There’s a relatively recent phenomenon called “Showrooming” that’s becoming a concern for retailers. In a nutshell, this is the practice of some consumers of going into a physical store to do research and then making the purchase elsewhere, generally online. Given today’s technology, those purchases can even happen in the store via a mobile device. A piece from eMarketer quoted a couple of studies that found this is not a hypothetical problem for retailers:
Several researchers have surveyed the number of US mobile phone users who have comparison-shopped via phone while in-store. Their research has found a comparison-shopping rate ranging from 59% of US smartphone owners (InsightExpress, 2011) to 25% of US mobile phone owners (Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 2012).
ForeSee Results findings from between 2009 and 2011 are consistent with this trend toward using mobile phones for in-store research; however, in 2011, the shoppers surveyed were more likely to access the website or app of the store they were actually in than a competitor’s website or app. This means that retailers need to not only be concerned about how their pricing stacks up against others’, but also about pricing consistency across their own channels.
This is sort of the same issue faced by music companies who are trying to sell physical media like CD‘s while enabling the purchase of the same product through digital channels. The retailers need to differentiate themselves in ways that make doing business with them valuable beyond price. Customer service, ease of returns, unique merchandise or unique offers are all areas that can be differentiators. Target has reached out to vendors to do just that, and others are as well.
So the question to you today is this: what are you doing to make sure that your business is different? We can go back to the old advertising saw of the Unique Selling Proposition – as we find in this space a lot, everything old really is new again or at least wrapped in new tools.