How Brick-and-Mortar Stores Can Succeed In The Face of Showrooming

Showrooming is something you and I have probably both done guilt-free — we visit a physical store to ooh-and-aah at products we’re interested in, but swipe our cards elsewhere online. We’re enticed by the luxuries of online shopping, which often include competitive prices and bundled discounts for items of interest.

It doesn’t help that traditional retailers have had a rough few years. Trust in brick-and-mortar stores was considerably rattled by events such as the recent Target, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus data breaches, which only compromised the personal information of in-store shoppers, leaving online customers in the clear. Online stores also have a considerable edge in personalization since they can easily use customer viewing and shopping history to tailor landing pages.

Brick-and-mortar stores need ways to keep up with the growth of the online shopping world — and they need it fast. Some retailers are discovering a new surge in “reverse showrooming,” or “webrooming,” where consumers go online to research products, but then head to a bricks-and-mortar store to complete their purchase. What’s clear is that there are ways to reverse the showrooming trend, and many stores are beginning to use the power of customer data to turn the tide and revive their businesses. Here’s how you can get started:

Let Customers Drive All The Details

If shoppers can hunt for all their needs online from the comfort of their homes, what pushes them out the door and to your store? Consumers aren’t just interested in low prices anymore. If they were, online giants like Amazon wouldn’t continue to roll out unique iniatives, such as the Treasure Truck. What consumers want is consistently impressive and memorable experiences. Retailers like Madewell and Lululemon, for example, offer free in-store hemming. Book People, a local Austin bookstore, lines its shelves with staff members’ handwritten reviews and recommendations. Grocery giant Whole Foods offers free yoga classes in the summer at select locations.

So what details should a retailer include in-store? Let the customers tell you. Using customer demographic data can help retailers identify the specific interests of their various audiences and help align in-store experiences specifically to consumer taste. Customer data can help determine everything from the type of activities a store could offer to the specific food samples that would resonate well. Small details that are data-driven can augment shopping from a simple transaction to a sought out, enjoyable event.

Harmoniously Co-Exist With Online Shopping

Online shopping is here to stay, so find ways to harmoniously co-exist with the e-tail world. While slow to catch up with the online shopping revolution, many brick-and-mortar retailers are starting to leverage technology to reinvent the in-store customer experience. Interactive digital displays, touchscreens, digital storefronts, magic mirrors, virtual dressing rooms and in-store kiosks (to order out-of-stock items) are transforming how consumers interact with products in physical stores. 

Online shopping is simple, so create services that ease the in-store experience. Clothing reservation systems, which have been rolled out by retailers like American Eagle and Banana Republic, allow customers to reserve items from home so that their selection is ready upon arrival to the store. This allows for conveniences such as quick try-on, gift wrapping capabilities for gifts needed day-of, and a lot of saved time.

Other than offering a very personalized convenience to shoppers, a feature like this can allow retailers to tap into collected data to determine what items are popular as gifts or even what items are appealing online but don’t sell well in person. Data like this could be used to strategically group and place products in store or even to improve an unsuccessful product. Additionally, this data could be coupled with the power of beacon technology, which has been picked up by a number of retailers to aid in shopping personalization and data collection.

While the widespread use of cutting edge technologies such as in-store facial recognition are probably quite aways off, demoralized brick-and-mortars can still create a personalized and seamless shopping experience through the untapped potential of customer data.