alternative advertising strategies misses the point; A mobile phone is not the most effective method for comparison shopping (clearly there isn't a good way to find the best price online or people would do their research before leaving the house). I think it's more of a response to a lack of customer service and poor consumer confidence in the pricing at most retail stores.

     

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  18.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Customer Service

    There are many reasons to want to use a mobile device for shopping on the spot: first, if you're going shopping at all, usually you're browsing (unless you saw something online and made a beeline to the store to buy it for some reason), and if something strikes your fancy, you'll buy it. But more people would rather know if that specific camera brand is better than some other specific camera brand, or if there are lots of negative reviews about how long it takes the flash to charge, or if the whole thing will break down in a week. Other is of course, price comparison. Maybe you'd like to know if it comes in more colors than what they have available in this Walmart?

    In most of these cases you didn't have a knowledge beforehand you went out to shop to make your research in your PC. Not everyone is Batman-crazy-prepared like that.

    Does that mean the store needs less staff? I don't know.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 10:03am

    The ones complaining are the ones who have high prices and gyp customers. If you truly had "the lowest price" you would encourage people to use this methods to prove them right. Otherwise you ban and fight because your veil secrecy is brought down and customers see you for what you are.

     

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  20.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Re: Phones

    > ...and confiscate cameras and delete the photos
    > if your caught taking pictures of their prices

    I wish stores around where I live would do that. I'd get rich off the ensuing lawsuit I could file against them.

    The only remedy a private property owner has against someone for violating their rules is to kick the person off the property. They can't forcibly confiscate someone's phone-- that would be theft (and possibly assault/battery depending on how the phone was confiscated) and/or delete someone's photos. (Not sure how they'd do that anyway, since most people have passcode protections on their phones in the first place.)

     

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  21.  
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    EorrFU, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 11:03am

    I went to Best Buy with my DAD to help him find 2 items, (a landline phone and SD card), which I then discovered were 10% cheaper online at Best Buy's own website. We walked up to customer service and they 'beat' their own price.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Phones

    > Not sure how they'd do that anyway, since most people have passcode protections on their phones in the first place.

    But if you are using it at the moment (to take photos), the passcode protection is not engaged, is it?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Jake, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    "Elsewhere in the article, it's noted that shoppers with mobile phones often are much more happy to ask questions via their phone and a browser or app, rather than having to talk to someone in the store, which also suggests that stores might not need to staff as many people to help customers."

    Or they could, I don't know, make sure their sales staff are somewhat competent and knowledgeable?

     

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  24.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Phones

    > But if you are using it at the moment (to take photos), the passcode
    > protection is not engaged, is it?

    I would assume they're not running up to you as you use it and yanking it out of your hand. If they are, then that brings me back to the theft/assault part of my argument.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Joseph, Dec 23rd, 2010 @ 12:23pm

    Stores Are Getting Ripped Off

    My friend has a store that sells dance clothing and accessories, shoes etc.

    People come into his store, check stuff out, try it on, then look it up on their phones and find a lower price. They leave, and sometimes he hears them talking about how they will buy it online. These people know this is dishonest, because they look over their shoulder while typing on their phone and discuss it in whispers.

    Other people have already seen the items online but come in to try it on so they can be sure to order the right size, then go home and place the order.

    My friend pays the expense of a retail store. He provides a service where customers can look and feel and compare and try on. This costs a lot of money. If the customers want to use this service they should pay for it.

    These people are ripping him off, plain and simple. They are stealing services from him.

    You say he is "overreacting" and "freaking out". But your solution is that he should "embrace" getting ripped off by spending even more money to purchase mobile ads. Do these ads somehow magically allow him to charge less money for his merchandise?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    lcg, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:02am

    mobile phone

    If you are finding a dependent mobile phone store , there is a company Juststay group we’ll have to recommend , Juststay is the professional distributor for all kinds of china mobile phone, mainly deal with google android 2.2 phone, sales phone, phone for kids, you’ll find all top quality models from their website: http://smartmobilephones.biz, we’ll definitely find interesting models for us

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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