How mobile showrooming is killing your conversions.

At the dawn of the current smart phone era, even before penetration of devices climbed into near saturation levels, owners of brick and mortar stores complained of a behavior they found bad for their business and offensive to their sensibilities.

Customers, who once came in to buy goods, would come in and browse for items on the shelf. They would then look the item up on their smart phone, sometimes by taking a picture of the very item, or scanning the barcode intended to be used at the time of purchase. Next they would leave. Without buying. Or at least, not in that physical store.

The conclusion reached was that these consumers would go scout the item in person, then seek out the best deal online and purchase in an Ecommerce environment. This behavior was nicknamed “showrooming,” and it was (and still is) loathed by operators of stores everywhere.

Since that phrase was first coined, mobile penetration and usage has only continued to climb as predicted. Traffic to most websites via mobile devices has climbed continuously. For Santy clients and competitors, we see an approximate average increase in mobile in the double digits per month. Every month. Ever climbing.

And showrooming has evolved. Though initially, the mobile devices were blamed for the behavior, smart phones are now looking enviously in another direction.

Cyber Monday 2014

The reports for Cyber Monday 2014 began rolling in before 12:01 Tuesday. An army of analysts, including IBM began detailing the consumer behavior around these huge shopping days. According to the IBM report, mobile traffic to e-commerce sites climbed again from last year. Mobile devices accounted for 41.2% of traffic over Thanksgiving weekend.

And so the march of smart phones in shopping to absolute dominance continues, right? But wait. The numbers reported by IBM include both phones (28.5%) and tablets (12.5%). Of course this is consistent with behaviors year-round. People are using their phones non-stop. Email referrals to retail sites from mobile devices is consistently rising as people check mail from wherever they are, and Cyber Monday is one of biggest email days of the year.

But an interesting thing happens when it comes time to buy. Those numbers shift substantially. Not only do a greater number of tablet users (12.9%) buy than smart phone users (9.1%) but they spend more as well.

It stands to reason that the behavior of traditional showrooming is being continued in the mobile environment. Consumers are comfortable browsing on their phone, looking at options and sharing products with friends. But buying is different. There are some items, some transactions that people aren’t comfortable making without more detail. Despite increased resolution of phone displays, people will seek detailed descriptions on a tablet or desktop. We treat our phone like showroomers treat brick and mortars; good to look but I’ll buy somewhere else.

The numbers counted here are consistent with current trends for users of tablets and mobile devices. Comscore puts browser use 30% higher amongst tablet users than smart phones**, who are extremely focused on app usage. Smart phone users are conditioned to scanning apps and breezing through content a la Instagram versus diving deep into details.

There is also the question of context. Mobile users may be browsing casually while in a group, or while killing time. They return to purchase when they have returned home; they pick up the tablet and make the purchase.


Finally there is the issue of payment. Some e-com brands have simplified it down to a frictionless single click. Most haven’t. Completing a form or registering on a site to purchase is still cumbersome on a phone. Consumers may be waiting to get to a device that makes typing easier.

We will be watching several trends to see how they correlate with mobile commerce in 2015. First, Apple and Samsung race to release smart phones with increasingly larger displays. As resolutions continue to grow, making reading, shopping and typing easier, smart phone transactions should climb.

The advances in payment tech are moving extremely quick, bringing seamless purchasing closer to ubiquity. As the big players expand their products and new products emerge, evolving and building on those as platforms, transactions on smart phones should follow suit.

Originally published at

Adam Pierno is Director of Brand Strategy and Planning at Santy in Scottsdale, Arizona. Santy exists for one reason: to grow your business. How? By intercepting your customers where they live, work and play, with the right combination of consumer engagement tools.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.