Showrooming can have a serious impact on your retail sales, but there are a number of tactics you can use to combat this.
In the last decade or so, consumers have suddenly gained access to a powerful computer they can carry in their pockets wherever they go: the smartphone. It’s no surprise that this has changed the way they behave and given rise to a new form of shopping in the form of showrooming.
This has been seen by many retailers as a threat, and it’s understandable why this would be the case. Showrooming customers take business away from bricks-and-mortar stores and give it to online giants, harming the high street. But it’s hard to blame consumers for seeking out the best deals. What retailers need to do now, is work out the best way to combat the practice.
WHAT IS SHOWROOMING?
Before we get any further, we need to properly define showrooming. It is described as the practice of going to a physical store, but when a consumer finds a product they like, they don’t make a purchase. Instead, they search for it online and buy it there. Therefore, your store becomes a showroom for another online business.
This behaviour is only natural when you consider how customers like to research products before making a purchase. Most customers do online research. It’s hard to get a sense of something’s size or weight online, after all.
So, how can retailers combat showrooming?
1. EMBRACE 'WEBROOMING'
Webrooming is essentially the opposite of showrooming; researching a product online then heading to a physical store to make a purchase. It’s surprisingly popular and might even be overtaking showrooming. Merchant Warehouse found that around 60 per cent of webroomers have showroomed, but almost 90 per cent of showroomers have webroomed.
Webrooming can make up for the business you lose to showrooming. Another Merchant Warehouse report found the main reasons for webrooming are simple benefits of a physical store, such as not having to pay for shipping or being able to easily return items. The best way to combat showrooming is therefore to emphasise these benefits, and highlight new ones customers might not have thought of.
How to encourage webrooming
Can people reserve items at your store? If not, it’s worth allowing them to, and mentioning this in your marketing.
This is doubly important if you are selling relatively expensive items, as customers might hesitate before they make a purchase, which can drive them online. If they know they can reserve the product, they will feel better about waiting until they can physically see and touch the product.
Similarly, allow people to try the products out wherever possible. Bath and shower brand Lush are an excellent example of this. Lush always have staff available to provide demonstrations or samples. Alternatively, Games Workshop always has a game of their main product Warhammer set up and ready to go, so customers can experience it in the flesh, making them more likely to buy.
2. BUILD A MULTICHANNEL STRATEGY
If you’re losing business to online shopping, the simple solution is to go online yourself. You’ve probably already got a website, but there’s more to multichannel commerce than merely being present both on and offline. You need to make sure you’re linking between them wherever possible, setting up clear customer journeys between the digital and physical worlds. This might seem complex, but there are some easy methods to achieve this.
How to embrace online shopping
Add a tool on your website’s product pages showing in which stores customers can find the items they’re looking at. This encourages them to go to your store so they can see and feel the item in person, rather than simply hunting for the best price online.
Of course, a customer buying from your website is still profit for you, so you should make it easier for them to do so. For example, if someone is interested in an in-store product but doesn’t want to buy it just yet, you could provide them with a link to the item on your website, perhaps using a QR code on a business card or receipt.
Then there’s the really simple solutions, like making sure your website address is visible in-store, as well as on your doors if you’re closed. Around 40 per cent of millennials will head straight to a retailer’s online store if their physical location is closed, so make sure you’re making this step as easy as possible for them.
3. PROVIDE A UNIQUE RETAIL EXPERIENCE
Consumers like the tactility of buying physical products, as well as other in-store benefits like customer service. This is where you can make the experience of shopping in your store much more enjoyable and unique, giving customers something they can’t get online.
Innovative displays, exciting product demonstrations and other experiential factors are a great way to make shopping at your store much more enjoyable than going online. This in turn builds brand loyalty, with customers wanting to provide your business with more income because of the positive memories they have of it.
It can be as simple as giving your customers a bit of a ‘treasure hunt’. Look at discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl; a significant part of their retail space is dedicated to miscellaneous stock; which customers can hunt through for the best bargains. It might basic, but it provides an exciting aspect to something as mundane as grocery shopping that keeps customers coming back.
Summary – How to combat showrooming
Customers are always going to gravitate to the best experiences. In the case of showrooming, that means they’re focusing on the low price and high convenience of online shopping. Your challenge is to use the advantages of a physical store to provide an experience that can beat that.