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What SMB owners need to know about mobile showrooming

Written by Spencer Durrant on January 5, 2016 in Strategies & Tips

mobile shopping Mobile showrooming has become a very common practice and challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers and multichannel retailers alike. It's the practice of consumers entering brick-and-mortar stores, researching products they see in-store online, and then either buying the product in-store, going home to buy it online, or buying it right from a mobile device, often from a different retailer who's offering a lower price.

This might seem like a problem for SMB owners, and it can be, but mobile showrooming also offers owners of brick-and-mortar stores a unique opportunity to increase their in-store conversion rates. Let's take a look at a few of the things SMB owners should know about mobile showrooming, and how you can use it to your store's advantage.

Webrooming and Showrooming - know the difference

Mobile showrooming is a broad term that encapsulates both the practice of "webrooming" and "showrooming."

Shopify defines showrooming as what happens when a customer visits a brick-and-mortar store, but then purchases the product online from home. Usually, showrooming results in customers buying the products they looked at in-store from the store's website - provided they have an ecommerce presence. 

Webrooming is defined by BizReport as the practice of a customer researching a product online, then coming into a brick-and-mortar store to see the product in person before making a final buying decision.

Obviously, webrooming is the ideal situation for brick-and-mortar SMB owners, because they have a higher chance of converting a customer into a sale if they've already researched a product online and are visiting a physical store with the intent to buy. 

But showrooming can create problems for stores that don't have an ecommerce presence, or that markup their products higher than other retailers without a good reason for doing so (i.e., stellar customer service, outstanding web content, an incredibly in-store experience, etc.).

So now that you understand the difference between webrooming and showrooming, and what "mobile showrooming" as a whole refers to, how can it help your store?

Creates opportunity for in-store mobile offers

The reason that the phrases "showrooming" and "webrooming" fall under the broad term "mobile showrooming" is due to the fact that in-store research happens via smartphones. In fact, according to a Google AdWords post, 54% of holiday shoppers in 2015 planned on making purchases via mobile during the 2015 holiday shopping season.

In addition to that data, the AdWords post also pointed out that 82% of smartphone users planned on consulting their phones in-store when doing holiday shopping in 2015.

All of this smartphone use creates a unique opportunity for you, as the owner of a brick-and-mortar SMB, to create mobile-only promotions and rewards. This will reduce the showrooming that happens in your store, and lead to increased in-store sales. It'll even lead to increased online sales, as customers will remember the great experience they had in your store and may choose to visit your online store again the next time they need to purchase something in your niche.

How do I deliver these offers?

Implementing in-store offers can be challenging. What's the best way to go about it? And how can you do it a cost-effective manner?

If you already have a responsive website, it's not as difficult as you might think. There are plenty of third-party apps available that'll help you use your mobile site to deliver deals to your in-store customers when their phone's GPS shows they're in your store.

Or, if your mobile presence isn't that robust or you don't have the budget for investing in these tools, you can email deals out to customers with the caveat that they must be redeemed at your store's physical location. Obviously, you'll want to segment your contacts list down to people who live within a reasonable distance of your store, but that's certainly another option for delivering mobile offers to your customers.

Consider building an app

If you're feeling particularly ambitious, and your brick-and-mortar store still provides the bulk of your overall profits, you should consider building a mobile app that acts as a "points card" for customers. For every dollar they spend, that money can be put towards rewards points, exclusive offers, or early access to promotions and sales.

7-Eleven's app is a great example of getting people into stores with valuable offers. You don't have to create offers that give your products away. You just have to find a relative value that you and your customers agree upon. It'll take some tinkering, but the end results will be worth it.

Mobile showrooming is only going to increase in 2016. If you're not informed, and willing to make the changes to your store you'll need to in order to capture lost sales, you run the risk of losing business to other retailers within your niche. 

Ultimately, your ability to reduce the amount of showrooming that happens at your brick-and-mortar will boil down to your ability to create a great in-store experience, offer unmatched expertise in your niche, and deliver timely, relevant, valuable offers to customers when they shop in-store. If you can hit those three things, you'll be well on your way to reducing the negative affects of showrooming, and turning it into a good thing for your business.

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