Showrooming is a growing phenomenon threatening to undermine the business model of virtually every store-based retailer from the small high street independent to the largest multiples.
Shoppers try out products in-store but buy them cheaper on the web, often using their smart phones while still on the retailer’s premises. Consumers search for product information, compare and evaluate offers and look for the best deals via price comparison websites.
Used to the immediacy of online retail channels, shoppers expect in-store personnel to be at least as informed and knowledgeable as they are, looking for the personalised service and care that differentiates in-store shopping. However, even the best-informed store assistant cannot amass detailed knowledge for each product available on the shelf without the help of mobile access to online information.
Showrooming poses a serious threat to in-store retail, but one that resellers can equip retailers to counter by taking full advantage of wireless infrastructure and mobile access to data and systems.
Until recently retailers have commonly deployed mobile devices for standard inventory management applications, but little else. By deploying a new breed of multi-function devices integrated with customer-centric applications, retailers can bridge the communication gap that has grown between between tech-savvy shoppers and offline store employees.
To engage with such demanding and connected customers, retailers’ staff need access to real-time information on product features, stock availability, prices and promotions, making them more effective and prepared to face and interact with the mobile-equipped shoppers.
By providing high performance wireless infrastructure across a retailer’s estate, with latest generation of compact mobile devices and powerful applications, resellers can empower retailers, their store staff and the virtual teams working across their networks.
Once mobilised, the sales assistant no longer has to leave the customer to go to a computer terminal in the backroom to find the correct answers. Immediately they can see if the item is available at another store, on the online channel or when it will be replenished and offer a direct delivery, or have it ready to be picked up the next day.
Transparency of customer data enables sales assistants to make personalised offers and advise on new offerings to complement previous purchases. With a mobile device in hand they can access vital information, such as brand preferences, sizes, names of family members or birthdays, or they can interact with shoppers by reading the mobile loyalty card or by redeeming mobile coupons stored on a shopper’s smart phone as digital QR codes.
Potentially sales assistants can also compare prices on the internet and make a counter-offer based on the margin of the product, or knowledge about planned promotions and the customer’s shopping history. They can also use the same multi-function mobile device as a mobile POS to complete the sales transaction on the spot.
For the retailer mobile technology can empower in-store staff to develop an enhanced and more productive relationship with customers. Suitably equipped, retailers can increase both in-store profitability and enhance the in-store customer shopping experience. Resellers of the latest mobile infrastructure and devices are therefore uniquely well-placed to help bricks and mortar retailers fight back in the battle against showrooming.
Enzo Capobianco is retail market development manager EMEA at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility
This was first published in November 2013