Defensive Showrooming: A Strategy for Engagement

Apr 16, 2012

Although I embrace the many technologies and apps that enhance and direct consumer loyalty, I am still very old school at my core: If you build a better product, they will come. And, more recently: If you keep building a better product, they will stay.

Traditionally, the problem has been getting customers to your product. But now that’s only half the battle. Your customers can easily hold up their smartphone, scan a product bar code, and find the product cheaper elsewhere, or have it shipped straight to their door.  Amazon offers this feature via its Super Saver Shipping.

Brick and mortar retailers bare the burden of the costs associated with shipping and displaying merchandise – say, a 42” HD TV, only to have the consumer give it a test drive in the showroom and then purchase it on a smartphone or iPad. The thing the physical location has in its favor is that the consumer who needs it NOW may pay a few extra dollars to walk out the door with it that day.

In this economy, that may not be enough. Price-conscious consumers are getting used to waiting 3-5 days for shipping if it means they save $50. They are thinking ahead. They are armed with apps and they know how to use them.

According to “Several researchers have surveyed the number of US mobile phone users who have comparison-shopped via phone while in-store. Their research has found a comparison-shopping rate ranging from 59% of US smartphone owners (InsightExpress, 2011) to 25% of US mobile phone owners (Pew Internet and American Life Project,
January 2012).

More often than not, shoppers are visiting a store’s website to see if the online deal is better than the in-store price. If the shopper buys the 42” HD TV online while shopping in the store and leaves empty-handed, then the retailer loses all the other add-ons the shopper would have put in the cart on the way to the checkout. I wonder how this will impact Target, one of a few stores that fill my cart regardless of what I intended to purchase. If I walk in for a USB drive, I end up walking out with $200 worth of stuff that I don’t necessarily need. The bottom line is that any retailer with a physical location still needs consumers to shop and BUY in the store.

The best way to encourage this is to make sure your online deals match your in-store deals, or better yet, make your in-store deal a better value. That way, you’ll drive traffic in the door. And once they’re in the door, they’ll have a cart that they just might fill with more than the TV they came in for.

Read more of our retail insights on our blog.