Marketing to Women: Showrooming and the Holidays

September 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Showrooming” is all the talk among retailers as the holiday shopping season approaches.  Showrooming is the practice of shopping in a physical store and then buying online.  It has become a concern for retailers because of the proliferation of mobile devices that allow comparison shopping to be as near as your smartphone.  A fact for those marketing to women:  some 45.9% of online shoppers have engaged in showrooming.

Recent research by Exact Target says that 44% of customers use mobile to shop in-store, and a similar number (45%) said they would leave the store to buy online when the online price was 2.5% lower.  At 5% lower, 60% said they would leave.

But retailers with mobile sites and apps should take heart.  New research from Foresee surveyed more than 4,000 customers who had visited the top 20 retailers’ mobile site or used their app within a two-week period.  Research showed that 59% of the mobile devices were being used from home and 16% while preparing to visit a store.  Those most likely to use mobile sites or apps   are those more familiar with the brand.  So brand is still important no matter where the shopping is taking place.

What can a retailer do to prepare for this retail season?

1.  Remember that your brand is still important.  Many things make up a brand. A differentiated shopping experience is a draw to consumers.  Unique product selection, smaller stores, unrivaled customer service, personal shopping, pick-up service, in-store demonstrations/classes and personalization can be important components of your brand.   Target pushes its suppliers to offer exclusive products that can’t be found elsewhere. It also has quadrupled the number of items available online and is sending special coupons directly to customers’ mobile phones.Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is emphasizing in-store pickups for online orders—many available the same day they are purchased—allowing customers to avoid shipping fees.  Lululemon offers a unique lifestyle brand.

2. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile.  Do you have a website optimized for mobile?  Do you have a full selection of your products and services online?  If comparison shopping is going on, you must have a full complement of products for that comparison.  Email and text messaging are strong methods of communication.  Big box retailers like Target, Walmart and Home Depot are developing indoor navigation tools for shopping.  Walgreen’s customers can make a shopping list and the items will be spotted in a store map.

3.  Pricing and Value.  Okay, so you know that the real competition is online.  Is it all about pricing?  Well, if your goods are not unique, curated to your shopper and part of a branded look and feel, then yes, it is all price.   Online sales still represent only about 8% of total retail sales in the U.S.—but that is up from just 2% in 2000. Amazon ranked as the 13th largest retailer in the U.S., up from 19th one year ago. By the end of this year,  retail analysts expect Amazon to rank 10th, replacing Best Buy on the top ten list.  And Amazon prices are 9-14% lower than most retailers.


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