Remember “showrooming”—the trend that had brick-and-mortar retailers quaking in their boots? Showrooming occurs when customers visit a store to look at merchandise, then use their smartphones to search for a better price on the same item elsewhere (usually online) and leave without buying anything.
We heard a lot about showrooming in the months leading up to the 2013 holiday retail season, but not so much since then. That’s because while showrooming isn’t dead, apparently it’s much less of a threat than real-world retailers thought.
An IBM study reported by CNBC.com culled data from more than 30,000 consumers and found that in 2013, the amount shoppers spent buying products online that they’d viewed in a physical store significantly declined—from 50 percent of online purchases in 2012 to 30 percent in 2013.
The decline in dollar figures occurred even though the number of showroomers rose—from 6 percent in 2012 to 8 percent in 2013. And despite that increase, the number still represents only a small portion of shoppers.
How did brick-and-mortar stores fend off showroomers during the 2013 holidays? The report says offering better customer service, attracting shoppers with deals and giveaways, and creating unique in-store experiences were among the efforts that paid off for traditional retailers.
However, the most important factor was that brick-and-mortar retailers who also have an ecommerce site worked hard to integrate their online and offline shopping experiences. For example, more retailers made sure prices were the same online as off, allowed products purchased online to be returned in-store, and took other steps to streamline the shopping process, no matter whether customers were in the store or on their tablets.
Going forward, the report says, retailers that provide a seamless customer experience across all sales channels are the ones who will thrive. How can you ensure your ecommerce site and store both meet shoppers’ expectations? IBM says the five things that matter most to shoppers who buy both online and in-store are, in order:
- Price consistency across shopping channels,
- The ability to order items that are out of stock in-store and have them shipped directly to their homes
- The ability to track an order’s status
- Consistent product assortment across channels, and
- The ability to return online purchases to a physical store.
Of course, if your business is ecommerce only, then the news of showrooming’s decline means you’ve got to be more on your toes. As brick-and-mortar retailers fight back and offer more competitive prices, service and convenience to compete with ecommerce retailers, you’ll have to be on top of your game, too.
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