You gotta tame the beast before you let it out of its cage. - Derek Zoolander
"We love showrooming ... when Target gets to book the sale," says Casey Carl, president of multichannel at retail giant Target. "For retailers to survive and thrive in the future, we’ve got to up our game, play to our strengths and seize the upper hand by enhancing both our physical stores and digital channels." Target’s not alone in this relatively new attitude about the phenomenon known as showrooming. Shoppers are busy looking for the best deal and more and more are using their smartphones and tablets for 'showrooming.' They’re checking prices and product information while shopping in stores and this has significant implications for retailers. The biggest fear is that shoppers will comparison shop ‘in the store’ and then order online for a better price.
In fact, it may turn out that showrooming is not as bad as some retailers thought it would be. Deloitte's 2013 Annual Holiday Survey found that 44 percent of consumers use their smart phones for reading reviews, 36 percent use them for receiving discounts and coupons, and 32 percent use them for scanning product barcodes.
Target’s on to something. This holiday season it looks as if BestBuy is taking a similar route in an attempt to work showrooming to their advantage. The company recently launched a new holiday TV ad campaign featuring four celebrity storytellers – Will Arnett, LL Cool J, Maya Rudolph and Jason Schwartzman - reading tales of potential holiday shopping nightmares prevented by the magic of Best Buy.
This is in sharp contrast to some of the early reaction to showrooming. Many retailers were caught off guard a few years back when the consumer practice gained in popularity. Perhaps the most ‘famous’ example of the panic setting in for some retailers came from this example of a specialty food retailer based in Brisbane, Australia that sign in the window warning shoppers that the store would impose a $5 fee for people who are "just looking."
Obviously, threatening your customers is not the path to success. Instead, smart retailers understand that although consumer behavior constantly changes, certain solid marketing principles still apply. Concepts like loyalty, adding value, and creating a great customer experience will win the day. In other words, it takes work to earn and keep your customer’s business – but in the long run it’s well worth it.
What’s more, it may turn out that retailers don’t have to resort to automatic price-matching to combat the negative effects of showrooming. A recent study from Columbia University and loyalty management company Aimia, Inc. supports this. Shoppers show a strong willingness to join loyalty programs in exchange for rewards delivered via mobile. The study goes so far as to identify five types of mobile-assisted shoppers and offers insights to retailers on how best to market to each shopper type. The good news for brands that invest on this front? More than half of mobile shoppers are more likely to purchase a product in-store when their mobile device helps them find online reviews, information, or trusted advice. And although price checking is the number one action, convenience, urgency, and immediacy are the top three reasons people will buy in-store even if they find the same product cheaper online.
The omni-channel or multi-channel consumer is here to stay and retailers have a choice – either threaten customers so they never returning to your store again, or embrace the mobile-assisted shopper and get creative. Toys R Us plans to embrace the mobile shopper this holiday season with what they believe is a winning formula - strong in-store experience and a successful Internet business. In fact, the company says there are “81 different ways we can get product to the customer.” Good thing, because when it comes to toys, no parent wants to see OUT OF STOCK on their computer screen – especially during the holiday season.
Savvy retailers are busy enhancing the in-store experience, offering free Wi-Fi to make the information shoppers are seeking available, and creating in-store exclusives. They’re finding that shoppers linger longer and the data collected is helping with future targeting and special offers via mobile coupons – and they've joined the chorus of “We Love Showrooming!”
Beverly Macy is author, educator, and thought leader in social and digital business and a frequent contributor to Say Daily. She is also the author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing and the host of Social Media Radio.