How B-to-B Retailers Can Embrace the Growing Trend of Showrooming
Digital devices have reshaped B-to-B shopping habits, but not in the ways you might expect. Many online purchases are made after your business customer has visited your brick-and-mortar store to browse and test a product. Essentially, local stores are becoming showrooms for online shoppers. This practice, known as showrooming, has taken off in recent years. According to the consulting firm BRP, a majority of consumers have showroomed at least once.
Showrooming has spread from its historical strongholds of fashion and automobiles to everyday items, including groceries. As e-commerce becomes more prevalent among business customers, showrooming is emerging as a major force on the B-to-B scene as well. Here are three ways that B-to-B retailers can embrace the growing trend:
1. Make the purchasing process easy across all channels.
Showrooming presents an obvious threat for B-to-B retailers: Customers may use your in-store resources as they research the product, but then actually purchase online from a competitor with a better price point, shipping discount, or customer experience. To convert those customers, businesses must make it more attractive to buy from them than it is to buy elsewhere.
An omnichannel strategy, with a focus on convenience, is the logical starting point for boosting conversion rates. By making the buying process easy across all channels — from credit application to purchase — you can keep in-store customers from jumping ship and draw in digital window shoppers.
If a customer has an established credit account with your competitor, they won’t want to jump through any extra hoops to obtain new credit. Therefore, make it easy. Give in-store customers the opportunity to fill out an online, automated credit application while they're on-site. Likewise, offer online credit applications for customers browsing on mobile devices. Credit applications with real-time decisions that allow instant purchases could play a key role in converting both online and offline customers.
2. Increase loyalty with personalized account management tools.
At the same time, making it easier for existing customers to manage purchases and payments can keep them from showrooming in the first place. That’s where a robust set of online account management tools comes into play. By allowing customers to check the status of their balance and available credit, download statements and pay online, retailers can keep the convenience value of their brand front and center. When shopping around becomes more complicated than an established purchase process, showrooming becomes a lot less threatening — especially in the B-to-B world, where minimizing the time and effort required to make regular purchase decisions is key.
Personalized processes that meet your customers’ unique needs can further build loyalty and discourage comparison shopping. Consider online account management where customers can self-select how to tailor their experience, including billing formats, payment methods and automated notifications such as due date reminders.
3. Offer the path of least resistance.
In the end, anything that reduces friction during the purchase process will help keep showroomers from purchasing elsewhere. Rather than looking for ways to prevent showrooming, use it as an opportunity to provide customers with the most convenient path possible, from researching to purchase. By integrating processes and offering a seamless experience across channels, B-to-B retailers can make themselves the obvious best choice for customers.
Kelley Marko is vice president, customer engagement and delivery at BlueTarp, a B-to-B credit management and financial services company.
Related story: 3 Ways to Build Stronger B-to-B Customer Relationships