How 'Showrooming' Can Help, Not Hurt, Bricks and Mortar Retail

Retailers Are Using Consumer Mobile Devices to Offer a Great In-Store Experience

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As more shoppers use mobile devices while they shop, brick-and-mortar retailers need to be maximizing every customer touch point throughout the store. But retailers aren't so enthused about doing this, because of a little word called "showrooming." That's when customers use a phone to compare prices online to in-store prices, and then leave the showroom to buy online.

Last year, showrooming was labeled as the final blow to struggling brick-and-mortar retailers. But the impact of showrooming may not be as devastating to brick-and-mortars as originally thought. A recent IBM study showed that in 2013 only about 30% of online purchases resulted from showrooming -- a drop from nearly 50% in 2012.

How is it possible that the use of smartphones and tablets while shopping continues to increase, yet showrooming activity dropped? The answer lies in the in-store customer experience. Instead of fighting the mobile trend, leading retailers are using consumer mobile devices to their advantage.

Personalized offers, quick purchasing capabilities, convenience and changing consumer habits are the main reasons for the explosion of online shopping. With consumers relying on mobile, retailers have an opportunity to directly reach customers in-store and provide them with a personalized experience that is similar to what they get online.

For example, with location-based technology, marketers can engage with customers while they are in-store and provide them with personalized offers on the item they are looking at or mobile-only promotions as they walk by a store. Personalized mobile notifications can turn browsers into buyers.

Price comparing is a major driver behind showrooming. However, more and more brick-and-mortars offer price matching for customers.

Moosejaw Mountaineering, a retailer specializing in outdoor gear and apparel, has sales associates help in-store shoppers find the products they want in the aisles or through a mobile device and match competitive prices, fulfill orders and get delivery directly to their homes. Moosejaw blurs the lines between the physical world of in-store shopping with digital channels and delivers a holistic shopping experience for consumers.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 42% of consumers using a mobile device while in-store spend more than $1,000, while only 21% of shoppers without a phone spend as much. Using showrooming and mobile devices as an avenue to deliver a great in-store customer experience is paving the way for the next generation of brick-and-mortar retailers.

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