Showrooming, much like many other perceived threats in retail, must be seen as an opportunity, not as a negative. Arguably, the challenges that showrooming has created for retailers are relative to price transparency and finding a place and role within the consumer’s mind that will be superior to the online retailer (remembering that many online retailers can offer broader assortments, 24/7 convenience and shopping accessibility).
The first point is “Embrace the Reality.” The hours and energy that corporate resources spend to argue “denial” are understandable, yet that is the most dangerous reaction to showrooming. The thoughts around “creating imaginary force fields” that defeat the consumer’s access to online information, such as bait-and-switch strategies, and even activities to create confusion around model numbers and specifications are all shortsighted. Not only will they not effectively prevent showrooming, but they will erode the consumer’s confidence and trust in the retailer who now might be seen as “the enemy.”
In “Embracing the Reality,” look toward ways to enrich and reinforce consumer relationships through showroom activity. Research has shown that consumers who have had effective and helpful showrooming activities are highly likely to buy from the retailer, and will buy more by consolidating both their online and in-store activities.
The next point to consider in combatting showrooming is to think less siloed and more omnichannel. Omnichannel is a term that is gaining rapid acceptance among the retail community that has found their best consumers from a life-purchase perspective. They tend to be the customers who not only don’t simply shop one channel or the other, but who shop across a rich variety of channels at different occasions, and do so across the widest variety of categories and products.
In many cases, retailers are the biggest barrier to their own omnichannel retailing. They often jealously guard their consumer information by channel. This impacts the store environment in many ways. Rather than isolating the consumer’s access to online or competitive information, they can make this a focal point of the experience, accomplished by creating interactive digital elements within product displays. Through training, retailers can also encourage their sales associates to expose the customer to the full breadth of inventory, whether it is actually housed in-store or remotely.
One of the big changes in looking at the showrooming concept is focused on ordering online and picking up in-store. The store inventory can provide more near-term accessibility to products for last-minute purchase — another way to provide further trial and sampling of the product. But most importantly, it typically provides an additional purchase occasion by the consumer who has ordered online, picked up in-store, and now may be exposed to the wide variety of accessories and add-on purchases that will make their online purchase even more satisfying.
Increasingly, retailers are using mobile to expose consumers to new products, social network endorsements of their peers and entertainment related to available product. Yet we haven’t seen major translation of mobile activity into direct purchase activity (such as purchasing with a mobile device).
However, we found that mobile provides huge opportunities for integrating your store experience through in-store connections — like driving location-specific promotional activities based on customer proximity to store locations. They could provide everything from fitting room trial of fashion products, to in-store QR coding and/or near-field communication using the consumers’ mobile device as the access point.
Embrace the Reality, Implement an Omnichannel Focus, and Integrate Mobile Technology to help you combat the challenges of showrooming.
Kenneth Nisch is chairman of JGA, a retail design and brand strategy firm in Southfield, Mich.