Wal-Mart recently announced the decision to phase out selling Amazon Kindles, a move its competitor, Target, decided to make earlier last year. Why have two of the world's largest retailers decided to stop selling a product that will only gain popularity and drive revenue during the holiday season?
Big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target are aiming to combat "showrooming," or shopping in a brick-and-mortar store while simultaneously shopping online, via smartphone, for a better price. According to a recent Empathica Consumer Insights Panel survey, 55 percent of smartphone owners use mobile devices to check prices while shopping in-store and 27 percent consult reviews before making purchases.
Shopper showrooming can be a huge threat to brick-and-mortar retailers. That is, unless they take the right steps to combat the phenomenon. There is an integral advantage brick-and-mortar retailers have over their online counterparts: the opportunity to generate exceptional and well-rounded in-store experiences. Retailers that successfully take advantage of this opportunity will see that new technologies such as mobility and social media can help, rather than hinder, their business.
While price and convenience are the selling points for Internet retailers, brick-and-mortar retailers have the ability to create truly unified experiences that add value through a careful and strategic combination of product, environment, service and social.
- Take interest. Personalization is a driving force in the development of customer loyalty and brand advocacy. By personalizing the customer experience, retailers can not only provide meaningful product suggestions and real-time answers that online retailers cannot, but also brick-and-mortar retailers can enhance the overall shopping experience for the consumer. Empathica research shows that two in five consumers think the big box retail experience lacks personalization. By taking advantage of the ability to personalize a customer's experience, retailers stand out from their online counterparts.
- Focus on service. A main component that is missing from the online shopping experience is human interaction. According to the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel, nearly one-fifth of customers said big box employees are unable to adequately answer questions in their area of expertise. An exceptional store experience is rounded out with meaningful employee interactions and helpful suggestions that a consumer cannot experience with an e-tailer.
- Think internally. Empathica research shows that only 38 percent of consumers think that employees at big box retailers enjoy their jobs. Employee satisfaction directly relates to a brands' ability to generate exceptional customer experience. Rolling out internal programs and working to boost employee morale increases productivity and improves customer interactions.
- Be consistent. Delivering a consistent customer experience is seen as a key strength of the big box retail model, yet some customers still report serious inconsistencies in the customer experience at multiple store locations. When retailers focus on a consistent experience across stores and visits, employees who are given more direction are more productive and customers get a sense of comfort and familiarity with each visit.
- Get social. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to embrace the opportunities that come with the intersection of social media and purchasing. If companies become better informed about how customers are using these technologies, they can successfully devise strategies that leverage consumer-friendly technology and the insights these outlets provide. Today's leading retailers use apps and mobile-optimized websites that encourage in-store interactions with brand websites. Tactics such as push notifications, QR codes, and in-store promotions also create value in the physical store space through digital.
Rather than chalking up the showrooming phenomenon as a loss, brick-and-mortar retailers should see this trend as an opportunity to embrace the advantages of the in-store experience and engage with the social outlets customers are using. The new key for retailers is to consider how social channels can be leveraged to create deeper connections between consumers and the in-store shopping experience.