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Notes from the NRF Show: Retailers Take Heed Because Times are a Changin’

Christina Sommer |

This week in New York at the National Retail Federation’s yearly conference, a theme of change and evolution in the retail world resonated loudly.  Multi-channel shopping, new payment form factors, and use of social media were all topics of discussion on the stage and in the hallways. It is clear change is happening now and with no signs of slowing down.

One topic discussed at the show that has received a lot of press in recent months and has started to strike fear in the hearts of big box retailers is “showrooming” – the idea of consumers walking into a physical store, asking a myriad of questions of the salesperson, looking at the price and then pulling out their phones to see if they can get the product cheaper somewhere else.

In addition, according to another study debuted at NRF, this one by Cisco Systems, Inc., showrooming is a two-way street: while 40 percent of U.S. shoppers research in store and purchase online, 65 percent of U.S. shoppers do the opposite—research online and purchase in store.

So who are these “showroomers”?  According to IBM Corp.’s latest consumer study these consumers are typically young, affluent males.  It is important to note that despite the hype, this group is relatively small – “showroomers” only account for 6 percent of all shoppers, according to IBM.  While small, this group—young, affluent males—tends to be a pretty influential group.  According to IBM these very same people are prolific online review writers influencing other potential buyers.  As one IBM speaker pointed out, these showroomers can actually be a marketing engine for retailers, and retailers should consider them not as a threat but an opportunity to capitalize.

I believe there is another message in here, retailers should ensure their in-store and online retail experiences are competitive not just on price but on service as well. Twenty five percent of showroomers initially intended to buy in the store but changed their minds based on their online experience, according to IBM Corp. Trying to engage customers when they walk in the door—physically or virtually—and playing up the instant gratification aspect of shopping could be a way to get these influencers to talk about their positive experience in your store.

Topics: Payments Strategy, Retail Trends

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