GUEST OPINION Closing the loop on showrooming
Showrooming is rife – and cross generational – so you need to work out how to make it work for you. Heikki Haldre, co-founder and CEO at virtual fitting room provider Fits.me explains how technology and mobile is your only hope of closing the loop on showrooming
Apparently, 11% of retailers see “show-rooming” as a threat to revenue. If anything, I’m surprised that the proportion of retailers worried about show-rooming is so low, since it is fact that customers can easily tap into the online marketplace anytime and from anywhere. Fits.me’s own recent research also shows that the most popular reason for choosing the online channel to shop for clothes remains price, with 52% of respondents identifying the ability to quickly find the best price as their primary or secondary reason for shopping online.
So, yes, price is important – but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. Shoppers also like to be engaged and entertained, as evidenced by the success of retailers such as MrPorter.com, which has invested heavily in generating content to captivate its shoppers. If retailers engage, interest and inform as part of the purchase journey, then part of the reward is clearly to reduce the likelihood that any given shopper will say “thanks, that was fun” and then click off to another store.
In sectors such as apparel, shoppers are not inclined to buy on the basis of reviews to the extent that they do with, say, consumer electronics. In fact, almost everything about buying clothes is about creating an individual look and style, rather than being the same as everyone else. Online, technologies that enable shoppers to create their own look and style are another means of engaging shoppers, which also discourages them from show-rooming or taking their business elsewhere. Retailers that provide technologies such as outfit builders (to choose combinations of garments) and virtual fitting rooms (to choose sizes that give the required fit) give their customers every reason to conclude their purchase journey there and then, instead of sashaying off to another retailer’s site.
Retailers can also lose shoppers because the in-store journey to purchase is too complex or time consuming. In winter or during an all-too-short lunch break, the prospect of changing into and out of several layers of clothes and battling with check-out queues is not a tempting one – some people will not bother. And, again, this is where mobile can step in. Retailers can prevent show-rooming by providing the same engaging and entertaining assistance that they do online, but via mobile devices – including virtual fitting room and outfit-building solutions – to help shoppers conclude their purchase there and then.
Of course, mobile is becoming an increasingly sophisticated tool for engaging shoppers and inviting them in-store. Well-timed messages, be it a location-based discount or a product announcement, may be a great way to entice shoppers off the street and stop their eyes wandering elsewhere. Eat is the first user of iBeacons in the UK with a technology which allows retailers to target mobile users within a 10m radius with mobile marketing messages. But geo-targeting options don’t stop there: Walmart sees 12% of its online sales now coming from consumers who are standing in a Walmart store, using the customised version of its mobile website; highlighting how retailers can benefits from joining up the on and offline experiences.
Ultimately, the price issue means that show-rooming is always going to happen. But then, it always has: it just took shoppers longer to scout for better deals when they were walking the High Street. Even though it is now easy for shoppers to show-room, retailers can reduce it by ensuring that engagement levels are high and making sure product information is brilliant, all of which remove barriers to immediate conversion. When custom can be lost at just the swipe of a touchscreen, retailers need to make the shopping experience as engaging as possible for shoppers – it may be the best way to keep them coming back.