By Hayley Tsukayama
The Washington Post
— Retailers expecting a tepid holiday shopping season are pulling out all the stops to attract customers to their stores this year — including embracing the enemy.
Big-box stores have come to terms with "showrooming" — when shoppers come into stores armed with smartphone apps designed to identify cheaper deals online — and devised new plans to offset its impact.
Target is also offering reviews from the technology news site CNET alongside its products on store shelves, GigaOm.com reported. That should alleviate the need for shoppers to pull out their smartphones at all. Target and Best Buy will offer price-matching for online deals this holiday season.
In a call with investors, Best Buy's new chief executive, Hubert Joly, said the company is focused on converting in-store browsers into buyers by offering better information from employees. "Once customers are in our stores, they're ours to lose," he told investors Wednesday.
According to an International Data Corp. survey released this week, showrooming may influence up to $1.7 billion of holiday retail sales.
The survey found shoppers are most likely to showroom big-ticket items, followed by apparel and footwear. The survey also found that quick online comparison shopping will be a part of about 1.4 percent of all consumer electronics purchases this holiday season.
The help of in-store employees means a lot to shoppers trying to sort through the range of products available in stores this winter. Between 56 and 60 percent of shoppers armed with smartphones say that they'll be "more likely" or "much more likely" to purchase in stores when helped by knowledgeable sales staff, according to the IDC survey.
For the 41 percent surveyed who say they'll continue to rely on smartphone research to make purchasing decisions, here are a few apps to help on the way.
Nextag Shopping: Nextag is a deal comparison-shopping site that does a lot of the legwork for shoppers doing research or buying online. Users can just scan barcodes, take a picture or type in a product name to find its price on other places on the Web. For those thinking ahead, the app also allows users to put things on their "radar" for alerts on price drops.
TGI Black Friday: Powered by TGIblackfriday and DealCatcher, this app lets users search for products, notifies shoppers when new ads are posted and lets users save their favorite deals for later. It also gives users a breakdown of how many deals are at a particular store, so you can better plan your shopping trips.
Black Friday App: This aptly named program from DealNews has catalogued the Black Friday ads from just about every major retailer from Ace Hardware to Wal-Mart. Users can search and save ads, see deals by category and even look at a feed of recently posted deals to get a good feel for what's out there on Black Friday.
Black Friday by BradsDeals: Another popular shopping site, Bradsdeals.com, also has a Black Friday app that lets users compare prices and look at copies of the flyers retailers have sent out to show off Black Friday deals. Shoppers can also use this app to plan out their shopping trips and set the date, time and location of any planned excursions.
SnapTell: For dedicated showroomers, SnapTell is one of the fastest ways to see if a product in stores can be found at a lower price online. Run by Amazon, SnapTell has users take a quick photo of the item of their choice and then runs it through an image recognition database to see where its advertised online. The photos work best with books, DVDs, CDs and video games. Users can also scan barcodes for information.
SnipSnap: To make things a little more manageable on Black Friday, try SnipSnap for coupon management. Users can take pictures of coupons they want to use to cut down on paper clutter. Shoppers can also search coupons other people have snapped to add to their own digital wallet. The app also ranks stores by the success rate users have had with scanned coupons — which could save even more hassle.
BuyVia: Not that into Black Friday, but love Cyber Monday? Consider BuyVia, a new service that provides price comparisons for consumer technology, including product descriptions written in plain English. Users can manage their BuyVia shopping lists on their phones, tablets and computers and scan barcodes of items they want to track.