Making Peace with Showrooming

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““We ultimately concluded that if that’s the way the guest is going to live and shop, then we want to be a showroom. And we love showrooming — provided we can capture that sale.”

Gregg W. Steinhafel, Target C.E.O.

The Bricks and Mortar reaction to showrooming seems to have moved from denial to anger and finally to acceptance.  Just a couple of years ago it seemed like “Showrooming”; that phenomenon that featured consumers using their local stores to scout out the products they ultimately purchased on line;  was going to be the end of bricks and mortar retailing.

Stores tried everything to impede their customers from using their cell phones while shopping but to no avail.  Now, according to New York Times writer Elizabeth A. Harris in her article, “Retailers Seek Partners in Social Networks”, for traditional retailers “’Showrooming” is no longer a bad word.”

Tellingly, Harris quotes Gregg W. Steinhafel, C.E.O. of Target, as saying:  ““We ultimately concluded that if that’s the way the guest is going to live and shop, then we want to be a showroom. And we love showrooming — provided we can capture that sale.” 

The challenge of course is how to retailers actually participate successfully in a practice that was previously seen as the bane of their existence?  The answer was to use a mix of social networks to get the word out about their products and pricing;   enter Pinterest, Facebook,  Google and YouTube.  These social platforms, when used correctly by retailers, are sending consumers into Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and even Kmart.

What interested me was the use of these social network alliances to do more than promote price.  Rather they are being used to provide consumers with information that makes their shopping life easier.  Here is how Wal-Mart is using it to direct consumers to stores with not only the product but the in-stock product for which they are searching:  “If you search for “Weber grill,” Stephen F. Quinn, chief marketing officer at Walmart explained, Google will tell you if your local Walmart has Weber grills in stock, and it will tell you that store’s location.”

Fear and anger prevent us from seeing opportunities.  The Internet, mobile platforms and social networks are innately neither friend nor foe; they are neutral.  They are ultimately a tool that when treated as an opportunity, can be turned into an asset.  To paraphrase F.D.R.:   The only thing the bricks and mortar retail industry has to fear is fear itself.

 

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