How Retailers Can Use Mobile Technologies to Win Over Showroomers

20% of Canadian shoppers exhibit “showrooming” behaviour. These shoppers enter a store to try out a product, but when it comes time to buy — they purchase online. Showroomers sound like a retailer’s worst nightmare. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 33% of them use their smartphones right inside the store to look up the best deals on a product. In Canada, 44% of product research carried out from a mobile device took place inside retail stores. Showroomers go online to compare prices, check user reviews, or get opinions from their social media community.

Retailers regard Showroomers as “tire kickers” who are interested only in price. Yet a May 2013 survey of 26,000 consumers in 14 countries, conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, reveals the following:

  •     25% of Showroomers enter a store with the intention of purchasing from the store
  •     48% visit stores to learn more about the product (research) as well as price-shop
  •     Nine out of ten shoppers are willing to spend up to 20 minutes to provide a retailer with preference information so that they can receive offers and communications relevant to their needs

These indicators point to shoppers who are after the right product, not just the right price. Furthermore, despite their apparent preference for online transactions, Showroomers are actually very open to meaningful retail experiences – but they want a more a personalized experience.

So what can retailers do to embrace Showroomers and recapture their loyalty?

  1. Profile of a Showroomer

    Understanding some Showroomer characteristics helps retailers craft strategies for how to engage with this demographic:

    •     Showroomers are typically Millennials (age 18 - 34), male, with high disposable incomes
    •     They are extremely comfortable using mobile devices for eCommerce
    •     They are more likely to join loyalty programs and are willing to trade personal data for rewards
    •     They are more likely to respond to online advertising — since they are constantly online

    Given Showroomer preferences, retailers are incorporating mobile technologies as part of a total, personalized experience that gives Showroomers reasons to remain within the store, whether online or offline. It’s not all about price: consider the Apple store. Customers know that the same iPod or iPhone is available for less at Best Buy, but the experience of the Genius Bar and high-touch Apple store service outweighs the price difference.

  2. Strategies for Digitally Enhanced Retailer

    Here are some of the strategies retailers are adopting to woo Showroomers:

    • A responsive website:
      This is essential. The smartphone is the Showroomer’s favourite device. If they’re comparing products in-store, make sure the browsing interaction is smooth when they are on your retail website. They might be in another store comparing products, and you want your website to deliver a better experience than your competition.
    • In-store wi-fi:
      Take a tip from the hotel industry where wireless access is free. When the user logs in, the browser launches with the hotel’s home page. Consider the benefits of having shoppers land on a marketing page that contains time-sensitive offers, incentives, or the latest social media chat about your products.
    • Support mobile transactions:
      Take payments via smartphone. Convenience is a high priority for Showroomers.
    • Offer in-store pick-up/return of online purchases:
      Give the customer the option to save on shipping charges by bringing them into the store.
    • Develop a loyalty program that integrates with mobile communications:
      Link program membership to a mobile phone number. This maximizes the Showroomer’s engagement with loyalty programs by delivering benefits while they are in the store. A Canadian Showroomer is 10 times more likely than a non-Showroomer to respond to a mobile offer while in the store. Strategies include sending out text messages for:
        - Special offers only while shopping in-store
        - Double points for purchases made in-store
        - Real-time pricing - hot deals of the day or hour
    • Leverage near field communications (NFC):
      NFC technology on mobile devices will enable even more location-based personalized shopping; high-value customers who participate in loyalty programs can be identified by their smartphone as soon as they enter a store. From then on, whenever the customer passes by a digital display kiosk, it will present a selection of ads according to the customer’s preferences and purchase history. This can be combined with customized offers texted to their phones.
    • Use mobile devices to help the customer:
      London Drugs has provided iPads to sales associates in 74 stores to help customers with product reviews and price comparisons. Some retailers take this a step further: associates are authorized to price-match online offers — for members of their loyalty program.
    • Ramp up with social media:
      Nike used Twitter to create a promotion that allowed shoppers to reserve a hot new shoe by replying to a RSVP tweet with their name, shoe size and a product hashtag. The dozen stores that tried out this promotion reported that every single customer bought a pair of shoes.
    • Provide custom apps:
      Big box stores are already developing mobile apps that encourage Showroomers to explore and price-compare. Walmart’s app allows customers to scan a product bar code and retrieve information, pricing, reviews, and offers.

    The trend is clear and it’s not reversing: as Millennials grow up and become the most active consumer demographic, showrooming will only increase. Far from being retail’s worst nightmare, Showroomers can become your best customers because they are active advocates. 57% of Showroomers have written reviews about positive retailing experiences. What’s certain is that retailers must recognize and cater to the Showroomer’s love affair with mobile technologies to build stronger customer relationships.