Stop me if you have heard this one—a shopper walks into a store looking for a specific product. They handle the item, try it on, or even consult a store associate about the product. Then, they simply walk out the door and buy the product online, or they purchase the item on their smart phone while in the store. Let me guess, you have heard it before?

Showrooming is the practice of visiting brick-and-mortar stores to research a product before buying it online. A recent study found that a third of adult U.S. shoppers regularly showroom and buy products from online retailers while in brick-and-mortar stores. The emergence of the mobile device as a shopping tool is allowing retailers to connect with shoppers who may be showrooming in their stores and benefit on this consumers’ use of smart phones.

Mobile: The new normal

Mobile devices have fully integrated themselves into modern society so much so that their use is almost second nature to the majority of consumers. The number of smartphones in use is expected to cross the 1 billion mark by 2015.  Mobile devices are completely redefining modern culture and one area in particular—the retail shopping experience. Consumers now have access to the wealth of the internet, literally at their fingertips. Shoppers can look at photos of clothing on their friends, see products people are talking about, and even get a quick review of a movie, all from the Facebook app on their smart phone. A consumer can even read reviews of different products and make their purchase decision based-on those reviews while standing in the shopping aisle.

How should retailers respond to showrooming? Recognize that worlds are now united and design your shopping experience to embrace both the physical and digital realms as one—especially via mobile.

The use of mobile devices by consumers is only going to increase. By adding mobile to their other channels of communication, retailers are speaking directly to consumers on the devices they are using in-store. This multi-channel approach allows retailers like The Home Depot to make the best of a practice that has other retailers scrambling to deter.

More saving, more doing

The Home Depot is a great example of a retailer who is working to engage with consumers using their brick-and-mortar locations as a showroom. The Home Depot has been constantly innovating in the mobile space since 2010. Recently they have introduced a significant mobile redesign that integrated location based technology in smart phones.

Now The Home Depot has the ability to send location specific coupons and promotions to consumers in a physical store. The Home Depot’s mobile site gives shoppers access to real-time store inventory, pricing, and aisle-location for merchandise in the store.  This integration with store inventory allows shoppers to order items that are out of stock for pick-up later at the store—all via smart phones.  The Home Depot’s new mobile site now features more than 1,000 how-to videos optimized for their mobile shoppers doing research in-store. This type of rich mobile offering keeps the DIY shoppers of The Home Depot interacting with the retailers across multiple points of the shopping process.

Not everyone has the resources of a big box retailer the size of The Home Depot. But all brick-and-mortar retailers can take a lesson from their mobile and omnichannel strategy. Mobile optimized sites are an absolute must for any brand, but retailers specifically need to be conscious of their mobile presence. The devices in people’s pockets is not a barrier to sales, it’s a window. Mobile devices are the new norm for retail shoppers. Integrating marketing communications strategies with smart phone technology is a powerful method of reaching consumers. Mobile devices can connect retailers with shoppers and keep shopper’s attention on their brand. And off a competitor’s site!

Eager to know more about ROBO and omnichannel success? Check out our updated research in this 2016 blog post: Recognize your full ROI now: quantifying your offline impact.

  • Carol Spieckerman

    My pleasure, Brent! You might enjoy my in-depth interview with Nadia Shouraboura, former Amazon supply chain guru and CEO of Hointer. A great example, not just of groovy mobile shopping capabilities but also of how to tether shoppers to mobile apps, mitigate showrooming and own mobile engagement in the in-store environment.
    http://www.newmarketbuilders.com/voices-retailnxt/

  • JOE LAZER

    Great post Brent, retailers that embrace the online/mobile and take an omnichannel approach will do well in the near future, however retailers that think ahead, innovate and adapt in an changing industry will stay in business longer than those that stick to methods that have worked in the past. I work for McGladrey and there is a whitepaper on our website
    that aligns well with this article, it talks about the future of retail and what retailers can do to grow in a post recessionary economy, readers will find it interesting.
    Thinking about tomorrow: Post-recession strategies for retailers

  • Brent Robinson

    Carol,

    Thank you very much for the comment and you make a very interesting point about passivity. I agree that as the divide between the digital and physical retail space shrinks. We will start to see a much more proactive use of mobile tech by retailers. The Apple store is a great example of this. Thanks again for the comment.

    -Brent

  • Carol Spieckerman

    As the article pointed out, the usual showrooming model has shoppers in a store and surfing competitors’ websites. Breaking that habit, and steering mobile engagement toward own-branded mobile apps will require proactive tactics.

    The biggest opportunity for retailers is to drive awareness for, and engagement with, their apps as soon as shoppers darken their doorways rather than taking a “build it and they will come” stance. To that end, it would make sense for retailers to station greeters at entrances and make them available to walk shoppers through the download process and/or provide an overview of functionality. For retailers like Walmart that already have greeters, this would simply be a training step.

    Passivity may be driving impressive “plus over nothing” statistics but think how much better it could be.
    Carol Spieckerman
    http://www.newmarketbuilders.com
    @retailxpert