“Showrooming” is an increasingly common phenomenon where consumers research products in-store with the help of their smartphones and tablets. At worse, consumers visit stores for the sole purpose of getting a live look at a product of interest to then purchase online. According to a survey by Hipcricket, Inc., the vast majority (eighty-four percent) of respondents admitted to using a mobile device to research products. So, retailers aren’t afraid that brick and mortar stores are becoming relics, they’re afraid of something much worse- that stores are becoming not-for-profit museums.
Unfortunately, short of collecting gadgets like a school teacher, or blocking internet like North Korea, there isn’t much business owners can do to eliminate the threat of showrooming. However, there are lots of adaptive strategies that help small business owners fight the revenue eroding impacts of showrooming.
Here are 4 innovative ideas…
- Create a mobile-compatible online presence: Showrooming doesn’t exclusively favor virtual retailers. It favors any company with an online presence.So, creating an online presence positions the company to stop being a victim of the digital revolution and start becoming a benefactor. Of course, getting the company name “out there” doesn’t drive revenue, and in the case of online shoppers- it might not even drive foot-traffic. So, retailers today have to go beyond brand-recognition towards aligning themselves with the brands and products consumers are searching for. Creating a website isn’t good enough. You also have to make hot products, promotions, and information searchable on that website as well. SMB’s will only get discovered by searching consumers through the products they want.
- Use a Local Based Marketing App: Mobile devices are distracting, whether shoppers are “showrooming” or texting. The resulting lack of presence consumers bring to the in-store shopping experience seriously compromises their ability to see, participate in promotions, and make additional purchases. With their mobile phone “blinders” on, they barely see what’s in front of them let alone what’s on sale. Location based marketing apps ensure that consumers never miss a promotion whether it’s in-store or next door. Reach consumers where they are… on their phones.
- Create QR Code Sticker Promotions: Quick Response (QR) Codes are the square barcodes designed to be scanned by smartphones to retrieve information. They may look like a low-res Rorschach ink blot test for Packman, but they can be a competitive in-house marketing tool. The Amazon.com app already allows mobile consumers to scan normal sales barcodes to access the same items online. Small businesses can play that game too by creating and displaying QR codes for select in-demand merchandise. When consumers see the barcode, they know to scan it for the promotions and information you’re offering- reducing how much time and money they spend researching on other sites. Consider linking the code to a digital coupon or same day price-matching offer. For maximum results, try to incentivize same-day purchases.
- Create Richer Than Multi-Media Consumer Experiences: The online shopping experience epitomizes the transactional interaction. The problem is… so do many offline shopping experiences as well. If all consumers are paying for is a product, then all they should care about is its cost. And, since small businesses can’t compete on cost in any sustainable way, they have to instead compete on value. SMB owners have to think about what they can offer that’s impossible for the webstore to match- like hosting a class or meetup that’s compatible with the store’s market. A home improvement shop can hold a plastering class. A fabric store can host a knitting club. Hold regular demos and product samples. Transform the consumer experience from running an errand to visiting a destination.
Between major corporations and their multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, they already work extremely hard to drive foot traffic through their doors. Plus, keeping those doors open and the establishments behind them well-lit, tidy and at a comfortable temperature isn’t cheap or easy either. Still, local businesses are an indispensable part of community life, so if brick and mortar entrepreneurs are willing to invest, strategize, and innovate- their efforts are certain to be worth their while and met with enthusiastic local consumer support.