Showrooming – the practice of using a high street store’s goods and services to try out a product before going online to buy it at the lowest price possible, is not a new shopping trend. Online portal Statista.com reports that ’48% of showroomers use physical stores to research products with no intention of making a purchase’.
In a recent letter to the press, Box Technologies’ Chairman Russell Willcox argues that the availability of price comparison sites coupled with the fact that smart phones are so readily affordable mean showrooming is mounting a real threat to the existence of stores on the high street. The simple point is – if shoppers want to maintain shops as high street ‘bricks’ rather than just virtual sites or ‘clicks’, they may have accept a higher price for the same product or service. Compared with a web warehouse, there are real and substantial investments and on-going costs which the high street retailer has to bear; these are simply not a problem for the online e-tailer, freed from the exigencies of paying rent, rates, utility costs – [heat and lighting, water] and of course the cost of staff in front of house and back office functions. Reassuringly, savvy IT solution providers like Box play a significant role in providing solutions to wow the in-store shopper. Mobile browsing devices, compelling merchandising of the shop floor and lighting in-store, interactive digital signage and flexible self-service kiosks offer the possibility of raising the pitch of the customer in-store experience. Stores themselves must also do more to reward loyalty and improve store layout, train sales staff to be more customer focused, adopt assisted selling practices, make checkout quicker and easier, improve access to self-service and deploy in-store browsing.
Box believes high street stores are here to stay, but they need to adapt the in-store experience to be more compelling and friendly – even if there may not be the lowest prices immediately available. The web has empowered the consumer, it’s time for the retailer to take some of that back. Those who don’t embrace technology will fail