As the holidays draw near, one of the more recent trends keeping store managers up at night is the threat of showrooming the act of looking through merchandise at a brick and mortar shop before comparing competitors’ prices with a mobile phone, and buying the product elsewhere online. Strictly e-commerce retailers can typically offer products at a cheaper price point on the web, due to the offset of overhead costs. Virtual businesses, some say, threaten to decrease sales and cause their venue to transform from a purveyor of goods to a glorified showroom.
While no one can deny that giants like Amazon have stripped numerous industry mom and pop shops of business, this fear remains wholly misguided. Showrooming has been going on for as long as people have had a choice between retailers. As consumers, we are constantly window shopping for the greater value. The only difference is that before mobile, the act required a greater investment of time and energy.
Nowadays, instead of driving from store to store or browsing from stand to stand, shoppers can simply hop online to compare price points. While this puts a lot of weight on the sticker tag, smart retailers know that attention must also be directed to various functions of the in-store experience to persuade consumers to buy: from generous return and exchange policies, to free Wi-fi and smartphone-exclusive discounts, to knowledgeable customer service staff.
Forrester’s report, The Truth About Showrooming, found that 9% of U.S. customers will purchase a product elsewhere than the retail store they visited after comparing prices on their phone. However, earlier this year, Forrester found that reverse showrooming the act of doing research online before buying an item in-store is even more widespread than its counterpart. 69% of people in the U.S. reverse showroom, while only 46% showroom; and it’s not just the older generations who are doing research before leaving the house. Plus, social media has become a major referral source for brick-and-mortar chains, and not just e-commerce stores.
To stay relevant in today’s connected world, retailers need to share their efforts between mobile/online marketing and creating a positive in-store experience. This balancing act between sensationalizing the buying process and providing visitors with great value and security is key to keeping customers of all ages returning holiday after holiday both in person, and online.