“Showrooming” in Reverse How Online Shopping and Research Can Benefit a Bricks-and-Mortar Business

One of the biggest threats to brick-and-mortar retailers in 2012 is “Showrooming”: consumers who walk into a store with a smartphone to look at merchandise and make use of the expertise of the staff… and then make their purchase online from Internet retailer at a lower price.

Conventional wisdom holds that because of the “Showrooming” phenomenon, the Internet is a huge threat to bricks and mortar retailers. There is a great deal of validity to this argument, but an interesting counter-argument has emerged:

Dan Kennedy’s marketing newsletter tipped me off to an article in Internet Retailer Magazine about the opposite phenomenon. The article discusses Patagonia, who saw a great deal of traffic to their iPad app without a corresponding jump in sales via the tablet. Mark Shimahara, Patagonia’s Internet Marketing Manager, initially thought that there was a problem with the app itself.

 “But after talking with store managers,” he says, “we realized that people were using the phone application to do their window shopping and would show up at our stores with the device in hand and product on their screens, saying, ‘Do you have this in stock?’ It’s a great example of how we are entering the age of omnichannel marketing.”

Staples Inc. faces a similar situation, though involving small-business owners, the office supply chain’s core customers, says Brian Tilzer, vice president of e-commerce and business development. He says small businesses increasingly use Apple and Android smartphones and even tablets to research products, check inventory and otherwise prepare for what he calls the “in-store shopping experience.”

30% of consumers, the article reports, begin their product search and research on Amazon.com, while another 13% begin that search on Google. Some will buy online, but others will wind up into an honest-to-goodness bricks and mortar store. Maybe yours.

Conclusion? For local business, Internet shopping is both a threat and an opportunity. To make it pay off, you need to have:

  • A strong online presence. Even if you are not selling over the Internet, you need to be easily found on the Internet.
  • The inventory, staff expertise, and customer centric mindset necessary to convert those Internet window shoppers into paying customers when they walk into your store.
  • The ability, and the willingness, to aggressively capture customer contact information when they visit your business in person or call on the phone.
  • The ability, and the willingness, to follow up with those customers after you have captured their contact information.


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