Showrooming – that consumer habit of checking out a product in your store but buying it online fromsomeone else – is here to stay. Your choice is to fear it or embrace. Fortunately, with the right online website tactics and a willingness to adopt new promotions, you can turn showrooming into good news for your company.
A Brief History of the Showrooming Trend
What showrooming really means is lost sales. The trend has been fueled by the growth of e-commerce: Showrooming was first recognized in the early 2010s as the number of mobile sites grew and buying options increased, allowing customers to peruse products in person, then use their smartphones and look for online deals elsewhere.
Some companies have been more impacted than others. Best Buy CEO Hubert July has admitted that online shopping is taking a chunk of Best Buy’s business thanks to the nature of electronics shopping. It’s a little too easy for customers to come into Best Buy, check out how good a screen looks in real life, then hop online with their phones or computers where prices are lower, deals are better, and choices for games and music are more numerous. Best Buy’s loss, in other words, is Amazon.com’s gain.
While Best Buy is one of the largest affected brands, it is by no means the only one. Any time common – particularly expensive – products are offered over the Internet, they invite showrooming practices. Today’s consumers find it easy to shop for cars in person, but buy them from an online dealer. They visit a bookstore, then look for deals over eBay or through e-reader apps. The list goes on.
Showrooming as an Opportunity
Ready for some good news? These days, showrooming is taken with a grain of salt. Lost sales have begun to stabilize, and marketing has adapted. As the panic dies down, more marketers are encouraged to look at the trend as an opportunity instead of a problem – especially for companies that operate an online business in addition to a storefront
First, showrooming can unveil underlying weaknesses in marketing and online/in-store management that companies can target to great effect. Second, the trends fueling showrooming offer vast potential for companies with enough online savvy to take advantage of them.
Let’s take a look at how showrooming uncovers weakness. Studies on why customers showroom, such as one conducted by the Columbia Business School and Aimia, have uncovered chief reasons such as:
- Prices: This is the most common reason for showrooming. With so many online stores at their fingertips, customers use their phones to check for better deals online. If you do not have a competitive pricing strategy, those customers will find better prices or promotions at other stores and buy from them.
- Deals on Shipping and Taxes: If customers face an ordering decision, their reaction is to surf the Web for better deals. Thanks to free shipping deals offered by Amazon and the like, it may be cheaper for them to purchase items online. The same is true, in certain areas, for taxes. How do your shipping deals match those found online?
- Poor Store Service: This is a common problem representing a number of different reasons people resorted to showrooming. Bad customer services drives customers online at high speed: This includes poor return policies, a lack of information or available staff, rude behavior, pushy sales tactics, and out of stock items. Any type of bad customer service can make online buying an attractive option, especially if it’s a short reach away on a smartphone.
- A Preference for Online Shopping: These days, some people just prefer to shop online. Due to poor SEO or a lack of online presence, these customers run across other websites before the “showroomed” company, and the business loses a sale.
Using Showrooming to Your Advantage: Create a Unique Offering
To put it simply, if customers can only find it in your store or on your site, that’s the only place they will buy it. Your goal should be to develop the most unique, innovative, customer-specific products and promotions that you can. This cuts off showrooming at the knees.
Of course, it’s easier for niche and boutique businesses to make unique products, and harder for companies involved in more commercial, mass market sectors. But whatever you do, search for ways to offer products that people cannot get anyway else. Bundle them with extra services or customization options if you have to. This is basic marketing, and it still matters.
Make Your Own Online Alternatives
Do whatever you can to draw people to your website first. Use local SEO and page ranking to show up early in searches. Post signs around the store designed to draw people to your website to look for further products or deals. And when people do visit your site, give them a reason to stay. Make it easy to find and buy products – and keep ahead of online competitors when it comes to pricing. It cannot be overstated how important strong pricing strategies are when dealing with showrooming.
Because so much showrooming depends on immediate, mobile searches in the store, you also need a strong mobile presence. This means a mobile site that shows up in smartphone searches and gets people to your products at top speed.
Mobile Tools: If you aren’t ready to build large mobile offerings from scratch, consider tapping into services like mMedia, which offer mobile advertising tools and more to help you manage more extensive mobile campaigns.
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: “If people go online, will they find a compelling reason to buy similar products from another company instead of from my business?” If the answer is yes, you need to look at your promotions. Align your online and in-store promotions correctly, so they do not fight against each other. Pay attention to seasonal and limited-time coupons, and use them wisely, too. Remember, you want customers drawn to your deals and your deals only.
Digitize Your Marketing
If people are focused on your own mobile promotions in your store, they won’t be tempted to go in other directions. This means developing mobile ads and deals tied into Internet activity: Encourage customers to download promotions on their phones (through your free WiFi service) that will give them a deal in the store. Put up banners telling them about new deals on your site. Use QR codes that link to your product pages for reviews and more information. If you can tie in mobile activity at every level of the customer experience, then showrooming becomes a brand-building asset instead of a danger. Be sure to talk with my company more about your Ecommerce SEO and Online Promotions strategy.
Power Tip: Offering free WiFi to customers may not be as simple as it sounds. QuickBooks has a few tips on how to avoid problems.