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Showrooming - A Case of Jekyll and Hyde

On the face of it, showrooming seems bad news for ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers. However, it also highlights a real opportunity to drive more footfall, customer loyalty and, ultimately, sales.

The shopping habit, where consumers browse in-store and then buy online with their smartphones or tablets, is clearly resonating with the public. According to a recent study by Usablenet, 40% of UK shoppers, and nearly a third in the US, use a smartphone while in-store. Similarly, the Vibes 2013 Mobile Consumer Report highlights a 156% increase in showrooming in 2013 from 2012. 

The emergence of Amazon Flow may well expedite this trend. The feature allows a user to scan an item on a shelf or counter and, within seconds of “seeing” it with the smartphone’s camera, the item is placed in a queue that can be added to the user’s Amazon cart.

Faced with new competition, retailers are testing out new strategies to retain customers. Best Buy, the big-box retailer in the US, proactively addressed showrooming for the 2013 holiday season by running television ads that promoted its outlets as “the ultimate holiday showroom”. Others, according to some reports, are taking drastic steps by charging fees to browse, which are then reimbursed when a purchase is made.

In a way, mobile technology appears to have become the enemy of loyalty. It is making it easier for consumers to quickly research the best deals, whether in-store or remotely – and that is inevitably going to jar with retailers who want shoppers through the doors and money over the physical counters.

However, perhaps the real question here is - in a world of mobile price comparison websites, how do companies deliver value beyond the price tag? At the most basic, consumers need a compelling online and mobile commerce offering. Retailers that don’t enable consumers to buy a product they’ve seen in-store via their mobile phone or PC are clearly missing a trick. However, retailers need more ammunition in the battle for the consumer.

The research from Vibes suggests that the key is personalisation. As many as 90% of consumers want personalisation but only 18% said they see it frequently from retailers. This highlights a notable shortfall – and a huge opportunity.

Shoppers will, of course, always search for the best deals. However, retailers can, during the actual shopping experience, engage the individual consumer with communications that are relevant and personal to them and thus immediately create a sense of value. Delivering this value through offers, loyalty promotions and other benefits before and after the ‘point of decision’ across all channels, not just mobile, is the knock-out punch. And this is where mobile technology can turn from villain into saviour. 



Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 07 March, 2014, 17:59Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Anecdotally, and from personal experience, stock out situations are the fundamental driver for showrooming. As I'd highlighted in a blog post by the same title, brick-and-mortar retailers are largely responsible for showrooming. 

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