Fully 90% of French consumers now say they go on to the Internet – consulting price comparison sites and checking out user opinions – before making a purchase in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Digital Now Pervading Every Stage of the Shopping Experience

Physical stores remain the second most used channel for obtaining product information, but consumers increasingly use them as mere showrooms. This is what digitally-oriented marketing and brand consultancy Digitas France, in collaboration with VivaKi Advance, reveals in its second report “Expérience Marchande Connectée” (Connected Shopping Experience). The just-published report highlights the changes in consumer behaviour and expectations for their shopping experience. The study indicates that the increasing number of connected devices in the hands of consumers is spurring them to compare offers both online and offline before making their purchase decision. If retailers – especially those from the sectors which see the most online competition: household goods, high-tech, entertainment products, fashion and decoration – want to prevent their stores from becoming no more than free showrooms for online competitors, they will have to reinvent themselves so as to offer a more customised shopping experience which incorporates an array of digital tools.

Online search before and during in-store shopping

Some 55% of French consumers now own smartphones, and 59% of these smartphone owners use them even inside the store to compare prices, seek opinions or find additional information. Thus the consumer is being transformed into a ‘smart shopper’, with combinations of two possible behaviour patterns. On the one hand many consumers are now adopting the ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline) approach. On the other hand, the ‘showrooming’ phenomenon is also becoming more and more prevalent in France. What this basically means is going into a store in order to check out the product with your own eyes, and then buying it online, often at a lower price. In France, close to 18% (up 12% during the last year) of all consumers leave a store empty-handed after each visit, having checked for information on their mobile devices.

Incorporating more technology tools in-store

In fact 63% of the consumers polled by Digitas France/VivaKi Advance said they would be prepared to go in-store shopping more often if they could use technology which enables them to receive geolocated customised promotion and deal coupons on their mobiles, while 54% said they wanted to be able to pay directly at the shelves using a portable tablet device and so avoid having to go through the checkout. Consumers also expect in-store technology tools to provide a wider range of services. Some 55% were looking for help in finding the lowest price while 44% were keen to save time and 38% crave more product information. Digitas France believes that the solution might well be “Connected Glasses”. In partnership with Intermarché supermarkets and Insiteo, the indoor positioning system, the consultancy has created a prototype to testthe potential for these smart spectacles to transform and enrich the shopping experience. Combining geolocation technology and promotional information, this pilot application enables the consumer to access complementary information on a product (literally) in the blink of an eye.