Armed with smartphones and tablets, holiday shoppers are headed to retail stores to browse, but they may not buy—until they get home.

This holiday shopping season, the shift to mobile showrooming is a clear indicator that consumer control over the retail ecosystem is hitting critical mass.

For those of you new to this trend, showrooming is the growing practice where shoppers go into a retailer’s store to see, feel and try out products in-person, likely use their mobile devices to compare prices and customer reviews on the fly and then go home to buy the item cheaper online. For these consumers, online shopping is no longer just viewed as the channel that will save them time, energy and extra refuels at the gas pump. Instead, it has evolved as the destination for self-service and better prices.

According to a recent survey by couponing site CouponCabin, more than 4 in 10 smartphone or tablet owners have used their devices to research merchandise in a brick and mortar store, then gone online to find a better price. And guess what? Of these “showroomers,” 97% of them admit they’ve subsequently bought the product online (for less).

Retailers cannot ignore this trend. According to Forbes, 55% of consumers will use their smartphones for holiday shopping this season.

So what are retailers doing to combat showrooming? The smart ones are recognizing the value in building stronger relationships with their customers through an omnichannel approach; and are using tools like in-store promotions, analytics and mobile apps that provide detailed information about who their customers are and what they want.

Retailers must strive to have a much deeper understanding of their consumers in order to gain more influence in the way their products are being purchased.

Every consumer armed with a smartphone is a smarter, more discerning shopper. Retailers need to keep pace with technologies that give consumers control of their shopping experience— and implement new applications, policies and procedures that help them keep shoppers’ puchases in the store.

-Jack