Commentary

When Showrooming Requires A Mobile Search App

Disruptive technologies tend to modify business models. The mobile phone created a hotbed for advertisers looking to personally connect with consumers. That's a good thing. Still, there are challenges. Sometimes what's profitable for one industry creates headaches for another. Search marketers need to lean in and meet the challenge.

We all know that in this case brick-and-mortar retailers continue to take the bulk of the burden when it comes to showrooming, but developing a search application that gives consumers a mobile application would streamline conversions.

Put a barcode on the shelf next to the item in the physical store. A consumer takes a photo, the action triggers a search for the product at the retailer's online site, compares prices of other like products across the Web and allows the consumer to make the purchase with minimal clicks. Hopefully the pricing department will do its job and have the lowest price among competitors. All business units within the company must work together to determine the best strategy.

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Showrooming won't disappear any time soon. In fact, a recent Harris Poll suggests that 40% of Americans have engaged in the practice. Despite brick-and-mortar retailers' attempts to get consumers to make purchases in-store, consumers continue to use online retailers like Amazon, where 57% of customers admit to buying their showrooming purchases. Directing consumers to the retailer's brick-and-mortar Web site would help.

It turns out that 59% of consumers using their smartphone in a retail store would rather look up product information on than ask a salesperson for help. The most important factors to consumers when deciding to make a purchase in-store rather than online include 86% want the ability to take the item home immediately, 84% take advantage of sales in store vs. prices online, and 83% don't want to deal with the hassles of returning items online or pay for shipping.

Amazon benefits most from showrooming. The Harris Poll of 2,114 U.S. adults surveyed online from April 15 to 17, 2013 by Harris Interactive suggests that  among consumers who have showroomed, an overwhelming 72% shopping at Target turn toward Amazon, up from 57% in November 2012.

Some stores like Best Buy and Target have recently implemented permanent price matching of online stores like Amazon, previously only available at the holidays. When consumers were asked whether this will more or less likely to purchase products in their brick-and-mortar store; 57% said they are much or somewhat more likely; 39%, neither less or more likely; 37%, somewhat more likely; 20%, much more likely; and 8% either much or somewhat less likely, somewhat less likely, or much less likely.

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