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Expert: Why showrooming may not be the Big, Bad Wolf
Buzz may be increasing about the 'evils' of mobile showrooming - visiting a store, then buying online - but one expert cautions that showrooming has always been the case for retailers to an extent. Even when there were only two stores in a given town shoppers could browse one and buy from another, he notes. The key, as always, is to put customer service first.
Kristina: Are offline brands responding well to the trend? Or too slowly?
Jeff Weidauer, Vice President, Marketing & Strategy, Vestcom International, INC: For the most part the response has been slow, and not very strategic. Too many retailers have focused on controlling the behavior in stores via unique products, rather than trying to understand the cause of the behavior.
Kristina: How can offline brands compete when shoppers come in, compare and then leave?
Jeff: This is really the heart of the matter. Nothing has really changed; shoppers have always had the ability to visit one store and buy from another. In fact, recent research shows that Walmart remains a much bigger threat than Amazon for the typical retailer.
The way to compete is by knowing your shoppers better, offering fair (but not necessarily the lowest) prices, and perhaps most important, having knowledgeable people available. How this is executed will vary by retail category, but shoppers above all are looking for information, which is what drives them online to begin with.
Kristina: For decades, retail's motto has been customer service - does customer service still matter or is it all about the price-point now?
Jeff: Customer service still rules, but it takes more than just a smile (although that's important). Today excellent customer service consists of having enough helpful people who are a) available to shoppers, b) know what they are talking about, and c) can offer insights and information about the products that are relevant to the shopper.
Kristina: What are your top three tips for offline merchants?
Jeff: Invest in people. Hire smart people with a passion for the products you sell. (e.g., Apple, Whole Foods, Nordstrom). Invest in information. Study your customers and learn what they want, where they are buying, and what their motivations are. (e.g., Kroger, Target). Focus on the big picture. Most likely other offline merchants are still the biggest competitive threat, so look at showrooming as part of the competitive set you deal with everyday rather than some unique, unsolvable problem.
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