If there’s one predictable certainty about the upcoming holiday shopping season, it’s that online/offline shopping crossover will continue to grow. Thanks to smartphones, a lot of that cross-channel activity will happen in stores, when shoppers fire up their mobile browsers to conduct product research, check pricing, and look up coupons. While it may seem counterintuitive, merchants should encourage this “showrooming” behavior — and can still make last-minute tweaks to do so during the holidays.
The phenomenon of “showrooming” (whereby consumers consult online shopping resources via mobile devices while perusing items in physical stores) can seem threatening. With fully 82 percent of smartphone users saying they consult their devices while in stores about the purchases they’re considering, some of those shoppers are bound to find better deals elsewhere and leave the store empty-handed. But while a substantial portion of price-checkers do end up purchasing from a competitor, the majority go on to buy from the store they’re currently visiting. And there are a host of online research activities beyond price comparison that stimulate spending, such as perusing in-depth product specifications, checking reviews and ratings, and viewing product videos. All in all, those who consult online resources while shopping in stores convert at a 27 percent higher rate than those who do not, according to Deloitte.
Given this positive evidence, merchants are shedding their showrooming fears and increasingly promoting online access in stores. During the holidays, explicitly promoting tools to help shoppers find what they need — online as well as on store shelves — can differentiate merchants from their competitors and foster goodwill toward retail brands. And happily, even with a code freeze in effect on the eCommerce site, merchants can still implement these tweaks to highlight smooth in-store pathways to online resources.
No. 1: Test and optimize in-store Wi-Fi sign-on and welcome screens. Offering in-store Wi-Fi Internet access to shoppers can boost store sales by 2 percent, so the 39 percent of merchants who offer it should definitely promote the service with prominent signage. But to make the most of their Wi-Fi offerings, merchants should also test the sign-on process to ensure it works smoothly, looking to eliminate the collection of unnecessary demographic information up-front in favor of using the confirmation and welcome pages as an opportunity to encourage further engagement. In-store specials, store maps, loyalty club offerings, social media communities, and email or SMS signup can all be part of the mix on the opening screens of the Wi-Fi sign-in process, alerting shoppers to the merchants’ offerings both on-site and online.
No. 2: Train associates to make the most of what they’ve got. A recent Kibo study on the future of digital stores found that a healthy 77 percent of merchants equip their sales associates with mobile devices to enhance their interactions with shoppers. To ensure those devices are being put to good use, merchants should invest in training routines that ensure staff and seasonal workers alike are well-versed in mobile functionality and the speediest shortcuts to information. Additionally, in advance of key holiday shopping dates, merchants should have associates test scenarios and ensure that they can resolve issues such as out-of-stock merchandise or price comparison lookups. Even those without store-provided devices should be briefed on what’s available via the merchant’s eCommerce site, so that shoppers reaching for their phones can receive guidance from associates.
No. 3: Use signage to promote reviews and trending favorites. Customer reviews, long a staple of eCommerce sites, are now having an impact on offline sales, too: close to 40 percent of store shoppers report consulting online customer reviews while in the aisles. Merchants should highlight the availability of online review content in stores using signage that quotes review text and shelf talkers that flag top-rated items, with QR codes to provide a shortcut to further information online. Similarly, enhanced display for items that are frequently pinned or marked as favorites on social media can signal to shoppers that further ideas and inspiration can be found online. A featured display of top trending gift favorites can be refreshed daily to reflect top products and highlight the popularity of the store’s assortment.
Kibo merchant Cost Plus World Market flags popular items with a “Pinterest top trending pin” sign that lets shoppers know not only which store items are a hit on social media, but also alerts them to Cost Plus World Market social media content they can access to find additional product suggestions and pins from friends.
How are you encouraging online activity in stores?