Blog Post: Will ‘Reverse Showrooming’ Define 2013 Holiday Shopping?

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Good for you Best Buy. Shame it took you this long to figure it out, but it appears you have the hang of this whole “showrooming” thing.

I’ve called it out several times in this space, but big retailers such as JC Penny and Best Buy have been wringing their hands over the trend in brick-and-mortar shopping this year. Whenever a shopper enters a store, scans and item with a mobile device and purchases it online from Amazon, they’ve just been “showroomed”. Many have used that trend as a reason to declare the death of big box retail chains.

Turns out, if you just provide a unique shopping experience and are willing to match the prices of online retailers, you might have a fighting chance. Who knew.

Don’t listen to their stats, because it doesn’t tell the real story. Best Buy recently announced that 40 percent of shoppers enter their stores with no real intention of purchasing anything. I am surprised the number isn’t higher, but that’s retail shopping. I can’t tell you the number of times I have walked into an Apple store without any desire to do anything other than play with the new shiny toy they released. Best Buy used to be the place for that, because who doesn’t like playing with new stuff. Often, however, I ended up leaving with something because of a great deal or sale they had at the time.

Mobile devices and showrooming won’t change that.

Instead, offering to sell me the product I want for the price I find online beats Amazon at their own game. With the ever-evolving tax rules for online purchases, the field is leveling. Plus, I’m already there. I might as well get what I want instead of having to wait for Fed Ex. 

Some brick-and-mortar shopping experiences can’t be mimicked online. It’s what makes holding that sliver bag with the Apple logo on it so appealing. I get an amazing, unique experience that can’t be done online. New Sony boutiques inside Best Buy will only further enrich customer visits to physical locations.

Look, some shoppers are just willing to go from store to store with their device in hand with the purpose of saving a buck. There are television shows devoted so such shoppers, and I have no desire to become one of them. Most don’t, in fact. We would just prefer to go look at a product somewhere, decide to purchase and then get the best price while we are there. Having a mobile device in hand only ensures that we know what that price is now instead of taking the store’s word for it. The sooner retailers respond to that feedback from customers, the easier they can breathe.

CEO Hubert Joly isn’t a genius for implementing this strategy. He’s just bold enough to calmly listen to what his customers have been saying to him and then act on it. Imagine if you did that for your customers. Instead of viewing mobile devices as the enemy of your store, look for ways to integrate mobile web and app content with events in your location. Here’s just a few examples:

  • Give out a prize for the best social media share in store.
  • Surprise them with a bonus coupon the moment they set foot on the property.
  • Personalize sales for people that come in sporting an Amazon deal.
  • Actually advertise on these magical devices.

Stop looking at showrooming as a barrier to retail shopping, and look at it as another way to get people in your four walls. Once they get there, it’s up to you to provide value. 

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