There is no debate over the fact that smartphones have revolutionized the way customers make product choices. For a while, customers were able to do their research online before making a purchase.But because they're essentially handheld computers, smartphones have made this practice much easier. And today's customers know how to leverage technology to be better shoppers, allowing them to read reviews by other customers and compare prices before parting with their hard-earned cash.
As we noted in this article last month, this phenomenon has introduced the concept of showrooming, with customers often using brick-and-mortar stores as a place to see products they're interested in purchasing. According to research by ForeSee, almost 70 percent of mobile users used their smartphones while in a retail store during the last holiday season. Almost 40 percent of these customers were accessing a competitor's site while more than a fifth were checking a shopping comparison site.
But rather than resist this trend, retailers need to make the most out of showrooming. According to Henry Helgeson, CEO of Merchant Warehouse and Alexandra Frith, Director of Marketing at Retail Pro International, retailers will never win against showrooming and instead need to find ways to make it work for them. They share the following five mistakes retailers make when trying to combat showrooming:
- 1. Don't ignore the problem and do nothing: Retailers might not realize it, but showrooming already has a direct impact on their bottom line. According to research by the L2 think tank, more than half of smartphone owners regularly go into a store with the sole intention of trying or testing products before they go to buy them online. This means that retailers aren't only competing with the store next door, but with ecommerce as well. "People want to be able to buy from any channel, and they want a quality customer experience wherever and whenever they choose to stop," Helgeson and Frith note
- 2. Don't skip the training: Some retailers think it's not worth training sales staff since they have a high turnover. However, knowledgeable associates are what keep stores working. "Train and cross train them," they note. "Empower them to be there for your customers and help with what is needed."
- 3. Don't panic when you see people on their phones: It's easy for retailers to jump to the conclusion that every customer checking his phone in front of a big ticket item is checking prices elsewhere. However, retailers need to realize that this presents their sales staff with the unique opportunity to share more information about the product and explain to customers why buying that item in the store makes a difference. They should also consider offering coupons and outlining the benefits of the loyalty program.
- 4. Don't see loyalty cards as a waste of paper: Instead, retailers should differentiate their in-store shopping experience with perks like loyalty programs and rewards, which can at times be the deciding factor between shopping online or making the purchase in the store. However, it's also important to provide other options, for example free shipping for items purchased in the store or easy returns.
- 5. Don't think you're not at risk: Some retailers might think that because they did fine in the past, showrooming won't impact them negatively. "This is nearly as bad as ignoring showrooming all together," note Helgeson and Frith. Retailers have the ability to dictate the customer's experience, and customer preferences are changing. They therefore need to leverage new technologies and capabilities to enhance the shopper's experience.