Social Media and Showrooming: Tips for Retailers
By Dr. Gary Edwards
Whether brick-and-mortar retailers realize it or not, consumers are “showrooming” in record numbers and it is moving well beyond early adopters. According to a recent Empathica Consumer Insights Panel, price checks are the most frequent in-store mobile activity: 55 percent of smartphone owners have performed an online price comparison during a brick-and-mortar shopping excursion. In addition, over half of consumers with smartphones have looked for reviews about a retailer during an in-store visit.
Online-only retailers are well aware of the fact that consumers use physical stores to interact with merchandise that they later purchase online. Earlier this year, Target stopped carrying Amazon Kindles in retaliation against the online retailer’s efforts to encourage showrooming in Target stores.
Although showrooming is clearly irksome for brick-and-mortar retailers, the real danger is that the practice radically commoditizes the retail space, reducing the buying process to a price war in which online retailers always have the upper hand given their lower cost base. To combat showrooming and other threats, physical stores need to leverage technology in a manner that highlights their competitive advantages.
Strategies for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers
Showrooming is based on an inherent advantage brick-and-mortar retailers have over their online counterparts: the potential to generate exceptional and well-rounded customer experiences. While Internet sellers compete on price and convenience, physical store retailers have the ability to create truly seamless experiences that add value to their products through a careful combination of product, environment and service.
For example, leading retailers are already using proprietary apps, third-party apps and mobile-optimized websites that encourage in-store interactions with brand websites. Brick-and-mortar retailers are also leveraging other tactics like push notifications, QR codes and special promotions to create value in the physical store space. The ability to order online and enjoy an expedited in-store pick up process is becoming a popular buying option because it combines online and offline elements to deliver a “best of both worlds” experience to consumers.
Social media has an important role to play in brick-and-mortar shopping experiences since the intersection of social and mobile technologies is a critical nexus for consumers. Consumer Insights Panel research shows that 82 percent of consumers are willing to engage retail brands in online conversations if they believe it will improve future experiences. By providing ways for in-store mobile users to engage in transparent, social conversations with the brand, retailers can add value to the customer experience and promote brand loyalty for subsequent purchases.
There are many ways that social media can be combined with other strategies (e.g. special in-store promotions, social sharing, knowledgeable floor staff, etc.) to combat showrooming. The key for retailers is to consider how social channels can be leveraged to forge deeper connections between consumers and the in-store shopping experience.