Goodbye Brick-and-Mortar v. Online, and Hello Omnichannel Delivery
By Aaron Rudger | April 11, 2014
It’s become common to many of us. We may research a products or prices online then make the trip to the store to buy. We also visit a store but use our mobile devices to comparison shop right there before making a purchase from a smartphone browser or app. The former is called “reverse showrooming or webrooming, the latter is called “showrooming”. Either way it’s the new comparison shopping.
According to a recent Gallup poll, forty percent of Americans say they have visited a retail store just to obtain information about a product with the specific intention of buying the product later online. The merging of online and in-store shopping, which SAP recently dubbed “omni-commerce,” offers unprecedented levels of information and flexibility to consumers. For retailers it drives home the need to be ready for, and take advantage of, new tools and platforms that empower their associates to make more sales.
Showrooming and web rooming are only threats in an outdated view of the retail landscape. Retailers can no longer think of themselves as belonging to a brick and mortar, ecommerce, or mcommerce channel. Instead they need to adopt a holistic approach to attracting and earning the business of the modern consumer.
Resistance is Futile
The basic concept is not new. Comparison shopping is as old as the marketplace. But for retailers, the implications of showrooming and “reverse showrooming” are clear. Shoppers are no longer wedded to either offline or online purchases, but to a hybrid of both.
We like the research capabilities of the Internet, but we also want to touch, try on, and test out the product in person before making the final purchase. We might also have some questions that would be best answered by an in-store associate. Or maybe we like online chat.
For some going into a brick-and-mortar retail location to see the actual product and then seeking out the best deal to purchase online is a no-brainer. The options are endless.
RSR Research recently looked at this development – What Are Retailers Doing with Mobile Technologies - and the need for retailers to embrace this hybrid model.
To counter the showrooming threat, many brick-and-mortar retailers have tried to compete with online retailers by slashing their own prices. But this assumes that price is the only factor customers consider when making a purchase.
Others, such as Target, offer exclusive products that can't be found online, or at other bricks and mortar retailers. Target has also quadrupled the number of items that it offers for sale online and is has begun targeting mobile customers by sending coupons and special offers straight to their phones. Similarly, Wal-Mart offers in-store pickups for online orders – often available the same day they are purchased - allowing customers to avoid shipping fees and not have to wait for delivery.
What’s any retailer to do? Embrace it. Resistance is futile.
Whether consumers complete a purchase online or in person, all channels now play an important – and complementary - role in the buyer’s journey.
Technology now allows a wide variety of ways to enhance the consumer’s experience and the retailer’s upside. Location awareness helps direct consumers to local outlets or location-specific offers. Roll into that SMS couponing, QR codes, recommended product bundling ideas for greater cross-sell and integrating in-store signage with promotional activity. Retailers can capture point of purchase sales and merchandising via mobile, proactively offering options rather than leaving consumers to find their own alternatives.
Physical retailers still have much to offer and can co-exist with online competition by embracing their own online/offline synergy to create added value: an exciting in-store experience, knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pick-up of online orders, targeted mobile discounts and coupons, and exclusive in-store promotions.
At Keynote, we believe that preparing for this new reality offers opportunities for all retailers. The channels have become blurred. What matters is delivering a seamless, connected experience across online experiences – whether desktop, tablet or smartphone – through to being in the store.
This means making sure that desktop and mobile websites, plus mobile apps, work around the clock. For online retailers, high-levels of site performance are simply a given. It translates to revenue and returning customers.
Additionally, the line between online and offline continues to blur, with many traditional bricks and mortar retailers now offering much of their inventory online (think Target, Macy’s, William-Sonoma, etc.). Consumers also visit websites for research purposes, to find a store location, phone number, etc. - site performance means as much to their brand as it does to those operating entirely in cyberspace.
Onwards to Omni-Commerce
One unifying truth across all channels is that there remains little tolerance for poor service.
Just as shoppers have always hated to wait in long lines in stores or find poorly stocked shelves, with the omni-channel shopper conversions will suffer when channels are slow or fail to deliver to expectations. The expectations of the omnichannel shopper are higher. They want to seamlessly navigate the entire shopping experience. Onsite, online, and mobile performance all impact each other. Do it right and you’ll be rewarded. There is evidence that shows that faster performance leads to greater conversion rates. But also know that a single point of failure, such as a checkout screen that fails to load, can undo all of the benefits you may otherwise enjoy. Keynote works with leading global retailers to ensure customers can quickly conduct retail transactions from their desktops, smartphones and tablets. When a shopping journey traverses multiple devices, it’s important that all paths function flawlessly to get the shopper over the proverbial goal line.
In the end, it is about synchronizing a great customer experience across all environments, platforms and devices.