Retailers have long found mobiles pose a risk to their business as it can often encourage ‘showrooming’. However research released by TNS reveals it’s actually doing the opposite.

Showrooming is where people visit stores to only test a product and will buy them elsewhere, which has emerged as a significant threat to the retail sector with one third of mobile users globally admitting to showrooming behaviour.

The 2013 Mobile Life study shows that while showrooming is a real threat, mobile can offer a solution to brands in minimising this risk. Among those who showroom, two thirds use their phone whilst doing so, providing a major opportunity for brands to interact with consumers via mobile and turn browsers into buyers.

“Our latest research indicates that it is imperative for companies to use mobile to market to their consumers, and to ensure that every brand touch-point – both online and offline – is mobile linked and mobile optimised,” Jonathan Sinton, executive director of TNS said.

The study also showed people are open to engaging with brands whilst in-store, with more than one quarter of smartphone owners in Australia keen to receive mobile coupons whilst shopping and the same percentage expressing interest in apps that help them navigate the store they are in, compared to one fifth of people globally.

Meanwhile 13 per cent of consumers in Australia are interested in a ‘virtual sales assistant’, who will help answer their questions in-store about a particular product. The study showed 27 per cent of Australian respondents prefer to access information on their phone rather than speaking to a sales assistant in store, compared to almost a third of people globally and two-fifths of 16-30 year olds. This openness to interacting presents retailers with an opportunity to engage meaningfully with their customers when they are considering a purchase.

“Mobile might seem like an enemy by opening up the retail environment to a potentially limitless range of competitors,” Sinton said.  “However the key for brands and retailers is to find ways to make buying in-store the best option by saving the consumer time, money or effort. By understanding exactly how consumers are using mobiles in their stores, brands and retailers can improve their offer – whether through apps, mobile coupons or simply better service – and encourage more shoppers to complete their transactions in store, be it via mobile or at the cash register.”