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Fighting Fire with Fire: How Brick and Mortar Retailers Can Use Mobile to Combat Showrooming

If there were ever any doubts about the prevalence of showrooming in retail, 2012 silenced the critics once and for all. With upwards of 57% of post-showrooming purchases being made at Amazon.com, it was not surprising that the web-only store was recently named ‘Retailer of the Year’ by the National Retail Federation.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, “showrooming” refers to the practice of walking into a physical store, trying out a product, and then purchasing that same product from an online retailer – usually at a cheaper price. It’s maximum value for a customer, and maximum loss for a brick and mortar retailer.

The fact of the matter is that customers are more informed than they’ve ever been. People can instantly compare prices, see real-time product ratings and reviews, and even close a purchase, all from the comfort of their couch. No overpaying. No sales pitch. No line-ups. It sounds perfect, right?

The real kicker, however, is that they still need to make that physical journey to the store if they want to tangibly play with that camera or try on that new coat. That part hasn’t changed. And that is where brick and mortar retailers can capitalize on mobile:

Offer in-aisle store comparisons

A simple tweak that could bolster brick and mortar retailer performance is to aggregate information on a customer’s behalf to better inform the purchasing decision. The evidence is everywhere: customers trust online reviews for what movies they watch (Rotten Tomatoes), what restaurant they try (Urbanspoon), what trip they take (Trip Advisor), and even what article of clothing or piece of jewelry they buy (Bizrate). Using a rating and review aggregator, a Sales Associate can use a tablet to instantly provide insightful third party feedback, while still providing the helpful in-person advice and assistance customers crave.

Entice people to buy on the spot

Mobile technology can also play a role in making purchasing on the spot more attractive. A Sales Associate with a tablet has the ability to instantly check available inventory, show and order out-of-stock merchandise, and even close the sale right in aisle. Not only does this provide the retailer with the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, but the customer doesn’t have to fumble with a paper receipt or wait in line to check out. It’s a huge value-add for both parties, and one that will help ensure potential sales don’t walk right out the door.

Offer superior customer service

For those shoppers who prefer to try-before-they-buy, technology should enhance the in-person shopping experience – not replace it. Brick and mortar retailers need to focus their efforts on providing helpful, in-person advice and assistance, while also integrating the instant advantages of eCommerce into the in-aisle experience.

As always, the focus should remain on showcasing the product. After all, that’s what continues to draw customers to the store in the first place.

Connect with Stephen on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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