Posted March 21, 2011 5:34 pm by with 6 comments

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Yesterday, I went to the closing sale at my local Borders (sigh, and yes, I have book sales on the brain today). They had blu-ray box sets marked down 40%, so thinking I was getting a great deal, I decided to buy one. After I bought it, I used my Google Goggles to look up the item online and found that the price I paid was the same as Amazon’s everyday, low price. If I had scanned before I bought the item, I probably wouldn’t have bought it as it wasn’t the great deal I had hoped for. I would have been a “Scan and Scram Shopper,” and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Reporting from the CTIA Wireless 2011 conference, CNBC says;

[The Scan and Scram Shopper] accounted for about 24 percent of last season holiday sales. And those numbers are only going to increase. According to recent IDC Retail Insight findings, these hyper-connected individuals will account for 28 percent or $127 billion of the $447 billion predicted that consumers will spend this holiday season.

While that may sound like bad news for the retail establishment that lost the sale, the report says that it’s good news over all because m-commerce, as opposed to e-commerce, has the power to connect consumers with brick and mortar stores like never before.

Scott Ellison, Vice President of Mobile & Consumer Connected Platforms at IDC says;

“From a bricks and mortar perspective, the winners are those retailers that can create apps that drive users into the store and then engage them even further. A great example is Puma and their in-store iPad app that allows you to create your own shoe while looking at swatches of materials in your hand. That transforms the online ordering experience at home to one that a shopper wants to go to the store to do, and of course once in the store the cross-selling opportunities abound.”

The Wireless Association says that the biggest area of untapped gold is in location-based shopping apps. If an app can tell a customer where to find what he needs within a five mile radius of where he is – that’s a powerful tool. I might be loyal to Target but if I find out Kmart has it cheaper and closer, I’m going to Kmart.

Amazon may have replaced Borders but they’re not going to replace my neighborhood Staples. Not when I’m running out of toner and have to print 60 copies of a presentation by tomorrow. I can order gourmet pasta online, but not if I want to have it for dinner tonight. But with the right app on my phone, I can find that same brand of pasta at the Trader Joe’s which is next to a Kinkos so I can get my presentations copied while I shop for dinner. That’s the power of mobile.

As for “Scan and Scram,” I still feel funny pulling out my phone to scan barcodes in a store. I’ve also heard stories about people who were told it wasn’t allowed. But store owners shouldn’t fear the scan. If you do have what I need at a good price, then I’ll stay instead of scram.

  • Not allowed? If a shop owner or manager told me that I would probably not patronize that store. Cynthia, you are right: if the store has a good price and good service they have nothing to fear by being open and honest and letting consumers check them against competitors.

    • Cynthia Boris

      I believe the problem was less about price checking and more about competitive spying. I know when i worked in retail we were never to allow anyone to take photos inside the store. That was tough because I worked for Imaginarium which always had wonderful displays of working toys so parents wanted to snap pics of their kids playing with the trains, etc.

      • Your experience working retail is different from mine. When I was working cleanup at a Kresge store in my youth, I remember seeing the manager from the Farmer Jack grocery next door checking out some of our goods and writing down the prices. When I questioned my manager, he said it was “OK” because he did the same thing at their store and at the other stores in our shopping center. Apparently, at least at that time and place, it was considered a professional courtesy.

        I haven’t worked in retail for *ahem* many *ahem* years now, so things have probably changed quite a bit. I wonder how he would have reacted in those days if digital cameras built into phones with bar code scanner apps had been the norm.

  • I stand in shops researching products on my iPhone before I buy. Retailers could make this easier if they thought about it. How about if they encouraged people to scan the barcodes with StickyBits to add/read reviews?

    Shops can be magical places; you can touch, try, play, select and walk out with the product. I’m thinking of Apple specifically, but there are many old-school examples: clothes, books, food, shoes. But why can’t I buy an mp3 or e-book instore? I’ll often find a good book instore and then download it at a truly ridiculous price. Borders could discount ebooks bought and downloaded in-store. Maybe you buy an e-book and get 12 hours of free hi-speed wifi thrown in.

    It’s not all about price though. If I have to go pick up a package from a mail sorting office, or wait in the house for a delivery on a Saturday morning then this is more inconvenient than going to the store and picking it up myself.

    There’s nothing new in Scott Ellison’s Puma example. The iPad is just replacing touch-screen kiosks, which have been used in retail for over a decade

  • NP

    “Scan and Scram” has a negative connotation, but now I have a term to describe what I have been doing since the iPhone came out. I don’t trust book jackets so I’ll scan the barcode and pull up the reviews on Amazon. If I’m really interested, I’ll buy the book in the store even though Amazon is usually much cheaper. Instant gratification rules. Otherwise the book gets added to my Amazon wish list for later. I’ve started doing this with other products, especially sale items. I too have been burned by what seemed to be a good deal at the time. Impulse purchasing has a dark side that can be cured with technology.

    I’ve never been told I couldn’t scan something, but then I’m generally discrete about it. If questioned, I’d probably tell them I was doing market research. If told I couldn’t scan something, I’d leave the store and mumble about their needing to return to mother Russia…

    • Cynthia Boris

      Ah, foolish mortals who think we live in a free country. LOL. The article I referenced at the top of the piece talks about how the scan option really can help boost in store sales. The ability to hold and experience a product gets you a lot closer to buying than seeing a picture on line, so add in the price check to make sure you’re not paying 50% more and that could be the final push to make you fork over the cash.

      I also like your idea about checking reviews online. Hadn’t thought of that – hmm, another reason i should have pulled out my phone at Borders yesterday.