Pi Attitude Zone: Material Status

Retailers Pre-Empt Showrooming

Retailers have been reeling as the consumer habit of ‘showrooming’ has taken off.  Internet sales seem to be stealing business from bricks-and-mortar stores.  But there are physical retail outlets – big malls and shopping centers – that have been learning to fight back.

‘Showrooming’ is when an internet shopper visits a store to investigate a possible purchase, but without any intention of buying it in the store. With online shopping now easy using a mobile phone, you can pick out what you want on a retailer’s shelf, verify that you like it, try it out, price-check it on-line… and then beep your electronic order to a seller somewhere in cyberspace, saving money on the in-store price. 

In America, half of smartphone- and tablet-owners have been showrooming in consumer electronics stores.  40% have been showrooming for books, CDs and DVDs, and over 30% have been buying fashion clothing that way.  Nearly all found a cheaper price online, and bought the goods from a different seller than the store they were in at the time. 

High-street retailers have been panicking.  But interestingly, the showrooming habit has proven less prevalent in big shopping centers, those glass-and-steel temples to branded goods.  There are lessons to be learned for the retail industry.

On the internet, no-one knows you’re about to buy.  But they do in the store, if sales assistants are alert enough to spot the body language and engage the shopper.

What can trump a customer’s pleasure at getting something they want at the cheapest possible price?  The answer is surprisingly simple: getting what you want now, at a price you are being told is reasonable by someone likeable and trustworthy… reinforced with a smile and a word of reassurance that you are doing the right thing. 

In a word, sales service, which is something that internet selling hasn’t perfected yet.  It takes an RHB (real human being) to convince shoppers that they can still get a good price on exactly what they’re looking for, with the added benefit of instant gratification, i.e. not having to wait for delivery. 

The secret is two-fold: maintaining big stock inventories in-store so that the goods are always on hand.  And giving sales staff leeway to meet the prices being waved at them by customers on their mobile devices. 

Unrepentant showroomers may be hard to divert from their path.  But the consumer insight here is that retailers don’t have to take it lying down. 

Pi says:  the human factor can still make the difference.

Zone: Material Status Country: Multiple Geographies Product – Retail