One of the most relevant factors contributing to the increasingly complex retail environment is showrooming. While just about every industry analyst acknowledges its existence, opinions are still divided over whether it’s advantageous or disadvantageous to in-store retailers. On the surface, showrooming certainly looks like a problem––customers seem to use your store more like an interactive museum than a place to purchase products.
Last year, a Harris Poll found that 43% of US adults participate in showrooming in one way or another.
They enter, find an item they’ve discovered elsewhere and examine it to make sure it’s indeed what they thought it was. Then they check the price tag, whip out their smartphone and run a quick search on the product to compare prices in a flash. If your prices aren’t competitive, you can count on that customer leaving empty-handed.
While this is certainly a negative experience for the retailer, the lack of any valuable customer experience strategy aimed at satisfying that customer’s desire for interactive information makes such an outcome predictable. The value of showrooming comes in the form of opportunity.
Much like a flood is an unavoidable force of nature, showrooming is an unavoidable consequence of the increasingly informed customer. Those who innovate to build the best boats are the best equipped to ride it out. Similarly, those who creatively circumvent the negative aspects of showrooming will enjoy a new level of customer engagement.
Considering the bright side of showrooming
Those who have remained more or less in a state of denial about showrooming usually attempt to inhibit their customers’ abilities to compare their items to others through shortsighted and most often ineffective means. Not only is this kind of strategy a long-term disaster for business, but it also destroys your customers’ confidence in the store or brand itself.
Customers engage significantly more positively to retailers making a conscious and visible effort to assist in the sort of multi-dimensional shopping practices made possible by the omnichannel retail environment.
Research recently conducted by Internet Retailer found that 67% of showrooming shoppers will buy from a bricks-and-mortar store over Amazon when the store matches Amazon’s price.
Ecommerce’s seemingly insurmountable problem of delayed gratification through shipping times give in-store retailers the edge when they can transform their locations into more than shelves of products. It’s about creating a space which provides an experience customers can’t find elsewhere.
Positioning yourself within the omnichannel retail world
The vehicle for change in the retail world right now is omnichannel integration. If your business is increasingly falling victim to the detrimental effects of showrooming, one of the first steps of your reevaluation plan should be to address the channels through which your customers engage with your products.
It’s no longer enough to simply set up an ecommerce website to generate online sales. The companies seeing the best customer retention over long periods of time are those who have streamlined multiple retail channels into a concise system capable of cross-channel accessibility.
An effective omnichannel strategy can subtly orient the in-store location as the main hub of activity and customer engagement within a sales cycle. Innovations like tailored customer shopping profiles, interactive in-store display units, and the growing mobile buying trends all work to give life back into the in-store experience and dissuade customers from simply walking out empty handed.
Perhaps the biggest boon for in-store customer engagement opportunities is the unmatched level of convenience in-store retail provides over its ecommerce counterpart. Leveraging this benefit can take many shapes depending on the product or services being provided. Many retailers are increasingly implementing mobile commerce and in-store product pickup as a way to capitalize on showrooming.
Accepting the conditions of the current retail environment is the first step toward adapting to the shifting expectations of customers. Showrooming simply presents retailers with a challenge. How you choose to deal with that challenge with creative solutions is the best way to get customers engaging in person.