The increasing prominence of the Internet created new challenges in many sectors, and the retail industry was no exception. Online shopping is as popular as ever because consumers are able to research product options and compare prices – something that was nearly impossible a few decades ago.
You’ve probably read reports and articles about the ways showrooming can hurt your bottom line, but it’s time to make the practice work for you. As a business owner, you may have brainstormed ways to stop customers from using your store as a showroom. However, most people who visit your business have access to the Internet and many carry smartphones, meaning they can research before and during their shopping trip.
Instead of looking at the Internet as a competitor, use these tips to work with the consumer trend toward showrooming in a productive way.
Why do shoppers combine online and in-store browsing?
There are actually two terms that are important to consider – showrooming and webrooming. When customers go to your store to check out the merchandise then buy the items from an online retailer for a cheaper price, they use your store as a showroom. This is done because people don’t want to commit to a product without seeing and interacting with it.
Webrooming describes the action of conducting online research before heading to your store to make the purchase. According to a survey by Multichannel Merchant, more people actually engage in webrooming than showrooming – about 80 percent of respondents. Most of the time, people who use this informed type of shopping method are young and wealthy people who live in cities. Customers use their phones and tablets during their shopping trip for several reasons. People research prices from other stores, product reviews, promotion codes and your online prices.
How can you use the Internet to your advantage?
Knowing that your customers are likely using the Internet before, during or after a trip to your store, you should strive to provide an omnichannel customer experience. Compare the benefits of online shopping to visiting the physical location, and make the transition between them seamless.
“Provide an omnichannel customer experience.”
One way to do so is with in-store technology, whether you mount an iPad on a store fixture so customers can browse your online stock or equip employees with smartphones to improve their ability to assist shoppers. Your store should also have fast, free WiFi for customers to use. Consider leaving it unlocked for maximum ease, but if you’re uncomfortable with an unsecured network, post the password in obvious places so shoppers don’t have to ask an employee before logging on.
Since a store’s sales associates have a strong impact on customer experience, your staff should be highly trained. According to Shopify, most shoppers think they know more about products they’re searching for than the shop’s employees. Be sure everyone knows details about the merchandise and how to easily check stock levels. It’s even better if they can suggest alternative items when products are out of stock.
You should add features to your website that allow customers to research and purchase easily from either channel. For example, the option for online ordering with in-store pickup. People also like the ability to make returns and exchanges through either channel, regardless of where the products were purchased. Additionally, you should test and update your website regularly. Make sure there aren’t broken links, missing pictures or incorrect prices. It’s also helpful to keep an accurate tally of your stock online, if possible. If you can’t update your store’s stock in real time, customers may drive to your store for a purchase, only to find the item sold out – leaving them quite disappointed.
Finally, pay close attention to prices from your competitors. Offer to match prices from online retailers when you’re presented with them to make sure you get the sale. Also, price your merchandise below the cost of the products with shipping and handling. Since shoppers are prone to comparing your in-store prices with online prices, keep them equal unless you’re running a well-advertised sale in either location.