There have been a number of articles recently addressing the topic of “showrooming”— consumers coming into retail stores to see/touch/try a product and then buy it cheaper online from their smartphone while still standing there in the store. It is certainly a phenomenon that has retailers worried, and rightly so—of the 53% of consumers who have stopped an in-store purchase as a result of using their mobile phone, 30% did so because they found a better price online.
Bob Greene, a CNN Contributor, astutely asks and answers, “What’s the difference, you may ask? Why does this matter? It will matter when and if critical mass is reached, and online-only merchants, who don’t have to underwrite the expense of having traditional stores on city streets, reach dominance. Then, one by one, the stores that have unwillingly become showrooms for the online merchants will fold up. And the American downtown-and-mall landscape will begin to look barren.”
So what’s the answer? Showrooming undoubtedly needs to be combated, but price comparison-shopping has been happening for years—long before consumers could pull out their smartphones in a store to try to find a product cheaper elsewhere. And it is not only Amazon retailers need to beat, but other brick and mortar stores who offer the lowest prices. Because while 30% of those consumers stopped a purchase because they found the item cheaper online, 38% did so because they found a better price at another brick and mortar store. It has even recently been reported that, on average, Walmart’s prices are 20% lower than Amazon’s. Smartphones merely make it easier for shoppers to do what many would have done anyway and have been doing for years, search around both online and at other nearby stores for the best deals. The benefit retailers have now is that they know that the consumer is physically coming into their store to see the product before buying it on Amazon or from the competitor down the road. And the opportunity that creates is huge.
Last Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I were watching TV when the screen went out again, as it had been doing intermittently for months. We got in the car and automatically drove to Best Buy without much discussion on other options—we had been buying our electronics at Best Buy for years. When we got there however, the selection seemed limited and the ones there priced too highly. I pulled out my smartphone, saw there was a Target right down the road and we got back in the car. Finding the same thing at Target, I searched for the nearest Walmart from my phone. We went, found the TV we were looking for at a great price and called it a day.
When we left the house that morning, we knew we would be coming home with a TV. We just wanted to make sure we got the best local deal we could find. Best Buy had a great advantage as its name was synonymous in both of our heads with electronics. Unfortunately, from now on, this probably won’t be the case.
Retailers like Best Buy need to stand up and take advantage of the significant opportunity mobile has created for them. I have the Best Buy mobile app on my phone. If Best Buy had sent me a message when we left the store, enticing us back in with a special offer, we probably would have ended up making a purchase—we just wanted to feel like we were getting the best deal that day. And luckily for Best Buy, that kind of targeted, localized mobile marketing isn’t that hard to do.
By placing geofences around their store locations as well as nearby competitors’ locations, companies like Best Buy can see when a customer comes into their store, what products they look at, how long they stay, and if they leave without making a purchase and head directly to a competitor’s store. Best Buy could have seen that we spent 15 minutes in their television section, left and went to Target and then left Target to go to Walmart and deducted that we were looking for a TV we weren’t yet happy with from Best Buy or Target. To bring us back in, they could have sent us an offer through my Best Buy app, alerted a Best Buy sales associate of our return, who then could of met us at the door, apologized that we did not find what we were looking for the first time, and offered assistance.
At the end of the day, many customers want to stay loyal to a brand that they have a strong, personal relationship with. Shoppers just want to feel that they got a good deal and that they matter to the brand. If retailers harness technology and mobile marketing tools, and a little creativity, it shouldn’t be too hard to do.