Reviving the Retail Store Atmosphere
Showrooming, the act of researching a product in-store before purchasing online, has plagued retailers for years and enabled e-commerce to chip away at in-store sales. Lately, however, experts have noted the trend picking up the most steam is actually the opposite – savvy shoppers opting to browse options online prior to purchasing in-store. According to a report from Merchant Warehouse, webrooming, or reverse showrooming, is actually more prominent among U.S. consumers, with 69 percent of consumers conducting research online and then transacting in-store.
Yet while webrooming points to a rise in in-store buying behavior, retailers aren't yet in the clear. The growth of e-commerce and showrooming is still problematic for brick-and-mortar retailers. The strategies outlined below can assist retailers in making the in-store atmosphere relevant again and, in turn, boost customer loyalty and increase brick-and-mortar sales.
Brick-and-mortar retailers should embrace their online presence, ensuring all marketing and product offerings are fully integrated for an omnichannel approach. According to a survey by comScore, 40 percent of purchases are made crossing channels, whether searching in-store and purchasing online or vice versa. Therefore, an omnichannel approach to customer service and the shopping experience engenders the most customer satisfaction, which triggers loyalty and brand recognition.
Further solidifying the need for omnichannel selling, the comScore survey found that the five most important things to consumers making purchases both in-store and online are the following:
- price consistency across shopping channels;
- the ability to ship out-of-stock items directly to their home;
- the option to track the status of an order;
- consistent product assortment across channels; and
- the ability to return online purchases to the store.
E-commerce experts agree that a streamlined and intuitive user experience is incredibly important in online retailing. The same can be said for in-store experiences. Storefronts are no longer just a utility. Savvy brick-and-mortar retailers are turning them into attractive destinations for trying out products, interacting with knowledgeable salespeople and even congregating with friends. Apple paved the way with its sleek stores and friendly, casual staff. Capital One introduced its 360 Cafes to develop a community among its customer base. More retailers are following suit.
Leveraging features and services that lend themselves to an in-store experience is another way to drive foot traffic. Programs such as electronics trade-in and in-store tech support benefit from a personalized, one-on-one interaction. They also deliver a better payoff through instant gratification – the customer is immediately rewarded during their store visit. This combination of features and benefits isn't easily replicable online, making it a key selling point to drive in-store shoppers and sales.
Promotions are used as a traffic driver for e-tailers, but in some cases they can work even more effectively in brick-and-mortar environments. In-store promotions appeal to today’s shoppers, as they can be more flexible and simpler than online promotions, and, most importantly, can deliver on instant gratification expectations. Eliminating the need for proof of purchase and the subsequent delayed payment or reward is yet another benefit over online, and another reason for shoppers to conduct their business in-store.
In-store promotions also open the door for store associates to effectively upsell products and services. During their time in-store, consumers have the opportunity to ask more questions and explore other purchases. For example, in the case of electronics trade-in, accessory coupons can be issued after completing a trade. This encourages the customer to immediately spend their trade-in proceeds on high-margin accessories.
By providing a differentiated in-store experience, implementing upheld e-commerce tactics and fully utilizing an omnichannel marketing approach, retailers can successfully motivate in-store purchasing. Relying on the power that is online communication, while also playing up the strengths of brick-and-mortar (e.g., instant gratification, helpful sales assistance) can effectively slow down, or even reverse, showrooming, helping to grow overall customer loyalty and drive higher retail sales.
Jeff Trachsel is the chief marketing officer at NextWorth Solutions, a provider of online and in-store electronics trade-in programs.