November 27, 2012
As seen on Business Insider
Many retailers seem to believe that the rise of “showrooming” — when consumers use a brick-and-mortar store to evaluate merchandise, but actually complete their purchases online at the lowest available price — represents a serious threat to their business.
They may be right — especially if their only response is to bury their heads in the sand and bemoan the unfair pricing advantages of low-overhead online-only competitors.
Best Buy, Macy’s, Sears and other forward-thinking retailers see it differently, embracing showrooming as a way to deliver new and better shopping experiences for consumers. And so they should.
After all, there’s nothing traditional retailers can do to stop showrooming, especially as smartphones bring the world of e-commerce right into their aisles. But by recognizing the opportunities that showrooming creates — not just the threats — retailers can turn it into one of the most important elements of their overall sales strategy.
The following tactics can help you transform smartphones into a powerful channel to engage in-store customers in new ways, provide new kinds of offers and services, and deliver a shopping experience that no online-only retailer can match at any price.
1. Tie social networking into the in-store experience
People already use social networks like Facebook and Pinterest to discuss their favorite brands and products. These peer opinions can provide powerful support for purchase decisions. Make it simple with a tag-scan app that lets shoppers retrieve their friends’ posts and reviews on a given item—or make your merchandise part of the conversation with an app that lets them scan an item to post its picture directly to Pinterest.
2. Use QR codes to provide onsite-only offers and information
Want to give consumers a reason to stay and buy in your store instead of shopping around? Use smart codes to provide reviews, discount coupons, and additional product information right at the point of purchase. Macy’s engaged shoppers through in-store QR codes that launched a video clip of Tommy Hilfiger talking about his exclusive Macy’s partnership and product line. This helped build both awareness and confidence, encouraging consumers to complete their purchase on the spot instead of visiting a competitor.
3. Support your stores with a mobile website
Mobile websites have quickly become a competitive necessity for every retailer, providing an always-on, anytime, anywhere point of reference for consumers seeking product information. Make your mobile website an extension of your merchandising strategy by complementing your in-store inventory with product reviews, comparisons, and details. Special in-store-only, one-day-only offers on the site can provide a sense of opportunity and urgency to help drive sales.
4. Create interactive ad placements around merchandise
Consumers come into your store seeking the kind of real-world interaction with products that they can’t get through digital media. Use interactive campaigns to give them the best of both worlds, making your physical products, media, and placements an integrated part of a unique digital experience. For example, an in-store product promotion can invite shoppers to position or use their smartphone or tablet in a certain way to activate an online video that complements the physical placement—and only makes sense in that context. This creates an engaging and exciting atmosphere around the item, and heightens the sense of having an experience that couldn’t happen anywhere but your store.
5. Drive in-store traffic with mobile coupons
The introduction of Apple’s new Passbook app makes it official: mobile couponing is a major force in retail—with unmatched convenience for receiving, managing, and redeeming offers. Bring shoppers to your door with coupons pushed via mobile app, email, SMS, and Passbook inviting them in for special in-store-only offers. Push coupons while they’re in the store, too, for an extra point-of-purchase boost—or encourage them to hunt for coupons by using a branded app to swipe your store with their smartphone’s camera for an even more entertaining, game-like experience.
6. Make full use of SMS
The no-frills simplicity of SMS leads many marketers to overlook its ability to deliver a big impact at a low price. Add value to your eCRM initiatives and mobile communities while driving retail traffic by sending time-based and location-based alerts for special in-store offers. SMS can also be used as a check-in mechanism: consumers are given a keyword, available only during a purchase on a specific date, that they can send in to unlock additional offers.
7. Offer personalized pricing and lists
Consumers love being able to name their own price. Run a campaign that lets your customers do so through a dedicated app or mobile site. It may not always lead to an instant purchase, but the engagement will help you build customer loyalty and repeat business. Apps that let people create personalized shopping lists while they’re in your store can help you increase online sales and conversions, and provide the opportunity to offer special pricing options and time-based discounts.
8. Deliver the right offers at the right place with geofencing
By creating wireless network “fences” in specific areas of your store, you can reach out to consumers with highly targeted and relevant offers, product reviews, information, and media when they pass by or stop to examine a given product for a specific length of time.
For all their variety, these eight tactics share a few common themes: providing the information consumers need to build confidence about their purchase; providing an enhanced shopping experience that heightens the shopper’s emotional connection with the brand; and delivering highly relevant offers at the point of purchase. Used effectively, they transform the traditional in-store experience to something much more engaging, interesting, and valuable—and they integrate brick-and-mortar retail into the modern mobile lifestyle more deeply than once seemed possible.
There’s no reason for retailers to fear or resist showrooming. By moving proactively to offer the kind of innovative, interactive in-store experiences today’s shoppers demand, merchants can stay at the forefront of this fast-evolving trend and drive new levels of conversions and sales.