Can brands and retail stores learn from the online digital experience?

With an increasing number of shoppers using stores as a showroom before resorting to their phones, tablets and PCs to make the purchase elsewhere, what can retailers realistically do to avoid losing sales? One of the reasons that resulted in the electronics store Comet going into administration.

A survey of retailers, by Edgell Network and eBay, showed that 80% of respondents expected their sales to fall by an average of 5% due to “showrooming”, the practice of customers identifying the products they want to buy in stores before heading online to order it more cheaply from a competitor.

What can retailers do to prevent this from happening?

Of all, make sure that you’re not losing the sale because of a lack of inventory. If you don’t have a particular product available provide the customer with the option to order it from your website, at the same price, with free delivery to their home or the store, there and then.

Ensure that the prices and promotions on your website are at least as good as those in store, so customers who do wish to shop online from your site don’t get hit with more expensive pricing and start browsing the competition.

All customers like to feel they can purchase products are value for money. Promote ordering via your website on your in-store POS and offer a discount. You may still not be as cheap as your online competitors but many of your customers won’t look that far if they feel they’re getting a deal.

Consider developing mobile apps and sites that bridge the gap between the website and the store, offering easy access to stock information, click-and-collect purchasing, store information, etc. Customers who are one the move often appreciate being able to drop into a store to collect a purchase and may buy other items once they’re there. Argos have recently increased their sales because of this strategy.

Offer Wi-Fi in your store and use the login page to promote products and offers, links to your website and a download of your app. Virgin Media follows this approach when users login into the London Underground Wi-Fi network.

By implementing some of these (ideally all) omni-channel solutions, built with your customer’s needs in mind, brands can prevent in-store sales from being lost to online competitors.

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