Use Showrooming to your Advantage

Here’s how retail outlets spell nightmare: S-H-O-W-R-O-O-M-I-N-G. Statistics show that the phenomena—which took off as mobile smart devices proliferated, giving consumers the ability to compare prices while in-store—certainly isn’t going away. More than half of consumers report discovering lower prices online than in store, and 33% of shoppers used the information to buy the product elsewhere, according to a report from Teradata‘s marketing software subsidiary Aprimo and Forrester Research.

“You can’t stop it,” says Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Consumers have so much information at their fingertips now.”

Price matching is one short-term solution, says Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. But she emphasizes that price matching is simply table stakes.

The variety of online inventory can add to the draw of showrooming, so Cohen recommends using mobile apps, in-store technology like kiosks, and superior customer service to help drive store sales. For example, women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor delivers sizes and colors not available in-store to a customer’s home the next day for free.

Lowe’s has installed online home improvement tutorials via digital kiosks in its outlets. Big box store Target implemented a program called “Five Weeks of Amazing.” In leaked documents to its retail employees, Target presented a script designed to create a customer friendly environment.

“Our store is where guests can see what’s new…and most of all, where they can see our ‘Expect More. Pay Less’ brand promise come alive in a series of memorable moments,” the documents explained.

But this isn’t enough, Mulpuru says. After all, apps are a hassle to download, kiosks aren’t always easy to find, and minimum-wage retail workers aren’t necessarily motivated to create a compelling shopping experience. Mulpuru recommends that retailers redefine their relationship with manufacturers, for instance, by renting space to them on retail floors.

Improving SEO for local searches is another option. Mulpuru says that Google, for example, could potentially offer retailers better local search ads that use geographic locations to target product searches, though it hasn’t done so yet. So far Google only lets marketers buy ads based on location information, which shows a person where the closest store is and allows them to click to call.

Michael LeBeau, founder and CEO of Weld Media, the digital arm of agency Marketing Drive, says that retailers should ultimately be thinking about trying to “replicate what consumers are doing on their own in the store.”

For example, consumers shopping for a stereo may go online to read reviews, then look at their social networks, and then go to search engines to compare prices. He recommends that retailers do this for consumers and put tablets in stores that feature this information.

“What if retailer aggregated all of that information on behalf of consumers?” LeBeau asks. “Now I don’t have to do that research on my own, which makes it easier for me.” If retailers take on this strategy, they also should optimize their product and pricing mix so showrooming consumers will make the purchase while in their store.

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