showdown… or showroom…

Many retailers are terrified that customers use mobile phones in-store to compare and contrast prices with the internet. But this situation can work just as hard for brands and retailers as it might do against them. Apparently, we are one of the worst countries in the world for “showrooming”, but while retailers try to deal with the pressure it brings, they could also try to make use of its benefits.

A recent article by market observer TNS claims that mobiles can be used to tame the risk of showrooming by boosting brand interaction with consumers and converting them from browsers into customers. Of the 38,000 people surveyed across 43 countries, 33% had visited a store to try out products without buying them, with 21% using their mobile devices to showroom. This represents a huge opportunity for brands to approach consumers in a buying environment, as these activities say loud and clear that they are ready to interact with brands whilst in a store.

A staggering 20% of mobile users participating in the poll said that they were willing to receive mobile coupons during their shopping trip and 13% would be interested to use the services of a ‘virtual sales assistant’, which could provide additional information about items. Rather than being the IT devil incarnate, showroomers generally just want to find out more about the price of a product and its suitability and they successfully achieve this by reading reviews in social media, from friends and family and sales staff. This suggests that brands need to adopt a more integrated approach that allows for reaching consumers and meeting their needs at all touch points.

Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS, rounds it all up quite nicely when he says, “Rather than seeing mobile as a threat to in-store sales, brands and retailers must embrace it as the most immediate and personalised way to engage shoppers to ensure that they don’t leave empty-handed.”

Another interesting piece of research, this time from retail training company Beyond The Box, makes another point that can easily be tackled by retailers. It claims that consumers showroom not just to save money, but because staff are unhelpful and ill-informed. The majority of those surveyed felt that retail staff, were failing to ‘connect’ with them or their needs, and that staff failed to ‘explain products and services’ to them. If this is true, there is one major dynamic being overlooked by retailers, today’s customers want information, lots of it, they are price savvy and, both online and in-store, they are looking for exceptional service. Sadly, the research shows that if customers are unable to find an empathetic and informed retail professional to talk with, there is a very good chance they’ll take their business online.

To sum up, UK retailers need to culture showrooming, encourage it, embrace it, and if they do they will benefit, honest. Make friends with the mobile, encourage people to use your store in a more high tech way, and make sure your staff deliver the experience that today’s consumers are looking for.

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