Business Issues: Page (1) of 1 - 10/25/12

Content Insider # 252 - Showtime

Showrooming is an Opportunity Retailers Shouldn't Refuse

By Miles Weston


Empowered Consumer
- Mobile and web technologies haven't put today's retailers in a position they can't refuse but have helped give consumers complete information about products, services and outlets. A more enlightened consumer should help produce a happier customer and better relationship for all parties.

Stop me if you heard this one - "A gal (or guy) comes into the store with her (or his) iPhone (or iPad) ..."

So??

Now that "everyone" is mobile/web-enabled, we call it showrooming - visiting a store, checking out a product, leaving and buying somewhere else.

According to tinfoil cap people, it's the reason retail stores are performing so poorly... all of the sales (and profits) are being sucked into the cloud and being consumed by etailers.

But if it's true that online outlets are so devastating to brick and mortar stores, they should be enjoying 30-50 percent of the industry's total sales.

Unfortunately, they have less than five percent of the PC/CE sales, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

But they're focused, better, determined so this may be their year.

 



In fact, with the price of gas today, we're not even certain it's valid that people check the prices at other stores and go there to buy.


    
Current Information - With mobile devices in hand consumers can map out their shopping and even obtain immediate coupons and special offers. Research can range from reading reviews of social media discussions and videos as well as finding the best price in the store and online. Despite the research, consumers still tend to purchase from the store they are visiting beyond price.

My wife loves shopping ... she'll do hours of research online looking at products, reviews, comparisons, availabilities, store locations, reputations.  

She'll grab her smartphone or tablet, go to the mall and shop for hours checking the product(s), checking off her "to do" list. And she may or may not buy.  

That's not showrooming ... that's shopping!

It's what people do.

Especially this time of year.

Especially this year.



Focused Shopping - Few people go out shopping today just to shop. They've done extensive research at home on their computer and while shopping to ensure they have the most current information can answer their last-minute questions and even reserve the product for pickup so they make efficient use of their time.

Storefront Advantage
If a person is in a store using his/her phone or tablet to check out a product:
- They are physically there thinking about buying something. (If they're using a tablet, research indicates they're really thinking hard about buying.)
- You have them in your location, not somewhere else, so you're ahead of the game
It's an opportunity to talk with and assist the customer. It's not just about selling them something, but developing a person-to-person rapport.
Proactive retailers are providing salespeople with smartphones, tablets and apps so they can help the customer check reviews, availability and options.
They're also delivering coupons, personalized discounts, anything to enrich the customer's in-store experience and build store loyalty.


Final Factor - All things being equal, today's consumer can show the sales associate or store manager the price of the product at other stores and request a price match; or, they can simply buy elsewhere. It isn't done to damage the retailer. In fact, the consumer has given the retailer the opportunity to save the sale and perhaps produce add-in/add-on sales.

Simply matching a price shouldn't be a question this holiday season.

Almost every retailer realizes consumers have instant access to just about everything, and many have said they'll match any price you show them (print, online, onphone, ontablet).

Of course, with that precedent, consumers will expect it going forward ... or else.

As my dad often said, "That's toothpaste you'll have a helluva' time putting back in the tube."

 But the business isn't any different today, just more efficient.
Smart brands and retailers have seen the future and have spent the past year developing in-store, on-line, on-device apps that help and guide the consumer to the best product for her/him.


Let Me Help You - Increasingly, brands and retailers have introduced their own web and mobile apps to develop a stronger relationship with the customer. Outlets are making mobile apps available to customers that will make it easier to track their purchases and also enable the retailer to provide more intelligent, more targeted product and promotional offers.
But as long as they're in your store, give them something that will enhance their shopping experience--you know ... customer assistance.
This is the opportunity to offer ideas, suggestions that not only help the customer (something he/she didn't think about) but also build sales and profits ... accessories.
Say the consumer buys an interactive HD TV. What about:
- Medium to high-end surround sound
- Streaming video service
- An enhanced sound bar
Say the customer is using an iPhone5 or iPad. What about:
- External speakers for better audio experience when they watch content
- Richer tone earbuds/headphones
- Protective case, add-on keyboard or other accessories to protect/personalize their mobile device
Sales improve, profits improve and customer loyalty increases because your staff paid attention to/aiding the customer, not just ringing up the sale and moving on.  
That's what customer assistance/service is all about ... listening, suggesting, helping.
That's where the retail store has the advantage, which is why some retailers are changing the title of their staff from salesperson or sales associate to customer associate.
It's a little thing but a big change in mindset!
Advantage Online
According to Pew Research, younger Millennials, the connected generation and boomers have taken to online buying for a lot more reasons than price.  

           
Online Option - Millennials who have grown up online and boomers are the fastest growing age groups that find it fast, easy, convenient and trouble-free to shop online. It's not just a matter of price.

In fact, price is much lower on the priority list, especially when you look at rising stars in the online arena like Zappos, macsales, Gilt Groupe and yes, Amazon, as well as retailers that have become effective in both spaces like Nordstrom's, JC Penney and others.  

This year, in anticipation of a significant increase in online research activity (and hopefully sales), the major PC/CE sites have been constantly upgrading their servers, software, search activities, carts and offers.

Just as with brick and mortar retailers, the 4th quarter is a peak selling/customer service period.



Growth On the Go
- Etailers have spent the entire year tuning and refining every aspect of their online store to help customers buy. The newest option, mobile commerce, is just beginning to find its way, giving consumers an even more immediate opportunity to take advantage of coupons, special offers and purchases.

The etailers who rise to the top are those that build depth and breadth into their sites:
- Comprehensive product information
- Comparisons
- Application information
- Customer review of "store," product postings
- Open online user forums
- Online, onphone sales, support experts
- How to documentation, videos
- No question, no hassle return policies

               
Shopping Position - Perhaps retailers should worry less about the possibility of showrooming and more about people who don't even leave the comfort of home to shop around town, around the country, around the world. Retailers are rushing to ensure their websites are handled properly by all devices because a growing volume of sales will be either web influenced or web impacted in the years ahead.

For some of us though nothing beats the convenience of being able to kick back on the sofa or in a chair to do your shopping.  

After all, the world of information is at your fingertips; and in a few minutes, you can know more than you want to know about the product, service, etailer/retailer.


No Hiding - With just a few minutes of browsing online, customers can learn about brands, their quality and their reputation. They can also read professional and consumer reviews and comments about both the product and the retailer (store front and etailer) to make intelligent buying decisions.

We've been in Nordstrom's with the wife and watched associates check for clothes/shoes in her size in-store, regionally and on-line.  
Quickly, effortlessly, enthusiastically, they got her exactly what she wanted and in a few days it was delivered.
That's called customer service.
She's not real happy when I grab the iPad, stretch out and do a little shopping at Nordy's online store or macsales for tech products/accessories because I tend to get carried away.  
It's just way too easy to add this, that, these, those to the cart; checkout and in a few days a great package arrives.
A few weeks later, a great credit card bill arrives and we have "that talk"...again.
Consumer Experience
It's probably why she encourages me to use my computer for work, iPad for games, smartphone for calls, texting.

Mobile devices haven't "encouraged" people to shop around because they've been doing that since the days of bartering.
They have empowered consumers, not just about price but about options, comparisons and the things you don't really think about standing in front of that huge interactive TV set with the awesome tuned-signal image.  

In an instant, anyone can pull out his/her device and text/call friends/family, use their browser for product information/reviews, check product comparisons, search for coupons, make the purchase.

That purchase could be in-store, on the store's website/etail location or at a "stand-alone" etailer.

Etailers like macsales have the advantage because they're open 24x7 and make it fast and easy to move through the store to find the items people want (or didn't know they wanted), easy to purchase and exchange.


Sales or Assistance - Today's retail outlets shouldn't view showrooming as a threat but rather an opportunity to develop a more positive, helpful relationship with the consumer and guide them to the best product for him/her.

The retailer has the advantage because the customer associate is standing next to the consumer showing product/benefits, giving advice and assistance.
 
If the retailer has competitive pricing, inviting display/layout and a well-trained/motivated team; they can make additional product/accessory recommendations that improve customer satisfaction.

Well yes, that improves sales and profits online and offline.

Keeping the customer happy is good for your long-term health.

Undercover author Miles Weston has spent more than 30 years in the storage, software and video industry, indulging in, among other things, marketing activities in promoting PC, CE, communications, content technology and their applications . Contact Miles through his editor by clicking here.


Related Keywords:etail, retail, showrooming, shopping

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