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No Show: The Fight Against Showrooming

Published on Mar 9 2015 7:58 AM in Features

No Show: The Fight Against Showrooming

Technology has driven considerable change to the in-store environment in recent years. ESM examines the tech tools available to retailers in the fight against the emerging phenomenon of ‘showrooming’.

The relatively recent explosion in the ownership of hand-held mobile devices brought about the phenomenon of shoppers going into a store to research items and then going home to carry out competitor price-checking activity online, and often buying the product cheaper therein. While retailers come to terms with this new threat, retail technology firms are developing innovative mobile solutions to help them turn so called ‘showrooming’ to their competitive advantage.

A retailer’s in-store offering must perform beyond a customer’s expectations to deliver a full omni-channel experience. As retailers work diligently to close every sale in store, it is important to remember that many customers go to a store to buy a product. If that product is not in stock, there is a real opportunity for the retailer to offer to order it for the customer, or get them to order it online and have it delivered in store or at home, in order to take full advantage of their desire to buy.

“Giving customers the choice and freedom to buy anytime, anywhere, across any channel is really in the retailer’s interest,” says mobile apps development advisor Sharon Hartigan.

Customers now want to choose when to buy and where to buy from – on the train on the way into work, or while two-screening (browsing online while watching TV). Retailers need to get the end-to-end experience right, Hartigan stresses. “From browsing to ordering, one-click checkout and delivery options, a customer should be able to find their product and order in three or four easy steps. Amazon is a great example of how simple this can be, from an ordering perspective, and John Lewis/Waitrose have nailed the delivery/collection process.”

Empowering Employees

Today, retail workers use tools that allow them to quickly and accurately carry out routine tasks, manage inventory and move customers quickly through the checkout process. However, to serve and meet the expectations of the new informed and connected shopper, retailers need to empower their employees with innovative productivity tools that can transform them from simple task workers into veritable knowledge workers, equipped to provide a new level of service and information, says Rafael Hernandez, EMEA industry marketing leader at Honeywell Scanning and Mobility.

“Retailers need tools and technologies that allow store associates to engage with their customers with real-time information about product features, stock availability, pricing and promotion at the point of decision, guiding the customer-buying decision and increasing the average market basket size,” he explains.

Why is it so important for retailers to offer shoppers this fully connected journey? “Today, retailers face a new connected customer that expects a seamless and customised shopping experience across different channels, from websites to mobile applications to in-store.”

This new technology-empowered shopper uses the Internet and a smartphone to search, compare, evaluate and buy products and services, and most importantly, to engage and interact with retailers in order to get tailored offers.

Analysing Customer Behaviour

“To meet their customers’ expectations, leading retailers must analyse customer behaviour and align their offering with customer demands. It’s important to note that customers still make most of their shopping decisions in store. The trick is to secure a purchase there and then.”

When setting up a truly omni-channel experience for shoppers, Hernandez says that information is key. With the relevant information in their hands, staff can engage and connect with the mobile shopper, offering assisted sales services, trustworthy information and support, and a better shopping experience, which increases customer loyalty. It is also, of course, very important that retailers regularly review their retail tech and mobile set-up and strategy.

“Retailers are constantly opening their wallets to buy ‘modern mobility’ products. They aren’t just talking about it. Early adopters have defied the status quo and bought ‘consumerised’ devices, embracing the power of the smartphone or tablet in store.”

It’s about buying attractive but durable devices that a retailer can put into the hands of every on-duty store associate to help customers select and locate merchandise during the customer consultation, in addition to performing traditional store operations, Hernandez explains. To succeed in the battle against showrooming, he believes that retailers using the in-store operations model need to adapt their processes to a customer-centric model, where product assortment, pricing and promotion are aligned to customer demand.

“A key role will be played by store associates who need to be empowered with new tools and technologies that help them recognise, engage and interact with shoppers in order to offer a tailored experience and enhanced customer service. The reward is a loyal customer who may spend up to 30 per cent more at each in-store transaction.”

A number of Honeywell products are particularly suited to helping retailers with the issue of showrooming. Honeywell Scanning and Mobility offers linear, bioptic and area-imaging scanners, as well as mobile computing solutions, which help retailers to embed customer insight and product information in their processes. “Our Captuvo sleds, which bring card-payment capability to tablet computers, give customers a much easier option than waiting in line to pay for goods, while our new range of Voyager scanners offers battery-free wireless scanning and pocket-sized Bluetooth form factors,” says Hernandez. These present highly mobile scanning companions for tablet-based POS systems, and help retailers to better connect with customers without needing to leave the shop floor.

Bridging The Gap

While technology enables retailers to offer customers an engaging omni-channel experience that bridges the gap between physical and digital browsing and shopping, a retailer’s pricing strategy needs to be developed to match the evolution of shoppers.

John Beckett, co-founder of ChannelSight.com, believes that retailers who put their heads in the sand by trying to prevent consumers from comparing product pricing, e.g. using different product codes on products available in store to what the manufacturer publishes online, are frustrating their customers, and ultimately just delaying the inevitable.

“Likewise, retailers who simply price-match their online and offline pricing are missing the point. This is irrelevant to highly price-sensitive customers who will work on the assumption that they can buy cheaper elsewhere and simply use the in-store experience to validate their product choice,” he explains.

One Category Of Shopper

Emilio Sanz, co-founder and CTO of SalesGossip, believes that there is only one category of shopper, and that is the shopper. “You cannot split them into online shoppers and in-store shoppers. Shopper behaviour has evolved with the rise of smartphones and e-commerce platforms, and shoppers will move between digital and physical channels, depending on what’s most convenient or advantageous for them at a certain point in time,” he tells ESM.

Therefore, retailers need to create an omni-channel experience that meets the timely expectations of today’s shopper.

While showrooming has developed alongside this evolution, it can actually be regarded as another step in the new shopping journey. Retailers should try to understand why it happens and leverage it, not fight against it, Sanz says. Why does someone go to a store and not buy? Is the product cheaper somewhere else? Do they not want to carry the product around afterwards, or are they just not ready to buy yet?

Purchasing Anything Digitally

While technology enables retailers to offer customers an engaging omni-channel experience that bridges the gap between physical and digital browsing and shopping, one of the things that restricts retailers from offering customers the omni-channel experience is the current structure of their lines of business. Shoppers don’t conform to these lines, so it’s about time that retailers’ lines of business are developed to match the evolution of shoppers in an increasingly digitally dependent world.

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