Study: Don’t shun showroomers, they could become your most loyal customers

A new study on “showroomers” — consumers who shop at brick-and-mortar stores, then buy online for less — claims that the same group could become the most loyal to retail stores with mobile outreach and reward programs. SNEWS breaks down the data.

A new study on “showroomers” — consumers who shop in brick-and-mortar stores, then buy online for less — claims that the same group could become the most loyal to retail stores with mobile outreach and reward programs.

Aimia, a Canada-based loyalty management company (e.g. it runs retail reward programs) conducted the study, so take the results with a grain of salt. Still, the information is food for thought for outdoor and fitness specialty retailers, neither of whom are strangers to the growing practice of showrooming during the past few years.

According to the study, which surveyed more than 6,000 consumers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in 2011, millennials (ages 19-29) are leading the charge in showrooming. In the United States, 57 percent of millennials said they used their mobile devices to make price comparisons in a store, compared to 37 percent of non-millennials doing so. In total, about 20 percent of consumers acted upon that information and completed their most recent purchases online, the study said.

The silver lining there? While many people are price checking and comparing, not all are automatically buying online.

Still, these “showroomers are digital aficionados” who enjoy and are comfortable using their mobile devices in store, the study said. This could benefit outdoor retailers such as Moosejaw and EMS, both of which increasingly are arming retail staff with those same mobile devices to help consumers on the spot. And Aimia recommends retailers and brands build their own in-store apps that allow shoppers to compare product features and read online reviews, helping “steal some of online’s thunder.”

Loyalty reward programs are another avenue to keep showroomers in stores, Aimia claims. Showroomers are more likely to participate in reward programs and more willing to share personal data in exchange for rewards and recognition, according to the study. Perhaps that's because these younger consumers have grown up in the digital age of public social media, or that their showrooming might exhibit their general desire for a deal, no matter what it is or how they obtain it.

“The solution to embracing showrooming behavior lies in retailers leveraging their shopping data to get consumer insights that will help shape their marketing strategies and drive in-store purchases,” the researchers said. “Use hard benefits to reward desired behavior — offer in-the-midst showroomers to join your rewards program which a rich bonus offer on the first purchase.”

The study recommends identifying potential showroomers among a retailer’s existing loyalty reward members by whether they own a smart phone or not. Then “lavish them with soft benefits such as exclusive access, special benefits, experiential rewards, location-based offers and other privileges that resonate with your target audience.”

Because showroomers are comfortable with mobile commerce, the researchers said these consumers “are more likely to prefer mobile channels for program communication and more likely to promote programs to their social networks.”

As an endnote, the study warns retailers against declaring all-out war on showrooming and in-store mobile device use.

“By embracing consumer behavior rather than raging against it, it’s possible to arrive at a new business model in which everyone wins.”

Click here to read the complete study. Registration with Aimia is required, but it's free.

--David Clucas


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