Tuesday 08 July, 2014
The current trend of consumers shopping offline but buying online has brick and mortar retailers worried. People like to shop and see merchandise up-close but they go online to find discounts and deals. This is why you see so many people today wandering the aisles of retail stores staring at their mobiles.
Now, many offline retailers are fighting back by trying to encourage ‘reverse showrooming,’ also known as ‘webrooming.’ This is the opposite case, where people find things they want online and then go to a retail store to buy them.
The Advantages of Reverse Showrooming
Retailers can do this by playing on the advantages of offline retail over online retail. The main reason people buy online is the price. For the most part, people will buy wherever an item is cheapest and the internet gives them many options. However, buying online involves shipping and other charges. Furthermore, some U.S. states are starting to impose an internet tax, which offsets the low online prices to give offline retailers an equal footing.
Convenience is another reason online shopping is popular, but this is an area where offline retailers can shine. When buying in a physical store, you actually get to take the item home with you today. This is a major advantage that often trumps the convenience of online shopping.
How to Take Advantage of Reverse Showrooming
First of all, here’s a good idea of what not to do. Don’t post a notice or in any other way discourage people from using their mobiles to shop in your store. Don’t take the defensive position and drive away potential customers.
Actually, a good strategy is to help people shop. Offer terminals where they can do price comparisons. Make sure your store has Wi-Fi so your customers can access the internet. You could even provide an app or site that offers comparison prices.
It sounds counter intuitive because you’re showing your competitors’ offers. But by helping your customers shop, you’re doing them a favor and providing value. As a source of information and help in making their purchasing decisions, you can give your business a boost.
As mentioned earlier, play to the strengths of the retail experience. One area where online shopping can never surpass offline retail is customer service. Offer a great retail experience with helpful, friendly and knowledgeable staff and people will choose you over online alternatives.
Is Showrooming Killing Retail?
The actual numbers have not shown that retailers are hurting because of showrooming. Research and consulting firm Vision Critical conducted interviews with social media users from the U.S. and Canada in 2012 and 2013 that found that only 26% of respondents showroomed while 41% reverse showroomed. This indicates that in spite of the convenience and savings of online shopping, offline retail is still doing well.
Furthermore, as Robert Hetu points out in an article on the Gartner Blog Network, reverse showrooming is not new at all. Actually, it’s just basic retailing. People have always shopped using whatever media is available and gone to stores to make purchases.