Showrooming – a growing trend

With daily media headlines announcing the ‘death of the high street’ and competition from ecommerce businesses fierce, there can be no doubt that 2013 is a challenging time for retail. With buzzwords such as omnichannel, multichannel and showrooming still being bandied around, retailers and marketers are finally interpreting these terms with confidence and starting to establish what they mean – both in terms of strategy and implication for their businesses.

Showrooming refers to consumers that visit a brick and mortar store only to later buy online. A clear indication of the rise in mobile devices and a subsequent shift in consumer behaviour, many shoppers are so keen not to pay over the odds that they now carry out mobile price comparisons whilst physically standing next to the item in-store. The trend is still being met with a number of different reactions, from total denial to clever in-store visual merchandising and marketing campaigns that aim to cross-sell in-store.

As the trend continues it’s vital that those in the industry give up trying to tirelessly combat and dispel showrooming. Rather, we should acknowledge how it affects the shopping experience in order to incorporate it into an effective marketing strategy that will increase sales.

Maintaining brand loyalty and keeping consumers engaged requires knowledge of how new technology (a big factor in the showrooming equation) is affecting the way shoppers operate. Large department stores such as John Lewis already offer price matches for competitors that have both an online and offline presence. The store also relies on providing the best possible customer service to limit the likelihood of shoppers straying to another store in order to get the best price.   

Fashion retailers such as Topshop are also broadening their options, most recently via its popular ‘click and collect’ strategy, allowing shoppers to buy online and pick up from their chosen branch whenever they please. For stores adopting this option, the cost of picking up in-store is often around half that of home delivery – an important factor when considering that delivery charges emerged as one of the biggest shopper deterrents according to research recently carried out by Drapers. The line between online and offline continues to become more blurred; staff members carrying around iPads in order to check online availability and price of stock for example – is another case of the retailer employing some forward thinking.  

So what can marketers actively do to target customers in-store (whilst keeping one foot in the digital door). QR codes are fast becoming an effective way to increase the amount of shoppers making a purchase in-store, targeting online shoppers first via attractive deals only available in a physical bricks-and-mortar environment. Following the online purchase of a dress, the buyer may be offered a 20% off voucher from the same retailer for their next purchase – but only if they buy in-store. If the bottom-line objective of showrooming is to find the item at the best possible price, then the appeal for shoppers will be huge.

QR codes can also be integrated into   in-store campaigns through banner ads, Point of Sale (PoS), advertising, etc. Retailers can use these outlets to inform buyers about special offers around the store whilst consumers are in the store. A customer can scan multiple QR codes during a visit and, if a set number of products are purchased there, may receive an offer for a £20 gift card for example.

Determining the most effective ways for retailers to incorporate showrooming can largely depend on trial and error, however it is important that brands aren’t afraid to embrace it, whether through Point of Sale displays, in-store banners, QR codes or a combination strategy. The way that shoppers behave has changed and needs to be targeted accordingly, as showrooming is most likely here to stay. Rather than seeing showrooming as a problem, marketers should welcome it as the next opportunity to turn the high street around.

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