Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Consumers may lament that the cost of goods keep going up. While that may be true in some cases, the buying public has it better than ever before with more options to find a single item at the cheapest price possible.

These new windows of opportunity to save a buck have been hitting brick and mortar businesses through a practice known as showrooming - the act of scoping out products in stores before searching online for a better deal.

With increasing numbers of smartphone users, this practice can be done on the spot while still in the store. A report from Vibes surveyed 1000 smartphone owners, and the results were shocking, with 44% of respondents admitting to showrooming frequently.

The effects are especially obvious among younger people, with half of those under the age of 35 claiming to showroom for 50% of their purchases. Over the past two years, there has been a 156% increase in consumers purchasing from a competitor on their smartphones while in-store.

All is not lost, however. As the old adage goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” ...well, sort of. By having a mobile and online presence, including social media, businesses can leverage the digital world to work for them.

According to Jack Philbin, the CEO of Vibes, the key is developing "contextually relevant and personalized mobile experiences that motivate and influence consumers to take notice and make purchases." This will, no doubt, require some imagination and marketing savvy, but nothing that is out of reach for both the small business owner and the large corporation. Good ‘ol fashioned things like in-store incentives and preference-based special offers can keep a customer’s attention on you. Here are some top tips for counteracting showrooming:

Be One with Mobile Marketing

It doesn’t do anybody any good resisting new technology. If you’re used to hand-dialing phone numbers, sending out mailers and passing out fliers, there is a better way. Rather than being stuck in the past wasting time and money, use technology to your advantage. Create a mobile website that allows customers to search your products on their smartphones. Mobile websites are easier to navigate on mobile devices and can link to phone numbers for easy dialing and maps for immediate address navigation.

Apps are not as complicated as they sound. Creating an app is a good investment as it allows customers to see product information. Prompt customers to download the app by giving them a small freebie for doing so. Also, ask them to opt in to mobile text marketing lists so you can send them direct offers. Texting is an excellent way to get consumers’ attention. Studies show that nearly 100% of all texts are read within the first 3-5 minutes.

Provide Free Wi-Fi

You may think that blocking internet service is a sneaky way of getting customers to buy in-store. In actuality, keeping customers connected can increase sales. Rather than running out the door in frustration, they’ll linger and perhaps find the better deal at their fingertips. Recent stats from JiWire indicate that free in-store wi-fi influences the shopping habits of 44% of people.

Customer Service Wins Every Time

Now that you’ve entered the 21st century with your mobile website and app, excellent customer service can’t be beat. Personalizing the shopping experience is often the key to making that sale and keeping customers coming back, pushing the cheap-but-impersonal websites to the sidelines.

Be Different

Variety and uniqueness will set you apart from the rest. What most people don’t want is run of the mill products. Individuals want individuality and if you can provide that extra something special or find a way to procure a unique item, customers will love you for it. Don’t make it easy for websites to be compared to you. While it sounds difficult, it’s increasingly becoming common practice for suppliers to be asked to create product lines that can only be sold in stores.

The holidays are fast approaching and retailers have a fantastic opportunity to create memorable, personalized experiences for shoppers. Using a combination of targeted mobile SMS marketing campaigns, excellent customer service and incentives, brick and mortar stores can cement their place in an increasingly digital society.