Over the last two decades, the boom of ecommerce has led to the rise and fall of a number of trends. One of these includes “showrooming” – which sees customers browse for products in shops while using their mobile devices to compare competitor prices and then ultimately buy online.
But with customer expectations ever-changing, before retailers have even fully grasped the concept of showrooming, it’s already on its way out. In fact, a recent report from BI Intelligence has discovered “reverse showrooming” – a trend which sees consumers reverting back to the old days of the internet and researching products online before heading to bricks-and-mortar stores to complete their purchases –has overtaken the initial trend of showrooming itself. According to the report, 69% of people admit they reverse showroom compared to 46% who say they showroom.
But regardless of how customers choose to shop, one fact still remains: the shopping experience continues to be more multichannel than ever before with customers still using a variety of channels to purchase products and services. And to truly capitalise on this, retailers must ensure they integrate online and offline, providing their customers with an overarching, seamless experience.
Become the enabler
Retailers must now become an enabler, giving their customers what they desire most – convenience and immediacy. But going further than that, they must also bring the experience to the customer, rather than waiting for them to come to the experience.
Already, some bricks-and-mortar stores have put in place initiatives for the connected in-store experience: tablets and mobile phones used as tills, free in-store Wi-Fi, smartphone discounts, reserve and collect in store services, and beacon hardware, which powers in-store maps and automatic hands-free payments. What is the key rationale behind all these changes? Retailers are beginning to think of themselves less as enablers of the multichannel consumer experience.
However, there’s still room for improvement. Our research found that only 23% said they offer simple click-to-call functionality. With mobile usage at an all-time high, these easy-to-implement services are the least that retailers should be offering to provide a satisfactory customer experience.
Although just 18% of retailers said they offer reserve and collect services, a separate survey conducted by Econsultancy revealed that these types of services were highly demanded by customers in the UK, with 80% using them in the past 12 months. Given their popularity and the rapid growth of multichannel, this represents a missed opportunity for retailers, which should be looking for key trends in the way their customers shop and using them to their advantage.
Build with design
As vital as a connected in-store experience, is consistency across every channel. There is nothing more annoying for customers than when they switch from a website to a mobile app or site and cannot quickly and easily navigate through it, or lose the items they ‘saved’ when switching between channels. It is vital that the user interface across these channels are similar to not only give customers a much more consistent experience, but to also enable them to easily familiarise themselves with the business’ brand and sites.
Retailers should also integrate channels to provide customers with a single, top-quality customer experience. For example, retailers should consider allowing customers to save a list of favourite products or services that could be accessed via any connected device for buying later. Even if reverse showroomers opt to ultimately buy the product in store, retailers should enable them to log into an in store tablet to help them source their saved items and purchase them in the store with a single click.
Commerce trends like showrooming may come and go, but consumers will always expect a multichannel experience that provides them with the immediacy, ease and convenience they require. As a result, whether customers ultimately purchase in store or via digital channels, one thing’s for sure: retailers will need to continue focussing on seamless integration between online and offline to keep customers from straying.