The Retail Fight Against Showrooming

After it became a mainstream phenomenon with a name, people everywhere began worrying that “showrooming” heralded the death of retail. Showrooming is when customers look at a product in a store and either simultaneously or eventually buy the same thing online.

However, the retail apocalypse hasn’t happened. Instead, emerging research says five retail stores opened for every one that closed in 2019. If Sears’ choreographed implosion is any indication, not every chain will make the cut. Things aren’t as bleak as many feared, though.

If showrooming didn’t make brick-and-mortar retail obsolete, it’s definitely disrupting it for the better. The question is what brands need to do to survive and thrive through this transition. The answer lies in omnichannel marketing and sales, which is a many-pieced puzzle. Let’s explore what that means and why showrooming took off in the first place.

What Is Showrooming and Why Does It Happen?

Mobile devices are the reason showrooming took off. Pew Research says 5 billion people in the world use mobile devices regularly, half of which are smartphone users. The internet laid the foundations for e-commerce long before smartphones. However, having a worldwide shopping mall in one’s pocket fundamentally changes the retail experience.

Showrooming also happens because e-commerce retailers tend to undercut brick-and-mortar on price. That’s often all it takes for customers to take their business online. This means physical retail locations that already operate on thin margins need something else to sweeten the deal. They need to meet customers halfway with some other aspect of the shopping or customer service experiences.

Customers want to be in your store. It’s a benefit to them to be able to see, touch, and interact with a product before buying it. Showrooming happens because retail still provides an experience that can’t be replicated any other way.

The trick is to take the technologies that encourage and reward showrooming and turn them against themselves. Taking this course is a benefit to you as well as the consumer.

Fighting Showrooming Requires Omnichannel Marketing

It’s in your best interest to think of showrooming as a legitimate and unavoidable consumer practice.

One study indicated that around 84% of surveyed customers admitted to engaging in showrooming. That means ignoring them or believing you can coerce them into buying isn’t going to cut it. It will leave a lot of your potential customers behind.

Instead, here are some actions you can take to recapture some of the sales you might otherwise lose to showrooming.

1. Price-Match Your Online Competitors

Citing Best Buy’s unlikely success story in the age of Amazon is low-hanging fruit. However, the electronics retailer is still a shining example of how reasonable price-match guarantees can help you retain existing customers and earn new ones.

A guarantee like this doesn’t look for excuses not to honor the customer’s request. If they’re in your store asking about a price-match, it’s because they want to give you their money. You can give a little ground or you can turn their business away.

2. Make the Retail Experience More Pleasurable and Informative

Some things are worth paying a small premium for, and a comfortable and pleasurable shopping experience may be one of them.

Some physical stores, like Rent the Runway, offer technology-first experiences, such as immediate check-in via mobile devices, instant recall of previous actions and purchases, and a streamlined and personalized visit. It provides a compelling answer to online clothes retailers’ often lower prices, while improving upon everything else about the experience.

The brick-and-mortar retail experience has to be an edifying and informative one, too. If customers can count on your employees having unrivaled product knowledge and a personable attitude, you can expect to earn their repeat business and trust. They want a neighborly experience rather than a faceless digital one. Online product copy, PDF user guides, and carefully staged product photos only go so far.

3. Reduce Hurdles at Checkout

Another reason why showrooming is common is because the checkout process can be simpler and more convenient when customers use online portals and merchant apps. Around one third of millennials regularly use PayPal, and a majority of millennials and Gen Xers alike prefer shopping online to frequenting retail stores.

Choosing to offer more payment methods in-store, like PayPal and Apple Pay, helps you close the technology gap between physical retail and e-commerce. A lack of payment options is a leading reason for shopping cart abandonment online, but it results in frustrated brick-and-mortar customers, too.

Learn More About Omnichannel Marketing

There are several other central tenets to omnichannel marketing and selling that specifically help you build a more competitive and robust e-commerce-physical retail network. These include:

  • Buy online, pick up in-store
  • Buy in-store, ship to home
  • Buy anywhere, return anywhere

Succeeding in online retail today requires maintaining the sense of a unified customer experience, especially if your business model straddles the online-physical divide.

Omnichannel selling means bridging that physical-digital divide in other ways, too. Maybe you use QR codes on product packaging so customers can scan them to learn more or see whether you have additional stock.

One part of the answer to battling showrooming is to leverage technology against its disadvantageous consequences. The rest of the solution requires you to place yourself in the customer’s shoes to discover which pain points or opportunities are driving them through your doors and out into cyberspace.

Nathan Sykes writes about the latest in business technology online. He has been featured on The Next Web, Information Management, and BestTechie. Nathan is the editor of Finding an Outlet.

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