Showrooming: the frustrating retail trend that's on the rise. Up to 70% of shoppers admit to viewing a product in store before making their final purchase online, costing retailers time and money in lost opportunities. For vendors, the habit can be a costly headache - but new innovations in retail technology are giving brands the opportunity to turn showroomers into loyal repeat customers. Read on to learn how.
Picture this: a customer enters your store and tries on several pairs of shoes, in different sizes, colors and models. The store clerk offers advice on fit and function, running back and forth to the stockroom. After a while, the shopper seems satisfied with their choice, and the clerk is ready to close the sale - but then the customer checks their phone, and leaves without making a purchase.
What just happened? Most likely, an increasingly common consumer behavior known as “showrooming”, where shoppers visit a bricks-and-mortar store to see, explore and test products before eventually purchasing them online instead, usually at a lower price. From a consumer perspective, it makes sense - but for retailers, it’s a costly and frustrating challenge.
Once limited to big-ticket items such as cars, appliances and electronics, showrooming has expanded to include retail categories such as clothes and footwear. A study from PushOn, a UK-based ecommerce agency, found that 70 percent of consumers have viewed a product in-store before making their final purchase online. While the habit is likely here to stay, there are ways footwear retailers can use innovative technology to turn showroom shoppers into loyal customers.
Build Trust and Get a Foot in the Door
One of the greatest advantages of physical retail over e-commerce is the opportunity to build trust with customers, particularly for products as personalized and varied as footwear. Not every shopper is looking to make a purchase the first time they visit the store, and that’s okay. But in every interaction, you should get a foot in the door and start building the trust that leads to greater sales down the road.
A strong approach is to embed email capture into the physical retail experience. Volumental, for instance, provides footwear retailers with 3D foot scanners that capture detailed information about a customer’s feet in less than 5 seconds. The scan matches shoppers with recommended shoe models and sizes, based on Volumental’s database of more than 40m scanned feet. Retailers that implement the Volumental scanner experience a >70% email capture rate in-store, as customers are offered the opportunity to receive their free fit profile in exchange for their email address.
So even if a shopper doesn’t make a purchase there and then, their email address is now in the retailer’s marketing database, strongly increasing the chance of them purchasing from the store (either in person or online) in the future. Their fit profile can be digitally located in the retailer’s online store, and users view their scan on average 4.6 times a year - giving them repeat exposure to the retailer’s product offerings and campaigns. By implementing Volumental scanners in-store, retailers turn the digitalization of shopping to their advantage.
Reduce Returns, Boost Sustainability
Another retailer downside to the prevalence of showrooming is that it shifts the sale towards online, where the culture of free returns is running wild. In the US, the rate of returns for online purchases is between 2-3 times higher than for in-store purchases. In fact, it’s estimated that half a trillion dollars of goods purchased online are returned each year. While some returned products can be repackaged and resold or even returned to store shelves, the sad reality is that much of it ends up in a landfill. Retailers throw away a staggering one-quarter of their returns; tech platform Optoro estimates that 9.5 billion pounds of returns ended up in landfills last year.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about this environmental impact and retailers should be attuned to the sustainability zeitgeist. How sustainable your chain is can make a significant impact on whether or not consumers choose to buy from you.
When footwear retailers implement strategies that limit the primary reason for returns - namely, poor fit - they are able to start tackling the economic and environmental impact of the free returns culture. Retailers that use Volumental fit scanners have realized an average 18% decrease in returns. Coupled with increasingly detailed impact reporting, retailers can turn a reduction in returns into a competitive advantage. Fewer returns lead to more sustainability, and retailers are more likely to attract and retain customers when they communicate these successes.
Offer Self-Serve Alternatives for Independent Shoppers
A final note on showrooming: it’s not motivated entirely by consumers looking for lower prices. Many shoppers simply prefer to control the purchase process themselves, growing increasingly accustomed to self-serve shopping with limited human interaction. Whether that means buying online or using self-serve technology in-store, there is a large and growing demographic that prefers to be “left alone” when making a purchase.
For this reason, Volumental offers both clerk-led and self-serve foot scanning solutions. That way retailers can choose to focus on boutique, personalized service (clerk-led), or a smoother, customer-driven approach (self-scanning) - or both.
If the store clerk is busy elsewhere, for example, customers can step into the Volumental self-serve scanner by themselves. A five-second scan retrieves and analyzes a customer’s foot profile, noting distinctions in length, width and other characteristics such as instep height, heel width etc. A user interface on an iPad guides the customer with specific style and size recommendations for footwear inventory and helpful, easily understood advice and analysis about their feet. The customer picks up the perfect fit shoe from the shelf and completes the transaction with minimal assistance required from store staff.
In essence, the self-serve approach allows you as the retailer to replicate the seamlessness of ecommerce (which is often what showroomers are looking for) within your physical store environment.
At the end of the day, showrooming is the logical and inevitable result of free returns, widespread mobile internet access and increasingly educated and choosy consumers. But with the right technology, strategy and mindset, it can be turned from a challenge to an opportunity - and for footwear retailers, there’s no time to waste.