For many retailers, there's a barrier to success during the holiday shopping season: showrooming—the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick-and-mortar store, then buying it online. In the digital age, showrooming has presented a new challenge for retailers everywhere, and research from CFI Group finds the practice is more prevalent than ever. Fifty-seven percent of consumers use their smartphones to assist with shopping activities in store, according to new data from CFI Group's "Holiday Shopping 2014: Shutting down the Showroom Effect" report, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers and is sponsored by eBay Enterprise.
While there have long been showroomers who explicitly enter a store with the intention of purchasing online later—aka active showroomers, the prevalence of mobile devices has created a population of passive showroomers, who use their devices to find the best deals while in-store without necessarily intending to purchase off-site. Breaking down how consumers use their mobile devices, 60 percent of survey respondents use them to compare retailers' prices to online competitors and 63 percent use their phones to check prices at other local stores. Additionally, 52 percent of survey respondents reported using smartphones to access online reviews.
The key to combating showrooming this holiday season is improving brand fidelity. If retailers want to outsell the online competition, they have to engage each consumer strategically on his or her mobile device through social, personalized applications and meaningful mobile Web experiences. Brand-level mobile engagement through apps and mobile commerce sites must be utilized to give customers one-touch access to the information they seek—price information, reviews and recommendations, and discounts.
Below are tips to combat showrooming and get customers to complete the purchase process in-store.
Train staff on mobile devices: Consumers point to in-store help, or a lack of it, as a reason they turn to their mobile devices. Of those surveyed, 76 percent said they've never received assistance from a tech-enabled associate on the store floor. Of the quarter of shoppers who have received tech-enabled assistance from a store associate, 55 percent said the assistance they received did not help them make a purchasing decision. By equipping employees with mobile devices, retailers can provide their customers with the information they seek and help prevent the need for them to showroom in the first place. The extra service also provides an additional benefit shoppers do not receive online, further improving brand fidelity.
Know your competition: Electronics retailers are at the highest risk for suffering lost sales due to showrooming. Asked specifically what type of goods they showroom, 70 percent of consumers who have engaged in the practice said electronics, followed by apparel and accessories at 47 percent, and toys at 43 percent. It's imperative to know how much competitors are charging for similar items and be able to meet or beat their prices. Consider offering in-store price matching to prevent a lost sale.
Get social: Consumers are actively looking for deals on social media channels; one-third of consumers said they would respond to a retailer's social outreach if it included a discount offer. Fifty-four percent of shoppers use both retail-specific apps and mobile Web sites while shopping in store, presenting another opportunity to engage customers and offer savings. Nearly half of all shoppers said that they expect to receive a savings of between 11 and 25 percent when showrooming, meaning that an in-store sale could be saved by offering even a small discount via apps or social media.
With these tips, retailers can combat showrooming and build customer relationships that can extend beyond the holiday season.