When customers browse for products in stores then buy them later from online competitors at a lower price, it's called "showrooming." That practice has been viewed by retailers as a competitive threat, but new mobile technologies now promise to turn showrooming into a new customer-outreach opportunity.
Because most people keep mobile devices within reach at all times, mobile offers a prime channel for capitalizing on the showrooming process.
New mobile processes can enable retailers to reach showrooming consumers on their devices with relevant, real-time marketing offers while they are looking at in-store products and considering the best ways to purchase them.
The result is that what may have been a later sale on a competitor's website can be turned into an immediate in-store sale for the retailer.
Here are three specific reasons why mobile should be used to capitalize on showrooming.
1. Mobile is fast becoming a primary channel for shopping
More people are using smartphones, and a growing percentage of them shop on them.
By late 2014, nearly two-fifths of all mobile users were projected to have been using a smartphone, and by 2017, nearly 50% of users will be.
What's more, by 2016, mobile commerce worldwide is predicted to soar to $87 billion, or roughly a quarter of all e-commerce.
Moreover, mobile offers a prime channel to intercept showroomers with targeted marketing deals at the moment they are browsing products in a retail outlet.
2. Mobile enables personalized outreach through the use of mobile context data
Retailers should embrace showrooming because of the development of a new asset called "mobile context." This asset allows retailers—with the explicit opt-in of mobile users—to gain insight into users' patterns and preferences, then act on this data to personalize offers to them. Preferences can include where users like to go, what products they like to purchase, and how they like to be contacted.
New processes now let mobile operators broker the data accumulated about their subscribers with companies that wish to purchase the right to use that information to better serve customer segments.
That data offers retailers a powerful resource to reach showroomers. Using data, retailers can engage those interested in-store consumers—at the mobile moment when they're forming a decision. Content can include microtargeted sale offers, special loyalty rewards, in-store events news, and on-the-spot customer service.
One example of a retailer that has successfully used mobile context is Macy's, which was just named the 2014 Mobile Retailer of the Year by Mobile Commerce Daily magazine. Macy's has been an early adopter of beacons (small wireless devices that broadcast radio signals to communicate such information as sales offers and loyalty rewards notifications to nearby smartphones and tablets of opted-in users). Last fall, the retailer extended a beacon pilot program to all its stores.
3. Mobile offers customer engagement through multiple channels
New mobile channels through apps and social media have combined with traditional channels, such as messaging and email, to present multiple ways for retailers to communicate with customers.
What's more, new technologies let a sequence of mobile channels to be automatically activated to deliver messages in a strategic order. At the same time, those technologies offer consumers to power to select and personalize the way that they want to be communicated to by favorite brands.
Retailers also can use text messages, emails, push notifications, and social media updates to tailor message delivery to what they determine to be the most effective way to reach showroomers.
For example, an electronics retailer sends a push notification with a special discount offer to consumers detected inside one of the retailer's stores (and who have opted in to receive these communications). If a consumer doesn't respond, the message can be automatically re-sent—according to the retailer's strategy or to a customer's preferences—through an email, a text, or other mobile channel.
As a result, mobile offers a way to reach showroomers through multiple channels at the mobile moment.
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With the increasing amount of mobile users and mobile shoppers, the capability to cater to individual preferences with mobile context data, and the multiple channels of mobile able to reach users, retailers can take what a possible later sale on a competitor's website and turn it into an immediate in-store opportunity.