Study: 'Showrooming' a lesser threat than once thought

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In a survey of more than 6,200 consumers collected during the peak holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Amazon scored highest among 25 of the top mobile commerce companies in terms of customer satisfaction, according to a report released Tuesday by ForeSee. 

"The mobile platform is maturing much faster than the PC platform. We see it in the rate of consumer adoption, and fortunately we are seeing it in how well the top retailers are adapting to multichannel consumers who are embracing yet another powerful tool," stated Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. "But retailers shouldn't get too comfortable because change is just about the only thing you can count on. Consumers expect retailers to provide a consistent and seamless experience, regardless of the channel."

The study also investigated the role and impact of mobile on "showrooming" — the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail store only to shop online for the same item, often at a lower price. The results are surprising, Freed noted. While nearly 70% of survey respondents reported using a mobile phone while in a retail store during the 2012 holiday season, most of those consumers (62%) accessed that store's site or app. But the competitive threat of showrooming still exists, as 37% reported accessing a competitor's site or app.

"Customers are using their mobile phones as integrated parts of their shopping experience," noted Eric Feinberg, senior director mobile at ForeSee. "Mobile is the ultimate companion channel, making showrooming as much of an opportunity as it is a threat. Retailers need to engage their customers equally well through all channels, especially through mobile sites and apps, or risk losing customers and sales to competitors that do a better job of meeting their needs."

Overall, the report — titled the "ForeSee Mobile Satisfaction Index: Holiday Retail Edition" — found that consumer satisfaction with the mobile retail experience is improving, as the index climbed two points since last holiday season to 78 on a 100-point scale.

Amazon tops the list at 85, with Apple (83), and QVC (83) close behind. Rounding out the top five are NewEgg (80) and Victoria's Secret (80). The retailers with the biggest improvements over time include Target (+5), Victoria's Secret (+5) and Barnes & Noble (+4).

Other key findings included that at the aggregate level, customers rate their traditional Web experiences (79) very similarly to their mobile experiences (78). But at the individual company level, satisfaction varies between retailers' websites and mobile sites. And while only 6% reported visiting the company's website, mobile site or app via mobile phone as their first step while shopping, they are a very satisfied group (80).