There’s a lot of buzz in industry circles these days about the impact of “showrooming” on brick-and-mortar brands. Witness the excellent overview by Ann Zimmerman in the April 11 US edition of the Wall Street Journal, “Can Retailers Halt ‘Showrooming?’”
Ms. Zimmerman notes the anti-showrooming efforts of such retailers as Target and Walmart, and the challenge of meeting-and-beating pure play pricing and assortment breadth.
And, she also gets to the core of the issue: It’s not about competition between stores and pure play websites. It’s about competition between the websites of brick-and-mortar brands, and the websites of the pure plays.
We live in the era of Google, an era of web-based search, an era where just about any detail of just about anything can be found on the Internet. Studies of recent shopper behavior show a steady climb in the number of US shoppers who begin their purchase journey with online research. Nearly two-thirds of US adults do so regularly.
The Internet is the front door to all retail brands these days – not just the pure plays. It’s where shoppers are initially won or lost – and where store traffic is increasingly generated.
This means two things to brick-and-mortar brands:
- Your website is not just about product and price. It must represent all the value of the brand promise – which must (in these days) include the brand’s expertise and services. If it’s just a price-assortment battle, the pure plays will win. The SG&A is on their side.
- Your store must reflect your website – and offer the digital assortment, pricing, and depth of knowledge (Chat with experts! Watch video explanations! Click to vendor sites!) that shoppers can get online. Immediate gratification is no long enough. The store must become a living, breathing website.
The bottom line: the paradigm’s shifted. The market’s transitioned. If we’re in tune with the shopper, it’s now e-com first and stores second.
Memo to retail strategists and technologists: The tail’s now wagging the dog.
Tags: Ann Zimmerman, e-commerce, Jon Stine, mobile shopping, multi-channel retailing, omni-channel retailing, research online buy offline, retail technology, ROBO, showrooming, Smartphones, wall street journal