Until recently, retailers could reasonably assume that if they just lured shoppers to stores with enticing specials, the customers could be coaxed into buying more profitable stuff, too.
Now, marketers must contend with shoppers who can use their smartphones inside stores to check whether the specials are really so special, and if the rest of the merchandise is reasonably priced.
"The retailer’s advantage has been eroded," says Greg Girard of consultancy IDC Retail Insights, which recently found that roughly 45% of customers with smartphones had used them to perform due diligence on a store’s prices. "The four walls of the store have become porous."
Some of the most vulnerable merchants: sellers of branded, big-ticket items like electronics and appliances, which often prompt buyers to comparison shop. Best Buy, the nation’s largest electronics chain, said Tuesday that it may lose market share this year, a downward trend that some analysts are attributing in part to pressure from price comparison apps. And don’t get me started on HDMI cable prices.
Boo hoo, poor retailers.
You want your free market, you got it. Now deal with it.
and to preempt a few comments – yes, plenty or retailers provide service on top of selling stuff, and even if it’s in the form of a knowledgeable sales droid to help you comparison shop this development may hurt the consumer. But here’s the thing. Consumers didn’t start this ball rolling. The big-box price-is-everything guys did. (Sam Walton’s motto was “Stack it high and sell it cheap”.) They drove prices down and sent the jobs away. They hammered the small local retailers. They hammered the vendors. They hammered the manufacturers. Now most people have less to spend, and every penny counts. Corporations have ruthlessly looked out for # 1, and now consumers are doing the same.