Retailers’ Survival Guide To Webrooming

With 88% of shoppers saying they research online and then buy in-store (webrooming), and 76% of shoppers saying they research in-store and then buy online (showrooming), retailers who can deliver real-time retail through seamless omni-channel experiences will reap the biggest rewards. I promised -- at the end of my last post -- about webrooming -- to tell you how today's leading retailers are maximizing and coordinating their omni-channel connections, not just to keep customers coming into their stores, but to ultimately buy from you.

To turn webrooming into their advantage, brick and mortar retailers need a unified marketing approach across all these channels -- online, in-store, mobile, social, catalog, etc. -- to create more in-store transactions -- each facet playing a vital part in the omni-channel picture.

Why Customers Webroom:

1. Customers can go online, conduct research, identify the exact products they want, price shop, then go to the store and get it.  

2. Customers can go into the store and get advice from salespeople, try items on, and touch and feel items to know the quality of what they intend to buy.

3. Via mobile (smartphone, tablet), customers can identify and learn about products online and in stores that are located nearby.  

To compete strongly in all of these channels, retailers need to appeal to consumers in the following ways:

-- Retailers have to strengthen brand identity across all channels. People who are webrooming should have consistent, familiar shopping experiences whether visiting your website, reading an email or coupon offer, browsing your social network pages, or visiting your brick and mortar location.

-- Retailers need to beef up their online sites to increase customer responsiveness,    

-- Online, retailers need to optimize their sites for search, especially local search, so that the buyers doing research online will be more likely to visit their store.

-- Whether webroomers are on your site OR in your store, retailers need to motivate them to provide you with their data, subscribe to email or text updates, follow your brand on social networks, and use retargeting tools to re-engage webroomers when they are ready to make a purchase.

-- Offer coupons or specials online to be redeemed IN the store.

 Meanwhile, in the store itself:

For the customer, today's retail stores are not only about "acquiring," but also about "experience and entertainment," writes Janet Valenza in "Turning Showrooming To The Retailer's Advantage." The most exciting stores have the best merchandising and the best experiences, she notes.

Another thing that consumers want is stress-free shopping, and say they would choose webrooming (shopping in your store) for the following reasons:

-- It's easier to return a product to the actual store.

-- It's preferable to physically see, feel, smell, use or try on an item before making a purchase.

-- To receive authoritative, hands-on advice from sales staff to find the best items.

Here are some of the effective ways store retailers are getting customers to come in -- and buy:

1. Offer free Wi-Fi so customers can research costs on site.

2. Be very aware of what customers are seeing, smelling and hearing in your store.  

3. Offer tactile experiences which are a key selling point and for closing the sale.

4. Reassure customers that they can return things hassle-free, whether bought online or in-store.

5. Encourage product testing.  

6. Avoid returns in the first place with knowledgeable customer service, expert advice directing the customer to the product that best suits their needs.

7. Provide summaries of up-to-date Internet reviews INSIDE the store. Remember, 85% of modern-day shoppers research products before buying.  

8. Brick and mortar retailers are partnering with online retailers to bring more business into the store without incurring any additional financial risk, a win-win for both parties.  

Retailers can test new categories, like adding jewelry and accessories to a shoe or clothing line. Brick and mortars displaying product samples of e-commerce brands give customers an opportunity to physically experience or sample the products, the store helps take orders and shares in the results.

It pays for the store to have staff or a trained store associate present to help customers, help them order, use a mobile app to close a sale.

For example, Nordstrom recently renewed its partnership agreement with Blue Nile, to continue to carry the online phenomenon's jewelry. Then, Nordstrom just bought Chicago-Based Trunk Club, a strong and popular internet-based service that sends its customers trunks of clothing and accessories to try on and choose at home, buy and keep the pieces they want, and return what they don't want.  

BONUS: Another bonus of working with partners is that retailers will gain new customer information to add to their own database.     

Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line

These are just some of the ways today's leading retailers are blurring channels, encouraging and increasing customer visits to the store -- thereby increasing purchases and profit while staving off the competition that includes online nemesis, Amazon.  

Remember, most webroomers are trying to find the best value (not just the lowest price), so retailers must communicate features, benefits and value they provide in the store over and above that of competitors.

That's why close coordination and seamlessness of on-line, in-store, and mobile is imperative. I'll tell you more in Part 3 of this blog post.

Sources:

CNBC, Courtney Reagan, CNBC Retail Reporter, in Retailers, this is the trend to watch: Webrooming.

Retailing Today: Boston Retail Partners study described in Omni-channel Re-invention Widespread At Retail   

Retail Online Integration, Turning Showrooming To The Retailer's Advantage 

dB Squared, Is Webrooming Helping -- Or Hurting -- Your Business? 

Business News Daily, Why Webrooming Could Bring Customers Back Into Stores

 

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Amos Peleg, Co-Founder & CEO

About Author

Amos Peleg co-founded Upstream Commerce following 15 years of leadership roles in operations and global team management in the software industry. At Mercado Software – later acquired by Omniture, Inc. (now Adobe) – Amos served as General Manager of Mercado Labs and was responsible for the company’s operations. Mercado Software, a provider of advanced merchandising solutions, counted among its customers Macy’s, John Lewis, Williams-Sonoma, Argos, Overstock, Guess and Sears. Prior to Mercado, as Director of Small-Business Technology Platforms at SAP, Amos managed the group responsible for international engineering programs. Previously, at Check Point Software Technologies, he drove the technical development of two core products and was responsible for the conception, architecture, development, and market delivery of all new products. Amos holds a M.Sc. degree in Computer Science from the Weizmann Institute of Science and a B.Sc. in Physics and Computer Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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