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.