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November 19, 2012

Holiday shopping essential: Black Friday apps

Retailers expecting a tepid holiday shopping season are pulling out all the stops to attract customers to their stores this year — including embracing the enemy.

Big-box stores have come to terms with "showrooming" — when shoppers come into stores armed with smartphone apps designed to identify cheaper deals online — and devised new plans to offset its impact.

Target is also offering reviews from the technology news site CNET alongside its products on store shelves, GigaOm.com reported. That should alleviate the need for shoppers to pull out their smartphones at all. Target and Best Buy will offer price-matching for online deals this holiday season.

In a call with investors, Best Buy's new chief executive, Hubert Joly, said the company is focused on converting in-store browsers into buyers by offering better information from employees. "Once customers are in our stores, they're ours to lose," he told investors Wednesday.

According to an International Data Corp. survey released this week, showrooming may influence up to $1.7 billion of holiday retail sales.

The survey found shoppers are most likely to showroom big-ticket items, followed by apparel and footwear. The survey also found that quick online comparison shopping will be a part of about 1.4 percent of all consumer electronics purchases this holiday season.

The help of in-store employees means a lot to shoppers trying to sort through the range of products available in stores this winter. Between 56 and 60 percent of shoppers armed with smartphones say that they'll be "more likely" or "much more likely" to purchase in stores when helped by knowledgeable sales staff, according to the IDC survey.

For the 41 percent surveyed who say they'll continue to rely on smartphone research to make purchasing decisions, here are a few apps to help on the way.

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