Big Box retailers are Internet showrooms - people increasingly come in to try out a product and then order online, usually from Amazon. Best Buy is making sure to leave manufacturer bar codes off of their displays, instead using a custom QR code which drives the shopper to BestBuy.com (of course this is nothing compared to their 2007 use of a fake website to convince in-store shoppers that the Internet prices has increased since last time they price compared).
Let's assume that in-store price comparison is only going to rise with smartphone usage and comparison apps. What's a store to do? Well how about blocking data services so that it's harder to shoppers to use their smartphones. Obviously that would send people into an uproar. So how about another solution: create an awesome free wifi network in-store and the "cost" of using it, is that it appends an affiliate code to the shopper's purchase at 3rd parties - ie if you look at BestBuy but buy the item at Amazon, at least BB will make a 6% affiliate fee. The store could do this on the mobile browser and also send you an email w a link to the item, a price comparison and links to other retailers -- all w/ an affiliate code attached.
Here's how it might play out:
- Consumers who don't price compare = no impact, still shop at retailer
- Consumers who want to buy it now = no impact, still shop at retailer
- Items where the store is price competitive = no impact, still bought at retailer
- Items where the store is not price competitive = collect affiliate fee instead of no sale
- Consumers who are very price/tech savvy = might be encouraged to visit retailer giving the store a chance to (a) sell them something and (b) collect their info via in-store wifi for future marketing
Update 6/24/12: WSJ is reporting that stores/malls are installing wi-fi networks to allow shoppers to get online more easily, then using the service to track them and send targeted ads.