Mobile has undoubtedly changed the way we live our lives. It has altered the way we communicate, navigate through an unfamiliar town, and even the way we buy our movie theatre tickets. There are over 1 Billion smartphones in circulation in the world today and that number is expected to double by 2015. The convenience and ease of use of smartphones allows them to be enjoyed by everyone and not just the tech-savvy. Even my dad, who still struggles with the “copy & paste” feature on his desktop computer, effortlessly sends me texts, emails, and videos. This Technological evolution can also be considered a technological revolution for retailers as it has truly transformed the way customers interact with traditional brick and mortars. Whether you are a big box retail chain or a budding entrepreneur selling luxury shoes on the corner, showrooming is a costly challenge facing most retailers in today’s tech-driven ecosystem.
“Showrooming” is the act of viewing a product in-store, only to later buy it online for a better price. Smartphones are often the “culprits” educating the in-store consumers about these bargains, costing physical retailers a nice chunk of their yearly sales. A survey by Visa Canada shows more and more shoppers are looking online for better prices and deals. Looking at back-to-school shopping alone, the survey shows that 79% of shoppers will be resorting to online options. Another study by Deloitte revealed that 5% of US store sales in 2012 were victims of the showrooming effect. 5% may not sound like a lot, but it rings in a total of nearly $160 Billion in annual sales. Speaking from personal experience, I can confidently say that I’ve contributed to the showrooming effect. On my hunt for a new TV a couple of years ago, I’m pretty sure I left tread marks on the floor of a big box retail store after learning about a cheaper offering at a Ma and Pa retailer nearby. Research has shown that over 60% of shoppers would leave a store and buy online for price just 20% lower.
Considering the ubiquity of smartphones and the problems that showrooming has created for the retail industry, it only makes sense for brands and retailers to consider adopting a mobile strategy. A study found that nearly three quarters of shoppers wish retailers would embrace modern technology to enhance the in-store experience. This says that retailers should not be afraid of mobile, but rather embrace this technology in their stores. The most important thing to remember is that developing a mobile strategy is easier said than done. More and more brands seem to be jumping into the mobile universe, only to burn bridges with some customers after creating a slow, buggy, mobile app riddled with untargeted ads. After all, today’s consumers have high expectations for a brand’s mobile experience. Now, this doesn’t mean that developing a mobile plan has to be difficult. Like any marketing strategy, it should make sense for your brand and your customers. Your mobile strategy should reflect your company’s core visions and values and should be something your target consumers will easily connect with.
Whether you’re using SMS coupons or QR codes that take your customer to a mobile optimized site, you should always be measuring the effectiveness of your mobile campaign to see how it can improve over time. Also, never look at a metric that does not elicit a change. For whatever you are measuring (age, gender, locations, likes, etc.), you must be gaining valuable insight from the data, otherwise it is useless and you are creating pie charts for no reason. Focusing on customer experiencing and truly understanding your consumers will undoubtedly help battle the looming threat of showrooming.