Why retailers should embrace showrooming

Trends eventually stop being trendy and either disappear into obscurity or become part of everyday life.

The trends which end up only being fads often come in with a bang and leave with a thud, leaving embarrassing photos and fashions in their wake. Remember those 80s hairstyles?

The other trends — the ones that create a whirl of buzz and actually manage to stick around — can often change social, cultural and political landscapes. When it comes to the world of retail, trends are often born and die in a single day. This isn’t without good reason.

Consumers now control the retail landscape. Your competitors are now only a click or tap away. Lower prices, more sizes and dynamic shopping experiences are waiting in the shopper’s purse or pocket as they navigate your retail spaces.

This specific shift in consumer behavior has led to one trend that has now become part of nearly every shopping experience.

Love it or loathe it, showrooming is a behaviour that retailers need to embrace.

Many retailers have taken a defensive stance against consumers visiting their physical stores to research items they find and often plan to purchase only online.

Headlines encouraging retailers to “battle” or “combat” showrooming conjures images of war.

Going against the tide of consumer behavior will rarely lead to success. Especially when you consider MasterCard’s recent Mobile Shopper study, which found that nearly one-third of shoppers in Singapore (31.9 per cent) will use their phones to research product costs and details while in a brick and mortar store.

Understanding the reasons consumers want to showroom can help you to find ways to embrace this consumer behaviour and connect with your shoppers in a way that encourages them to buy when they are ready.

Retailers must consider the catalysts for showrooming, the information consumers seek and how to position their brand as a source for everything they need to be an informed consumer.

Let’s look at a few of these behaviours more closely.

Research purchases

A primary reason shoppers showroom is to research items they have discovered online. The knowledge that better deals and desirable products are so easily accessible has motivated consumers to become informed shoppers.

Retailers can meet this showroomer need by ensuring product pages are optimised for mobile devices and that the information on these pages is comprehensive. Communicate product specifications as well as other value propositions that help your brand stand out. Are your materials locally sourced or all natural? Let your shoppers know! Have your handbags been carried on the red carpet? Share the photos!

Help the in-store consumer to reconnect with the items they shopped online by making the shopping cart accessible on a mobile device and include details such as SKU, product number, brand, style, size and color as potential search criteria.

Finding a lower price

After viewing an item in your store, the shopper may try to find a lower price at one of your competitors. If price is not a differentiator, other shopper services could cause the showroomer to stray.

Promote information about low price guarantees as well as return and exchange policies. Show perks such as repeat buyer discounts or loyalty program rewards.

Tout services such as ship from store or in-store pick up at nearby locations. These also include low-price guarantees, in-store pick up, loyalty rewards and international shipping.

phone, shopping mall, hand

Look-alike items

Many showroomers may use your app to locate an item in your stores. Give the shopper more reasons to buy from your brand by including product recommendations based on their shopping, buying and profile information.

This level of customer intelligence is now more accessible to marketers and packs a lot of power to keep the showroomer engaged with your brand while helping to raise your average order value.

Virtual store representatives

Lastly, think of all the ways your store shoppers interact with your store staff.

What questions do the shoppers ask? What concerns or problems do they encounter in your stores? Your site needs to serve as a virtual store representative by being making all of this information easily accessible.

Benjamin Glynn is managing director for Southeast Asia with Emarsys.

Consider how many times you’ve asked a store representative if they have an item in a different size only to find out they don’t have your size in stock. Now consider that 32 per cent of global respondents to PWC’s Total Retail 2016 study said they would be happier shoppers if they could check stock levels at other stores while in a store. That’s nearly one in three shoppers in your stores that want this kind of information.

Make sure they can find answers! Additional areas to cover are product reviews, manuals, detailed specifications, installation information, warranties, demos, product videos… anything that answers the most commonly asked questions in your stores.

Rather than seeing showrooming as a threat to your sales, accept the fact that this is how today’s consumer will shop — so find ways to use this behaviour to your advantage, keeping shoppers engaged.

Shifting your perspective to empower today’s multi-device, multi-channel shopper will only help to boost sales and show your shoppers that you care.

This article originally appeared in the Inside Retail Hong Kong magazine edition.
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