Smartphone owners price-shop while in retail stores? Say it ain’t so!

This is likely not news to anyone who owns a smartphone such as a Palm Pre, Blackberry, Droid, or iPhone, but a recent study says that shoppers look at competitors’ prices while shopping in retail stores.

A survey from the researchers, covering the third quarter of 2009, suggested that 52% of smartphone owners use their handsets to check product descriptions, that 36% check rival retailers’ prices when deciding whether or not to buy a product, and that 34% used “m-commerce” channels to make purchases.

An analyst for eMarketer suggests, “A retailer’s best defense for maintaining customer loyalty is to develop a mobile offering that allows in-store shoppers access to customer reviews and other product information on its website.”

Actually, the best way to keep me as a customer is not so show me a flashy mobile website.  To keep me in the store, honor the competitor’s price that I find on the web.  While Christmas shopping in December, my wife and I went to Border’s to find the Julia Child cookbook for her mother.  While shopping in store, I pulled up the book on Amazon, who had the book priced at least 10 dollars cheaper.  I showed the price to a clerk, who simply shrugged her shoulders, and said, “Yeah, it’s cheaper there.”  We walked out empty handed.  Now I know not everyone can honor the deep discount pricing of Amazon, but give me something.  Maybe 20 percent off my next purchase, a free cup of coffee, something to entice me to buy your product when I find a better price, something to get me to come back to the store again.  My local bike shop is competitive on some things, but generally the bigger online retailers such as Nashbar and Performance beat them on price.  However, they make up for the price disparity with the service they provide.  They answer my questions, and if I ever have a problem with something I buy there, they take care of me. If I need a product they don’t stock, they’ll generally order it for me. They may not be able to match the prices, but they offer perks.  Other retailers should do the same thing, or the next time I find a better price on my phone, I’ll be leaving the store empty handed again.

Are you a “smartphoniac”?

I’m old enough to remember the Zack the Legomaniac commercials, and I can honestly say that I was indeed a Legomaniac.  I was comfortable with that term. Now, however, a new term supposedly defines my activities again, and I’m a little uneasy about this one.  Mark Penn, author of Microtrends, has dubbed people who are contantly tethered to their smartphones as “smartphonics.”  According to Penn, smartphone penetration in the U.S. is now around 18%, and is still growing.  People are using their phones in new ways, in new places, and likely a lot more than they used to.  The people who just cannot get enough of their phones (roughly 10% of smartphone users) are being labeled as “smartphoniacs.”    The smartphoniacs are generally well-educated teens, professionals, and college students, and they all have anxiety about being disconnected.

As an owner of a Palm Pre, and previously a Treo (for two years), it is easy to see how one may become a smartphoniac.  I have to keep my desire to be connected in check, and my wife has reminded me on more than one occasion that it’s not polite to be tweeting while having a conversation.  I now just tweet while we watch “Dancing with the Stars.”

What about you?  Do you fit the bill as a smartphoniac?  Are you addicted to your phone?  Does it hinder your in-person relationships?  Are you taking measures to avoid having a smartphoniac attack?  If you are a smartphone junkie, they say the first step in rehab is acceptance.  Best of luck getting the monkey off your back.  😉

“Smartphoniacs” – the latest microtrend – WARC News – WARC.com.

A Wiki as a Research Guide

It seems like these days everybody has got a wiki, so I thought I should have one as well. I have begun experimenting with using a wiki to replace the typical library research guide, subject guide, or pathfinder (or whatever you call your list of links and resources organized by subject).

In my area, I currently have three different research guides: one for general business, one for international business, and one for marketing, and I also have a blog to compliment these as well. Three research guides can be difficult to maintain, and because a lot of information is redundant between the three, one change often leads to two additional changes.

The usefulness of these research guides can be questioned as well. While I can measure through web stats that the guides are being clicked on, I honestly cannot believe that students or patrons are reading the information all the way through. I can attest that they are not the most interesting things to read. And, while they are organized in an outline fashion, they are not the easiest things to use either. They are not really searchable by themselves(unless you count using Ctrl-F as searching), and you certainly cannot “search” all three at once. The traditional solution might be to lump all three into one research guide, but then that might be considered cruel and unusual punishment for the patrons who are actually using them to find business information sources. Individually, they are quite length, and combining them would make the sheer quantity of information unbearable.

Therefore, I decided that as I update my research guides this summer, I am not going to rehash the same tried-and-true format that I (and countless librarians before me) have been using. As I go through the list of links, databases, websites, and reference books, I am adding what is worth keeping to what I am currently calling The Biz Wiki. The Biz Wiki will contain the content of all three of my research guides and will be organized by category. Currently there are broad categories of business information such as Company, Industry, International Business, and Marketing, and each of these contain subcategories with topics such as company histories, brands, advertising, etc. This organization will basically be a more narrowly categorized breakdown of what is listed in my three research guides. I have also included a new category that I am calling “Research How-To’s”. This category will contain guides such as How to Find Country Economic Analysis Information or Finding Industry Financial Ratios. While there is not a huge amount of content in this category right now, the flexibility of the wiki software will allow me to add How-To’s as the need arises. Previously, I had used my Business Blog for such on-the-fly how-to’s, but I am finding that I like the wiki’s organizational abilities better than a blog.

The Biz Wiki has only been running for less than a week, so currently it is a little rough around the edges. Overall, I am quite satisfied with how quickly I am able to create new entries and edit them to my liking. The Media Wiki software that runs the wiki was very easy to install, and it only took me about a day or so to get comfortable with the software. The Wiki Media help pages are very helpful, and are a necessary tool when trying to figure out how to format the pages.

In showing this to my colleagues in the Reference department, many of them seem very supportive of this new research guide format. Some seem to think that this will make their time at the desk a little easier when they are approached by business researchers. I hope to use the wiki to compliment classroom instruction, thereby making it easier for me to teach business research both in and out of the classroom. At the same time, I hope the wiki will make research easier for those researchers who never make it to one of my instructional sessions or to the reference desk. Only time will tell how (or if) The Biz Wiki is used, and what impact it will make for our library patrons.