Bricks, mortar, and a techie turn
Justine Griffin/Sarasota Herald-Tribune
At the Best Buy Mobile store in Sarasota, customers can scan price codes on every item in the store, and some are being rewarded for comparison shopping.
The retailer offers special deals to shoppers who use their smartphones to scan “quick response” codes as they shop, comparing Best Buy’s deals to online prices.
“We call it hybrid shopping,” said Best Buy general manager Matt Antonucci. “We’ve seen it grow fast over the last couple of years, and now, customers come into the store with their phones already out, checking our app and price comparing.”
Price comparisons between stores and online retailers used to be considered the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores competing against the likes of Amazon and eBay.
Not so anymore.
“Consumers are much more savvy about looking for the cheaper price, and retailers have caught on,” Green said. “I’ve heard that brick-and-mortar store managers have been given much more leeway with price matching this year.”
More than 60 percent of all shoppers are expected to use mobile devices to help them shop over the next couple of years, according to Latitude, a research consultant firm.
Smartphones already account for nearly one-fifth of retail site visits, and comprised 13 percent of all sales made on Cyber Monday. That was up 96 percent from 2011.
Even before Cyber Monday, a little over one-quarter of the 35 million shoppers who made purchases on Thanksgiving Day did so online, according to the National Retail Federation.
Nearly half of those who shopped on Black Friday also made online purchases.
At Best Buy in Sarasota, for example, shoppers can scan the QR codes of two different, but similar, televisions through the retailer’s mobile app to compare features and see why they may be priced differently. Then they can check competitors’ prices for the same item, and if they find it cheaper somewhere else, Best Buy will honor that price, said Antonucci, the store manager.
“Customers are making buying decisions right there on the spot with their phones, so we have the opportunity to take care of them that day,” he said.
Some Sarasota-area Black Friday shoppers used apps like BFads.net to plot out their entire shopping schedule, from the top promotions to store opening hours and directions.
Others relied on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for up-to-date information about doorbuster deals. Some retailers offered special promotions to those who “liked,” followed or pinned store chains’ accounts.
Facebook fans of Walmart and Target, meanwhile, were — beginning this year — able to download interactive maps of local stores from Facebook to help plot out shopping strategies.
At Bradenton-based Bealls, shoppers who pinned Bealls merchandise on Pinterest on Cyber Monday had the chance to win a $25 Bealls’ gift card.
“Cyber Monday really blew out all the stops for us,” said Bealls spokesman Bill Webster.
The company saw a 41 percent increase in sales from Cyber Monday 2011, which Webster attributes to the many new online platforms customers can now access.
Taking the concept even further, online Black Friday coupons on Bealls’ mobile page could be redeemed at checkout counters through customers’ smartphones.
Through apps and links on social media, retailers are also directing more shoppers to online stores and e-promotions with vibrant display ads and even videos, which have proven to be powerful sales tools.
ComScore, an online shopping analyst and research firm, says 64 percent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase after watching an online video.
“Most people that watch a video will interact more with a site or make a purchase versus those that just read text in a story or see a picture in print,” said Jonathan Stefansky, CEO of Viewbix.com, a company that generates interactive apps for online videos.
“When people are consuming content on an iPad or a mobile device, the engagement changes,” Stefansky added. “They want information quick and easy.”