Showrooming named one of the words of the year

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was announced this week, with the retail specific term 'showrooming' just missing out as the top choice among the judging panel.

'Showrooming', which retailers will be aware is the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price, missed out to 'selfie' (the act of taking a picture of oneself on their mobile or tablet device) as the Oxford Dictionary's top word for 2013. The presence of the term on the shortlist, however, does emphasise that it is a growing trend in consumer behaviour.

Oxford Dictionaries said that, before 2013, there were "just a handful of examples of [showrooming] on our corpus", but added that this figure has increased significantly, alongside the use of the related verb 'to showroom'.

Indeed, the reason for a word appearing on the shortlist in the first place is because it has attracted "a great deal of interest during the year to date". So what do retailers need to know about the phenomenon?

It's on the rise

Research released by Ipsos at the Digital Shoppers' Day in London last week indicated that 40% of British shoppers aged 35 or under have browsed products on a smartphone while visiting a store. This compares to 60% of shoppers in the US shoppers, where the trend is more prevalent.

The study, which was commissioned by marketing solutions vendor HighCo MRM, which ran the Digital Shoppers' Day, looked at consumer behaviour in France, Belgium, Spain, UK, Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey. Like many surveys of this nature, it found that the digital world is increasingly merging with the physical retail environment, through processes such as showrooming and click & collect.

According to the research (which was conducted at the end of 2012), one in six British adults had bought a product from a smartphone in the past four weeks – and one in five from a tablet device. It also found that two-thirds of respondents regularly used the web to gather information about products before buying, while 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they enjoyed posting pictures of their purchases on social networks.

These findings indicate the natural inclination of many shoppers to use their mobile devices to gather information about a product, interact with it or actually purchase that item.

Embracing the new type of shopper

The Internet Advertising Bureau's UK director of marketing & communications Kristin Brewe, who was part of the Digital Shoppers' Day panel last week, said that it is difficult for marketers to keep pace with the "consumer-led technology revolution".

"On-going education is paramount in that regard," she noted.

"Mobile and tablet devices represent a huge opportunity for today's marketers interested in reaching the 'always on' consumer. That being said, effective shopping solutions for smartphones and tablets aren't one-size-fits-all and require thought and planning to make the most of them.

"Listening to consumers is key in crafting solutions that connect your brand with today's on-the-go-consumer, in addition to staying up to speed with best practice from other marketers."

Don't be scared of showrooming

In his recent column for Essential Retail, Planet Retail research director Malcolm Pinkerton said that showrooming is something the industry should embrace, rather than fear. Retailers will therefore need to amend their businesses accordingly in order to cater for the mobile-using consumer who is more than likely to enter their stores.

"With shoppers gaining confidence in using mobiles to actually make transactions, and retailers significantly improving their mCommerce capabilities, this year will see more people buying more online via mobiles," he explained.

"So now, not only do retailers need to embrace the consumer’s love of showrooming by integrating their mobile channel with their in-store experience, they must ensure they can cater for those willing to make purchases with smartphones."

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