November 21, 2012

Big chains borrow from fast-food industry's playbook

The ease of ordering online and the sluggish economy has created more demanding U.S. consumers who aren't impressed by discounts alone.

Mae Anderson / The Associated Press

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A customer shops at a K-Mart in Chicago. If the economic downturn has taught retailers anything, it's that a 50 percent off sale isn't enough to lure finicky American shoppers into stores these days

AP

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Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says the online price matching programs are an attempt by brick-and-mortar stores fight to keep customers. "The increasing price transparency we're seeing online is something brick-and-mortar stores have to deal with and deal with it directly," she said.

Updated shopping apps for smartphone-toting shoppers: Shopping apps for smartphones and tablets have been around for a few years, but this year retailers are beefing them up. For instance, Macy's is launching a Black Friday portion of its mobile app, which highlights Black Friday specials and other deals not advertised elsewhere. It also will have maps and information about where in each store Black Friday deals can be found.

The shopping apps are an attempt by brick-and-mortar retailers to hook shoppers like Stefanie Scott, 35, in Greenfield, Wis. Scott, who plans to spend $1,000 to $2,000 on gifts this year, starts her holiday shopping ritual by first checking out deals on Facebook.

Then, she brings her smartphone along on shopping trips and uses mobile apps to get discounts once she's in the store. She's also a fan of the "buy online, pick up in store" offers, and recently used one at Best Buy to buy a videogame for her brother-in-law.

"I'm tied to my cellphone," she says. "Coupons and lists get lost in my purse. It's so much easier when I'm shopping to whip out my cellphone and have them scan it. The more I can do on my iPhone I'm all for it."

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