The concept of showrooming is a concern for many brick-and-mortar retailers. Especially in this era of mobile phones, consumers are regularly going into stores to look at an item only to buy it from an online retailer, sometimes while they're still within the store.
In fact, according to research published by Linkable Networks last month, 67 percent of customers check their smart phones to see if there is a better price elsewhere while out shopping. This means that unless organizations wow customers with a fantastic experience and tailored service, they risk losing their business to online retailers, which, with lower overhead can provide a better price.
Outdoor gear and apparel retailer Moosejaw Mountaineering was well aware of this reality. "Showrooming has become a challenge within brick-and-mortar stores," notes Eoin Comerford, the company's CEO.
Unlike some other stores, Moosejaw decided against fighting this growing trend. Instead, as Comerford puts it, the company decided to embrace the prevalence of consumers using mobile phones for price checking in its stores and instead use this trend to its advantage. This required a strong technology infrastructure and Moosejaw started using software from IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative.
The first step of this journey was the introduction of the endless aisle in Moosejaw's stores, which, as Comerford explains, means "actually using our stores as showrooms." Moosejaw stocks only up to 5,000 product SKUs while its warehouse holds about 80,000 products. Consumers are not restricted to the inventory available in each of Moosejaw's 11 stores; they can also see all the products available within the company's warehouse through their mobile phones or the associates' mobile POS devices. Moosejaw then ships these products to them. Comerford notes that these types of sales make up to 11 percent of all in-store sales.
Despite having the ability to order and ship Moosejaw's products from its own warehouse, consumers still come into stores and compare prices with the competition. Instead of making them feel uncomfortable, Moosejaw trained its sales associates to interact with customers who compare prices and alert them to the company's price-match policy. This practice is helpful in expediting sales, especially when customers are making a large purchase, like a camping tent, and they need time to think the purchase over because they're conscientious about prices..
Improving the in-store experience
A better customer experience is one way to avoid showrooming. "An engaged experience within the store makes a difference," Comerford says. For example, a customer looking for a backpack wants to make sure that he's purchasing the right product and might need help finding the right fit.
Moosejaw wanted to make sure that its sales associates were able to deliver this attentive experience that customers expect. Rather than having sales associates stuck behind a check-out counter, the company wanted them walking around the store and speaking with customers. Technology proved instrumental to make this happen and Moosejaw invested in mobile POS units that associates can carry with them. This is helping associates be more agile and has even helped halve the payment terminals in three of its stores, opening up precious real estate for more merchandise. A notable 60 percent of transactions in these stores are completed on a mobile device. Comerford notes that the checkout process is also more streamlined, positively impacting the customer experience and allowing associates to easily move from one customer to the next.
But interactions aren't restricted to the shopping experience. Instead, associates are encouraged to really connect with customers and speak with them about their lives or encourage them to take part in events taking place in the stores, for example a game of ping pong. "It's all about building a relationship," Comerford stresses.
Extending the madness over social media
Social media plays an important role in Moosejaw's strategy to engage customers. The company kicked off its blog in the early 2000s and it's still going strong. The blog reflects the brand's "madness" with sections about crying tomatoes, the office dog that went out for "tacos and some cigs" but never came back, and a test lab.
"A lot of our brand is about personality," Comerford says. This personality is reflected in all Moosejaw's social media channels, and with 79,000 Facebook fans, 20,000 Twitter followers, and another 2,500 followers on Pinterest, it seems that the brand's fans are giving the content a thumbs up.
According to Comerford, social media is used for brand outreach rather than a commerce outlet. "We want customers to see us as something special," he notes. Especially because the brand specializes in infrequent purchases, social media is critical to keep customers engaged even when they're not in the market for one of Moosejaw's products.