With the emergence of e-commerce as a formidable channel of retail cannibalizing store sales, showrooming rose from being an “industry buzzword” to something that every brick and mortar retailer had to carefully observe. But is it really as bleak as it sounds for brick and mortar retail? – Let us scratch beneath the surface and look beyond buzzwords that seem to dominate conference conversations and examine the reality.
While there is no denying that online sales are growing fast, it is important to take notice of some key aspects that drive higher conversion rates in brick and mortar stores and will continue to do so – at least for some very important product categories. Over the last couple of months, retail industry observers have begun highlighting the emergence of a new trend; Webrooming or ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline).
Here are 3 reasons why brick and mortar retail will not give in very easily to online retail:
1. The Confidence of “Try, Touch and Feel”
For most product categories, experiencing a product in-store has its own benefits. While the experience piece is true of apparel retail categories, the confidence of buying the right products is important in a grocery retail scenario. According to various Forrester Forecasts, direct online sales will account for 10%-11% of the total sales in retail. And this number goes up to 15% if we exclude grocery. Which clearly shows that certain categories (books, electronics) are the ones riding the “online retail wave”. For pretty much everyone else, brick and mortar is the preferred channel of choice. While categories like books and electronics might find it easier to penetrate the customers’ share of wallet, apparel and grocery might be the ones that brick and mortar hold on to strongly.
2. Disruption in In-Store Technologies
Multiple areas are experiencing substantial interest in in-store technologies. From shopper tracking to geo-location, wifi-enabled environments, digital trial rooms and digital signage – this is where the action is. Solutions like in-store tablets and clienteling, which offer a single view of the customer at the hands of the store associate, are leading to very personalized retail experiences in-store. And let us remember, this engagement is by a real human being who communicates with the consumer one-on-one, and can use technology to appear to know what the consumer wants, without actually knowing the consumer personally!
3. Retail Stores Leveraging Omni-Channel Data
Retailers are beginning to realize the importance of not letting organizational silos disrupt the customer experience. It is thus, no more about “departments”, a la e-commerce, marketing and store operations. Rather it is about capturing customer-centric data from all channels – transactional (e-commerce, in-store) and non-transactional (web, social media and location data) and converting them into insights that are “usable” at the right time, at the moment of truth. By knowing what products customers searched for online, added to their wish lists, and which brands they recommended/shared with their friends, retailers can ensure store associates bring those up in conversation and help “fulfill a customer need” rather than “sell products to meet incentives.”
Each of these 3 reasons point in one direction: customers might (probably will) use the internet for research on a lot of products, but they still will choose to finally buy in-store. And even if they don’t, there is enough data and intelligence out there that can be leveraged to drive that purchase.
Whether ‘Webrooming’ becomes as dominant as ‘Showrooming’ remains to be seen. Regardless though, with increasing amounts of technology and intelligence at the hands of the brick and mortar stores, the evolution of retail sales and retail customer engagement is going to be immersed in activity! Stay Tuned!