Fighting Showrooming With Showrooming
Glen Richardson, CEO of JustBought.it, translates online into the physical and asks what stores look like in the eyes of the online shopper.
What would an online shop look like without product videos, detailed specs, recommendations, reviews etc? It certainly wouldn’t be a place from which shoppers could make an informed purchasing decision. Imagine then what stores look like through the eyes of an online shopper. Is it a place in which they can make an informed purchasing decision? If not, then a store is just a glorified warehouse.
Online shoppers are expected to go offline instore so their ability to make a purchasing decision becomes severely hampered. Some 45% of people showroomed because they wanted to see the item before buying online, according to comScore. I believe that if it were natural for shoppers to buy online in-store then showrooming would no longer be something to be feared but encouraged. Stores are now 3D catalogues for your online store.
Stores aren’t the best place to maintain a decent mobile signal and because I am charged for data I don’t tend to search for product videos in-store. If, however, I’m in a store with free WiFi then that option is open to me and I’m more likely to make a purchasing decision.
In a book called Influence, Dr Robert Cialdini describes six basic social and psychological principles, one being the Rule of Reciprocity. We’re all conditioned as children to abide by this rule which can be simplified as “you must repay what was given to you”. It’s not surprising then that 74% of shoppers are happy to receive text promotions while using free WiFi, according to OnDeviceResearch and showroomers are three times more likely to respond to a location-based mobile offer, says Aimia. Given that 98% of text messages are read, this low-tech option isn’t to be underestimated. I’ve seen text messaging, coupled with slick mobile redemption, working well for promotions. Gencia has an offering called SIVs (Smartphone Incentive Vouchers) which works well for this purpose.
Providing free WiFi brings other benefits such as being able to direct shoppers to a store-mode mobile site, knowing what information shoppers are looking for in-store and enabling them to connect socially. Since hashtags are the norm for live on-demand communication, if stores had their own hashtags shoppers would use them to ask questions and crowdsource opinions.
The gratification of walking away with a purchase is no longer enough for shoppers to make the journey to store.
Stores should no longer be thought of as shops but venues. Memories outlast products so if a product can be demo’ed, demo it. If a product can be cooked, cook it. If a product can be taught, teach it. Think experiential.
Technology considerably enhances an experience in-store. Augmented reality and virtual fitting rooms are highly effective tools for closing sales but these high-tech options, if built from scratch, are cost prohibitive. However, companies such as Tinderstone have white label solutions that can be rolled out quickly.
If staff are armed with mobile tablets they’ll be able to help shoppers make an informed purchasing decision and even take their payment there and then.
Staff in-store should be given the autonomy to discount products on an ad-hock basis too, not if the product can be bought cheaper elsewhere but based on availability, total order value and the opportunity to up-sell.
Shoppers need a quick way to look-up products so they can gain more information and buy online in-store. The easiest way to do this is to make the home page of your mobile site, when in-store, a URN search.
Another way to do this, as much as I despise them, is QR codes. I would suggest image recognition but unless you’re willing to make all your products compatible then you’ll struggle. You would need to put an ‘image recognition’ sticker on compatible products and if you’re going to do that then you might as well use QR codes.
If shoppers begin to treat stores like 3D websites then stores can begin to display greater product variety and worry less about instant availability. For some people, delivery to door is convenient but for others it’s not.
For some, taking a purchase home with them is convenient but for others it’s not. Some people are out during the day and others are out at night. For some, delivery to work is ideal but for others, who are on the move, it’s not. We all have incredibly diverse lifestyles with unpredictable requirements.
Logistics is tough and has a huge impact on profitability so introducing new delivery methods is a risk. If however shoppers aren’t offered a delivery method that suits them they’ll look elsewhere. The new innovative delivery methods, like ByBox , really do bend over backwards to make integration easy.
Shoppers want to pull their purchase to wherever they happen to be. I’d love to put my deliveries on autopilot: Monday - Thursday deliver to my office, Friday deliver to a ByBox in London and on Saturday deliver to my home. On Sundays, however, I might want to go to the store, buy online in-store and have it delivered to my office the next day saving me the hassle of taking it home and to work the next day.
Also, how awesome would it be if you could go to a shopping centre and have your purchases delivered to the boot of your car? Yet another start-up idea I don’t have the time to execute. Shoppers should be able to pay in-store or online for collection or delivery. Paymill, who recently closed €10m in VC funding, have massively simplified payment integration making experimentation viable.
Connected shoppers can easily be encouraged to check-in. This could be done via Foursquare or by giving shoppers a mobile page to post a message to their social feeds either as a one-off or automatically upon each visit.
Word-of-mouth marketing is highly potent too. I recently met with the founders of freestylextreme.com and they told me about a book called ‘Social History of Shopping’. They didn’t particularly rate the book as a whole but one line really challenged them: “We shop because we want to affiliate ourselves with our peers, or the people we want to be our peers”. These guys have really embraced this, which is evident through their loyal customer base and exponential growth.
There is a huge difference between a retailer saying “hey, buy this” and a shopper saying “hey, I just bought it”. Since being CEO at JustBought.it I’ve learnt so much more about the potency of a shopper’s voice. Taking the voice of the shopper, at the point it’s most authentic, deems amazing results. Social Proof, something else that Dr Robert Cialdini detailed, is like a knee-jerk reaction for the brain. We can’t help but be influenced by the actions of people around us especially people we know and like.
I believe that internet retailers will be the high street champions of the future. I said this at the Internet Retailing Expo and since then US online eyewear retailer, Warby Parker, has announced the opening of its first retail showroom and so has Fab.com. Made.com opened a showroom last year and Google and Amazon are rumoured to be next.
Online retailers are well positioned to save the high street as they understand online shoppers better than anyone.