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Showrooming - the biggest opportunity for retail? March 8th, 2013

Showrooming is the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item Wikipedia. Is (only?) now causing concern on the high street.

I’ll happy admit that I’ve been doing this for a good few years. I’m a little surprised that retailers have only just realised what all those people are doing when they take photos of bar codes, product numbers and price tags!

It was inevitable that showrooming would grow due to mobile internet, cameras and the many bar code reader apps freely available from a number of online retailers to facilitate just the scenario many retailers now fear.

For those retailers that fear or complain about ‘showrooming’ I suggest that you’re missing a huge opportunity. I’ve written and presented many times regarding mobile constraints needing to be viewed as opportunities. For retail this is no different.

The opportunity showrooming presents is that you have a potential customer showing huge interest in a product that you have available for purchase - now. As a customer I can pay and walk away with the product, thats something that even with same day delivery available from an ever increasing number of online retailers e-commerce is unlikely to ever be able to offer.

So to take advantage of this rather large opportunity what as retailers do you need to do? Here’s how I see it, admittedly online retail offers a few services that as a retailer you might not be able to compete with for any number of reasons.

For instance online offers access to independent customer reviews, often these are made available alongside highly optimised e-commerce platforms whereby purchasing the product is only one-click away if we look at Amazon as an example. A second challenging scenario is the ability for the customer to look up and compare prices from other bricks and mortar stores but also solely online retailers that may have significantly lower prices. Both these situations should be looked upon as opportunities.

The opportunities present themselves in the form of intent, interest and fulfilment.

At the start of this scenario you have a customer in store, they have found a product that they are interested in and start looking product details up online. As retailers looking to make a sale you should be looking at ways of supporting this journey in any way you can as you currently have the customer under your roof. For almost all showrooming customers they will be looking for a set of information to support their decision making process. They will need to start somewhere - most likely a search engine - and enter a product name, bar code or model number. Why not make this easy?

As a retailer you can support this first step by providing links for you customers so that they can get all they need - short URL’s, heaven forbid even a quick response tag might actually have a use here. A survey by Foresee last year (2012) even suggest that 80% of those who showroom will start on your own website or app.

By providing a branded page that collates reviews and even comparable prices you become a supportive part of this journey.

At this early stage price is your first opportunity to increase the chance of making the sale. Not only do you show the competitors price but also do the leg work to show inline the associated delivery costs, times and available stocks. By doing this you can ‘out service’ an online retailer by highlighting the often hidden costs of delivery that realistically result in the price on your shelf being almost identical to the headline figure displayed online. This could prove difficult if a discount of only 2.5% sees 45% (Showrooming & The Cost Of Keeping Buyers In-Store and Retail Showrooming In Canada: Winning The Consumer & The Price Of Keeping Buyers In-Store) of people making their purchase online.

By providing a branded product page you can promote the value of buying today. With the additional access to an assistant that can demo the features and answer any further questions or concerns.

With digital being traceable and actionable the branded service has the capability to notify when someone has accessed the information provided. This notification subsequently triggers a prompt to all sales assistance that a potential customer has shown interest in a particular product.

At this point you’ll know which product they are interested in, where that product is located in your store and notify the most appropriate assistant with the detailed knowledge and training to approach the customer to enquire about further assistance. Customers who interact with an assistant are 12.5% more likely to purchase in-store.

To enable two way contact by offering a ‘call for assistance’ action on your page that when used again notifies staff that there’s a customer with further questions opens up your opportunity further.

Of course there are a number of challenges here around stock availability and knowledgeable and actively engaged staff but thats not for discussion here or even within the scope of this particular opportunity.

Retail may need to invest in in-store technology but it should never be that opportunities such as showrooming are seen as a negative.

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