Daily Dose of iQ: Showrooming Less of a Threat in 2014?

Jan 15, 2014 — Allan Pulga

IBM released a study at NRF Monday which found that fewer online purchases came as a result of showrooming in 2013 (30% of purchases) than did in 2012 (50%).

The study, which polled over 30,000 consumers worldwide, also found the number of shoppers who showroomed last year went up slightly, from 6% to 8% year over year.

Just because fewer online sales came as a result of showrooming, it doesn't mean online is less of a threat to brick-and-mortar retailers.

"It's really an interesting point here, where people are just more comfortable to go direct to online versus having to go to a store first," said Jill Puleri, IBM Retail Consulting leader, as quoted by CNBC (Jan. 14).

But the numbers are a little misleading. Just because showrooming resulted in fewer online sales year over year, doesn't mean the real problem plaguing brick and mortar retailers -- people buying online instead of in-store -- is going away. Quite the opposite, actually. And this past holiday season was no exception.

Omnichannel integration will only improve the in-store experience if in-store customers reap the information and UX benefits.

Puleri said traditional retailers did a better job of integrating their online and in-store offerings, showing the same prices on both platforms, this year -- two of shoppers top demands. These measures, known as omnichannel integration, will no doubt reduce the threat of online-only vendors like Amazon. What they don't do, however, is make the in-store experience better. That's a different can of worms altogether.

One retailer that has made efforts to improve the in-store experience and combat showrooming is Foot Locker. At NRF, Foot Locker CEO said arming salespeople with tablets in-store helped the company curb lost sales due to potential showroomers.

Foot Locker delivers omnichannel information to walk-in customers via in-store tablets.

“Arming them with the same information and capability that the customer has [is one way to stop showrooming in-store],”  said Ken Hicks, CEO of Foot Locker, quoted by Mobile Commerce Daily (Jan. 14). “That may mean giving them scan guns where they can know whether it’s in stock or it’s not in stock, is it in a store or is it online so we have inventory transparency."

So the inventory transparency and consistency part is in line with what Puleri suggested. It's the tablet that brings that transparency into the store.

"Price alone is not enough for Foot Locker to beat Amazon," wrote Mobile Commerce Daily's Lauren Johnson. "Instead, the retailer’s advantage is with customer service in locating inventory and showing consumers how products go together."

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce

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