Simple applications on mobile phones have changed the way that people shop, particularly over the Black Friday shopping weekend.
Consumers with smartphones now have access to apps that allow real-time price comparison, helping them find the cheapest price for a product. Mobile apps include Amazon’s Price Checker, TGI Black Friday and Shopkick.
Alyson O’Mahoney, executive vice president at Mount Kisco-based Robin Leedy Associates, a PR firm that specializes in social media, said that companies like Best Buy have become glorified showrooms. Customers go into stores like Best Buy, use their price scanners and then head home to a website and get a product for cheaper.
“It’s helping shoppers, which is always a good thing,” she said. “Consumers have become smarter and savvier. I think for the person who is price conscious, it is important. It’s definitely changing the face of shopping.”
O’Mahoney said companies have been learning to adjust to the showroom effect and are pricing products accordingly. Sites often offer hourly deals to catch the attention of consumers. Many retailers like Best Buy will simply offer customers the product at the lowest price they find it at.
Kristen Ruby, president of Mount Kisco-based Ruby Media Group, said that mobile apps are part of a broader look at how social media has really changed events like Black Friday.
“With Facebook promotions and pages, a lot of retailers and businesses are getting the message out there,” she said.
Small Business Saturday, which was started by American Express and held the day after Black Friday, is a shopping day designed to boost small businesses. It was created and made popular using social media. American Express provides retailers with Facebook posts and tweets to promote their small business.
“A lot of small businesses see Black Friday for larger retailers – they can’t compete with stores that slash prices like Target,” Ruby said. “It’s too much. They offer smaller, but more consistent promotions. I would rather see a small business seven times a year offer products at 10 percent off, rather than one day a year offer 70 percent off.”
Ruby said that retail stores need to be better at training employees on how to handle customers who use mobile apps to find the cheapest prices.
Though small businesses could find themselves priced out of the mobile app price wars, small businesses said they had little impact.
Rob Woodrow, who runs Woodrow Jewelers in Rye, said that the Internet continues to have a negative impact on his store, as people use it to shop rather than going to his store.
“We’ve tried very hard to establish an Internet presence,” Woodrow said. “We established a Facebook page. We want to let people know that we exist. It helps remind people about us.”
On Purchase Street, where his store is located, Woodrow said that it was not busy on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday.
“Small Business Saturday needs time to develop,” Woodrow said. “I think it’s a great idea. I like the idea of thinking about small businesses and neighborhood stores.”
Woodrow said the flock to the Internet has become a generational shift, and said he understands that his key audience is beginning to shrink.
“We want to open ourselves up and do things that we have not traditionally done before,” he said. “Facebook is an avenue to that and is opening us up to a younger demographic.”
Bill Flooks, president of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn’t think mobile apps made a big difference in the village, but that American Express did a good job of getting the word out about Small Business Saturday.
“It went over pretty well,” Flooks said. “We got a robocall reminding us to shop local by American Express. There’s only so much local advertising that we can do.”
Last weekend, Pleasantville hosted a holiday open house open to further boost sales and help small businesses.
“When you come to Pleasantville, you’re coming for a specific reason to shop,” Flooks said. “We don’t have signature stores, so you are coming here for specific things.”