Showrooming – Show me the money

“Oh-oh, here comes another whipper-snapper equipped with a smartphone to show up our inefficiencies.”

There are a large number of retailers who feel threatened by the showrooming trend.  For those not aware, showrooming is essentially the art of using the store to try out an item before evaluating pricing and buying it online (i.e. on the smartphone).

Eye of the vampire, fear, The Myndset digital marketing

I find this attitude — of trying to ward off or avoid showrooming — rather amusing.  Retailers are complaining.  Yet, these are the very same retailers who have happily enjoyed ROPO (research online and purchase offline), who have had the opportunity to reap the benefits of geo-localization and geo-fencing and who have probably also recuperated clients after a disappointing eCommerce experience (including online fraud).  It’s a two-way street.

Defending against showrooming

Retailers are coming up with strategies to ward off showrooming.  Primitively, this could include not enabling any wifi connections instore.  Some are looking at dynamic pricing.  Others still are creating exclusive products — even if it is just in the labeling — to obscure comparisons.   In Australia, there’s a store called Celiac Supplies that has gone so far as to ask for customers to pay a fee at the door to enter the store.  The fee is then applied against a purchase in the store.

Value add as opposed to value hide

What if retailers spent as much energy creating a value-added proposition versus the online store, such that the offline value were manifest.  Too many stores still provide an archaic, only mildly inviting environment, where the customer can be made to feel “lucky” to be able to shop.

Without even talking about how to bring digital (devices, wifi, e-payment, eCommerce, virtual dressing rooms, etc…) into a store, retailers have the chance to leverage their IRL advantages:

  • having knowledgeable, service-oriented and motivated salespeople
  • playing with all the senses: lighting, sound, smell, touch, taste
  • creating real life events – educational, entertaining, surprising…
  • offering meetings with celebrities
  • and more …

There are two postures with regard to showrooming: despise & defend or embrace & optimize.  It is hard to do both at the same time — especially since both attitudes require resources.  In the difficult economic environment, with the burgeoning arrival of internet and smartphone, the dominant reaction seems to be distinctly defensive.  To my reckoning, those defensive efforts are only stalling the inevitable. {Click to tweet if you agree!}

Showrooming: The best defense is a good offense

Among the big retailers, there are obviously some that are making strides to embrace.  One can look at the initiatives by Leclerc, Walmart, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Uniqlo among others.  But, for the vast majority, the instore experience is being tested and seems to be losing out.  Being customer centric means understanding the customers’ needs and wants.  Trying to avoid  showrooming is like trying to quash one’s customers’ desire.  In a world where people are looking for recognition, for community and for meaningful experiences, stores have a tremendous opportunity to perform.  However, it will take an offensive mindset as opposed to a defensive posture in order to take full advantage.

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