Forrester Research Principal Analyst, Sucharita Mupulru was quoted on InternetRetailer.com as saying, “Showrooming is here to stay. Retailers must consider price matching, personalized in-store service and loyalty programs.” I agree.
Showrooming is the practice where shoppers with smart phones visit a local store to see a product up close and personal and then buy the product online instead, typically at a lower price. The question has been posed to me whether showrooming truly affects B2B organizations and if so, how.
The way that I see it, there are two possible situations that require a B2B organization to consider the affects of showrooming. First, if the B2B organization does not have physical distributor locations, chances are good that if the prices are right but the website leaves product questions unanswered, the organization is likely fostering the need for showrooming within its customer base. Second, if the B2B organization has an ecommerce presence as well as physical stores, it may be causing showrooming–in it’s own physical locations or that of competitors–or it might be serving as the showroom destination for its competitors.
If your organization does not have physical locations, you must do two things:
- Make sure your ecommerce site provides robust product information including product specifications, multiple product images, descriptions, FAQs, and user forums to limit the possibility that your customer will need to see or touch the product in person. Less showrooming equals more secure sales for you.
- Offer the best price. If, in spite of your best efforts to keep the shopper online and engaged on your site without showrooming, they need to wander off in search of the item they wish to see it in person, offering the best price online will ensure that, in the end, you get the sale.
If your organization has both ecommerce and physical stores, you have a little more work cut out for you. To effectively battle ecommerce showrooming, you must:
- Make sure your ecommerce site has the best product information available on the web. This step is the same whether or not your organization has physical locations. Having the best product info available online makes you the go-to source for information and limits the chance that your customers will wander off to a showroom–yours or a competitor’s.
- Offer the best prices–both in-store and online. While this seems like a no-brainer, offering the best price for a product both in-store and online ensures that you get the lion’s share of sales in both channels.
- Engage customers in-store. Whether the person who walks through the doors of your physical store location is your consistent customer or one who usually buys from the competition, the decision to buy online can be derailed by effective customer engagement in-store in combination with a great product price. Excellent customer engagement may include: creating a customer loyalty program whereby custoemrs are rewarded for purchasing from you, in-store help that offers to price match the price the customer has seen online, and exceptional customer service that makes up for the increase in price. (People will always pay for a better value and better customer service!)
- Match prices. If you can’t make your product list prices the same in-store as what is available online, offer price matching–for your own site (if the prices are better) as well as for your competitors.
Showrooming is a very real challenge for B2B ecommerce organizations. A little forethought and strategic planning can make a concerted difference in battling this online challenge. To learn more about how you can battle the showrooming phenomenon, check out this blog post: There Are No Showrooms in Ecommerce.
To learn more about how to leverage the power of your B2B ecommerce site, download the whitepaper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.