The practice of showrooming will play a key role in the upcoming holiday shopping season as smartphone penetration grows and consumers get comfortable using their devices for an array of activities. In fact, 56% of shoppers said they will compare prices online using a smartphone, according to a new study.
How does a store protect itself from losing sales to showrooming?
While the practice of showrooming is a rising concern of retailers, I really believe that brick-and -mortar retailers can benefit from this trend by using smartphone and available apps to their advantage. The reality is that showrooming has become an integral, planned part of the path-to-purchase.
Specifically, technology provides easy access to information and price comparisons for shoppers to research products before they leave the house. This occurs not only with high involvement purchases but for everyday low involvement purchases as well. By acknowledging this point, retailers and brand s can begin to leverage showrooming to influence how and where shoppers can purchase brand s down to the retail channel or store level.
While shoppers like to price shop and visually engage with products in the pre-shop phase, the importance of the in-store experience component to increase conversion is typically left out of the conversation. In many cases, consumers still want to “touch and feel” products or make immediate purchases. This is why we encourage our clients to take an omnichannel approach and use the showrooming trend as an opportunity instead of a threat. We track shoppers through all touch-points across the path to purchase, not just one or two. This provides us with one central hub or database to work from and drive consistent messaging, pricing, promotions, etc. It also provides shoppers with a brand experience, not a channel offering.
What stores are vulnerable to showrooming?
Simply put, all stores that don’t embrace an omnichannel approach are at risk. The two biggest retail channels at risk are large format/mass retailers and small independents.
From a large format perspective, the wide variety of offerings have been a selling point, but the simplicity of e-commerce and online ordering has minimized this benefit. To combat this trend, retailers must address price variations and address the convince issues. Mass merchants are actively addressing theses issues with price-matching, access to information in-store (e.g., product reviews via 2D barcode), online purchase-store pickup and same day delivery. In-market examples include Walmart To Go and Site-To-Store programs.
Smaller independents have a much higher hill to climb due to lack of scale and money to develop fully integrated omnichannel programing. They are trying to compete on access and customer service; however, the use of technology can address both of these selling points as previously discussed.
With that said, showrooming will change the future of retailing especially against large footprint formats. The ability to have smaller brick-and -mortar locations for consumers to interact with products without large inventory can provide a great shopping experience while generating higher margins. The ability to research a product online and request a live product demo directly to your house with the ability to purchase on the spot doesn’t seem that far away.