Retail Innovation? Try Embracing Showrooming

2005Mar-AustinTypeTour-137 - Roadhouse Relics - Visit Our ShowroomYou know what it is like … you see an item online. It’s a great deal – a special price and a coupon code. That credit card is burning a hole in your desk. But in the back of your mind is that one lingering doubt … will it fit.

So what do you do? You “showroom” – you go in-store to check the item for size, fit, colour or texture. You do your “shopping” in-store and you make your purchase online. This practice is known as “showrooming” and a recent article suggests that retailers have some work to do to avoid falling victim to this new shopping trend. Retail software vendor, CrossView, suggest that cross-channel retailing is the answer.

And there is big business at stake – with more than one in two Australian shoppers aged over 15 now shopping online. PwC and Frost & Sullivan predict that 2012 online spending levels will hit $16 billion – and will grow at a compounded growth rate of 14.1% through 2016. But these figures don’t include travel, events, financial services or media downloads.

This is backed up not only by spending but by brand awareness and customer engagement via social media. According to SocialBakers.com, Australians love online shopping – with Fashion, eCommerce and FMCG industries ranking the top three Australian Facebook pages in the year up to July 2012.

And it is this convergence of eCommerce and social media – in what we can loosely call “social commerce” – that is potentially a game changer for retail. For decades we have seen an entrenched refusal of Australian retailers to invest in the kind of digital experimentation required to lead to breakthrough innovation. This, in turn, left gaping holes in the market – which benefited companies like Apple and Amazon.

But if we look to emerging consumer behaviour we can see not only threat but opportunity. What if retailers were to embrace showrooming? What if, rather than discouraging it through restrictive in-store policies and management – retailers owned, encouraged and transformed the customer experience so that it was EASY for shoppers to showroom.

After all, if the social web has taught us anything in the last decade it is that consumerisation crushes all obstacles.

Comments

  1. I’ve been doing this for years, but for different reasons.
    I’m at the tall/skinny end of the size charts, so it isn’t unusual to only have a couple pair of pants to try on in a major store. I find one that fits and either go to customer service to order the color I want or note the item number and find it online.
    If I get a price break, bonus. But the practice makes sense. What percentage of Apple Store (physical) customers later buy online?

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