Is Showrooming Here to Stay?
--This article was originally posted on Retail Technology on February 5, 2013.--
Todd Starcevich discusses the future of store shopping ‘showrooming’ trend and how retailers can use foot traffic data and analysis to harness it for competitive advantage in 2013.
The way that we shop has drastically changed over the past few years and with these changes have come a number of new phrases and buzzwords including ‘omnichannel’ and ‘showrooming,’ i.e. visiting a bricks-and-mortar store only to buy online later.
With the proliferation of mobile devices and all that they offer the retail experience, Todd Starcevich, chief executive of Europe and Middle East at people counting technology and foot traffic analysis provider ShopperTrak, said it comes as no surprise that multichannel touchpoints have acted as a catalyst for the showrooming trend to grow. With smartphones outselling PCs for the past two years running, the trend is almost certain to repeat itself in 2013.
Rather than fear this, Starcevich contends that retailers should begin to approach showrooming with confidence. “One way of doing this is by using people counting technology to analyse who is coming through your front door and whether they are making a purchase, before comparing this data back to trends from online and mobile platforms,” he said.
Mapping the customer journey
The physical counting of people in and out of stores enables retailers to map the customer journey accurately – targeting shoppers instore before they hit the web by identifying and answering key questions; who are my customers, where are they shopping, what they are buying, if they are not buying, why not? “Knowing your customers and how they move around the store is the essential first step when considering showrooming,” he said.
Male shoppers between the ages of 25-34 for instance have recently been identified as the most likely demographic to ‘showroom’. “Perhaps they are more inclined to shop around for the best product at the lowest price, while women may have a greater tendency to impulse shop and prefer the human interaction of the instore experience,” Starcevich suggested. Either way, he suggested that identifying similar trends and using foot traffic data to understand customers is imperative in creating dynamic marketing tactics, such as visual merchandising and instore displays that will capture the imagination of shoppers while instore.
As well as using foot traffic technology to identify brick and mortar visitors, retailers can use it to harness an overall positive instore customer service. “A small difference in price found when showrooming on a mobile device will almost certainly trigger the customer to leave the store and buy online, unless a price-match policy is in place,” continued Starcevich. “As shoppers are becoming savvier, every detail of the in-store experience needs to be stepped up and able to deliver. Locating trends as discussed can assist retailers looking to identify busy shopping periods that may require more staff for instance. This enables them to plan their labour scheduling more effectively, reducing wasted time and resources but crucially enabling retailers to put their best sales assistants on the shop floor at peak times.”
Starcevich also said that constructing an effective staff training programme is also imperative. On seeing the potential buyer, the shop assistant should start to actively interact and offer help, advice and recommendation in order to avoid a price comparison occurring on a handheld device. “A successful foot traffic programme can evaluate the success of these customer engagement tactics and can analyse the outcome of new training techniques,” he added.
Maximise multichannel opportunity
If a customer does decide to shop online, then the footfall expert said the retailer must take extra measures to ensure brand loyalty and a positive shopping experience that extends out of store. “While brick and mortar shopping is the most tangible option for brands as they seek to maximise the average transaction through promotions, cross-selling and an enhanced customer service experience, the main goal should be built upon creating customer loyalty,” Starcevich said. Ordering online and picking up instore is one strategy that retailers are now adopting. As well as offering a larger array of choice with a convenience factor, shoppers still have to visit the store in order to pick up their purchase. Most importantly, an end sale occurs at some point within the multichannel – it is always better to make a sale online than to lose out to another competitor completely.
At the heart of it showrooming is clearly here to stay; so is the need for inventive and dynamic tools for retailers to approach it head on. If physical stores can’t compete with online retailers on price then the instore experience must compensate by being consistently excellent – for example using foot traffic data to ensure that the right staff are in the right place at the right time. The bottom line? “You have to make investments in technology proven to provide you with the insights necessary to be ready for tomorrow. Get to know your customers inside-out so that you can target them instore, before they get out and leave you for someone else,” concluded Starcevich.