What steps can high-street retailers take to prevent ‘show rooming’?

top man topmanIn a world where shopping is increasingly done online, retailers are having to improve their in-store experience so they can once again make their stores more attractive. But this isn’t enough; 52% of consumers now use their mobile phones in-store to guide their purchasing decisions and will then leave the store and buy the products online (Canvas 8, May 2013).

This trend, known as ‘show rooming’, is a rising concern across the wider retail industry as mobile devices become ubiquitous, and shops are beginning to take steps to combat it, however more can be yet be done.

Increasing numbers of bricks and mortar retailers are responding to show rooming by enhancing the knowledge provided and improving the face-to-face experience in-store. Consumer electronics brands have been very quick to capitalise on this trend, such as Apple’s ‘Genius Bar’. Both M&S and Reiss now have iPads in select stores so if an item is out of stock you can purchase it straight away online; thus minimising the risk of lost sales due to stock issues.

Personally, and I know others might feel the same way, I hate shopping. The chaos, the uncertainty, the sheer amount of choice and the pressure to get something (to compensate for the time spent) hardly make it an alluring experience for me. However this is not a rant against in-store shopping. With a growing number of consumers like myself rejecting the muddled and uncertain ‘wisdom’ of the crown and seeking out truly authoritative voices for guidance, I was interested to experience how UK brands are deploying a free (no obligation to buy) personal shopping experience for all.

Traditionally, personal shopping has been aimed at the cash-rich and style-conscious who can commit to a minimum spend. I always thought a personal shopping experience could only be offered by high-end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges, so I was intrigued to hear that retailers such as Debenhams and Topman have launched this service recently and was pleasantly surprised by the service offered. The standard of personal service before and during the appointment was high. For someone who isn’t a big shopping fan, I found the personalised recommendations and time saving to be invaluable.

Most importantly however, my brand perception of both Debenhams and Topman increased, and I would be more likely to buy from them again regardless of whether it would be offline or online.

The power of expertise and guidance shouldn’t be underestimated, and this should be applied across both offline and online channels so that brands have a good chance of staying front of mind wherever customers are in their journey. However, why stop there? The personal shopping experience could be enhanced even further using the power of digital as follows:

  • Getting to know the style consultants online before the appointment, potentially using video chat or through social media
  • Enhancing the private area with a tablet / touchscreen to browse the latest catalogue, order snacks / drinks directly from the restaurant and play / control music while the customer is trying on different items
  • Having the ability to get friends and family to provide real time feedback by video call
  • Receiving advice and recommendations post visit, e.g. a follow up email with further personalised recommendations, ideas and a summary would be a nice touch as well as the ability to sign up to a monthly newsletter
  • Integrating offline / online customer data so your browsing and shopping behaviours online are fed into offline and vice versa
  • Incentives to recommend a friend or share experience through social media

Ultimately, retailers need to create an engaging cross-channel user experience from initial awareness right through to service; pre, during and post visit. They should also plan for continual improvement to stay competitive and attractive to consumers.

Paresh Gandhi is a consultant at digital agency Rockpool.