Since the advent of online shopping, the latest threat to hit brick-and-mortar retail stores is "showrooming": the practice of browsing a store's products in person, then leaving the store to purchase the item online for a better deal. It poses a challenge for even the most progressive retailer. How do you keep that price-savvy, technologically inclined customer inside the four walls of your store?
Many retailers are rising to the occasion by implementing strategies to help their retail locations coexist happily with the online shopping world. One way to do this is to turn the potential threat of a showroomer into an advantage by taking the "if you can't beat them, join them" approach. One strategy is to develop a shopping app that offers in-store buying incentives for those who enjoy online shopping. Home Depot, Target, Best Buy and Old Navy are all using this strategy to help merge their in-store and online sales teams, with a goal of providing a smooth, seamless experience for customers. By standardizing deals, pricing and special offers across both physical and online outlets, stores are cutting down on consumer confusion and conflicting information.
Other retailers take a contrasting approach to online shopping by offering certain products or deals exclusively in-store. Luring online shoppers into the store with a tantalizing, hard-to-resist sale or coupon is a time-tested strategy with consistent results. Taking this strategy one step further, stores are offering items that are completely unique and cannot be purchased at another retailer, online or otherwise. "Brick-and-mortar retailers that provide excellent customer service and also provide some sort of exclusive product, whether it's merchandise or a service, will draw in customers looking to buy special items, such as limited-edition gifts," says Deena Amato-McCoy, Research Analyst, Retail and Consumer Markets, Aberdeen Group.
Another strategic approach to embracing the showroom trend is to offer price matching. By assuring online shoppers that they cannot find a better price elsewhere, you give customers the confidence to purchase. A sales force well-versed in your company's price-matching policies and other information has the tools necessary to help a wary customer close the sale right there in the store.
Perhaps the most aggressive and progressive strategy to embracing the showrooming trend is to offer customers a free Wi-Fi network within your store. Stores offering free Wi-Fi include Macy's, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney. This strategy allows online shoppers to view features and reviews of products in real time, giving them the confidence to complete the purchase in-store. It offers a huge benefit to the retailer as well; to connect to the in-store network, shoppers must agree to terms and conditions that state the network is not secure and their online movements may be tracked. This allows retailers the powerful benefit of collecting online shopping and behavioral information.
Studies show that efforts to combat showrooming have paid off; customers are spending significantly less money on online shopping after an in-store visit. Still, only the most progressive companies fare well in this ever-changing retail climate. "This is all about serving today's digitally-connected guests," says Casey Carl, President of Multichannel for Target. "We believe showrooming isn't just a win for online shoppers. It's going to be a decisive win for retailers that up their game."
(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net)