Opportunity IT resellers & retailers shouldn’t refuse

Mobile and Web technologies haven’t put today’s retailers in a position they can’t refuse but have helped give consumers complete information about products, services and outlets. A more enlightened consumer should help produce a happier customer and better relationship for all parties.

Stop me if you heard this one. A gal (or guy) comes into the store with her (or his) iPhone (or iPad) …


Now that “everyone” is mobile/web-enabled, we call it showrooming – visiting a store, checking out a product, leaving and buying somewhere else.

According to tinfoil cap people, it’s the reason retail stores are performing so poorly… all of the sales (and profits) are being sucked into the cloud and being consumed by etailers.

But if it’s true that online outlets are so devastating to brick and mortar stores, they should be enjoying 30-50 per cent of the industry’s total sales.

Unfortunately, they have less than five percent of the PC/CE sales, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

But they’re focused, better, determined so this may be their year.

In fact, with the price of gas today, we’re not even certain it’s valid that people check the prices at other stores and go there to buy.

With mobile devices in hand consumers can map out their shopping and even obtain immediate coupons and special offers. Research can range from reading reviews of social media discussions and videos as well as finding the best price in the store and online. Despite the research, consumers still tend to purchase from the store they are visiting beyond price.

My wife loves shopping … she’ll do hours of research online looking at products, reviews, comparisons, availabilities, store locations, reputations.

She’ll grab her smartphone or tablet, go to the mall and shop for hours checking the product(s), checking off her “to do” list. And she may or may not buy.

That’s not showrooming … that’s shopping!

It’s what people do.

Especially this time of year.

Especially this year.

Storefront Advantage

Few people go out shopping today just to shop. They’ve done extensive research at home on their computer and while shopping to ensure they have the most current information can answer their last-minute questions and even reserve the product for pickup so they make efficient use of their time.

If a person is in a store using his/her phone or tablet to check out a product:

– They are physically there thinking about buying something. (If they’re using a tablet, research indicates they’re really thinking hard about buying.)

– You have them in your location, not somewhere else, so you’re ahead of the game.</P.

It’s an opportunity to talk with and assist the customer. It’s not just about selling them something, but developing a person-to-person rapport.

Proactive retailers are providing salespeople with smartphones, tablets and apps so they can help the customer check reviews, availability and options.They’re also delivering coupons, personalized discounts, anything to enrich the customer’s in-store experience and build store loyalty.

All things being equal, today’s consumer can show the sales associate or store manager the price of the product at other stores and request a price match; or, they can simply buy elsewhere. It isn’t done to damage the retailer. In fact, the consumer has given the retailer the opportunity to save the sale and perhaps produce add-in/add-on sales.

Simply matching a price shouldn’t be a question this holiday season.

Almost every retailer realizes consumers have instant access to just about everything, and many have said they’ll match any price you show them (print, online, onphone, ontablet).

Of course, with that precedent, consumers will expect it going forward … or else.

As my dad often said, “That’s toothpaste you’ll have a helluva’ time putting back in the tube.”

But the business isn’t any different today, just more efficient.Smart brands and retailers have seen the future and have spent the past year developing in-store, on-line, on-device apps that help and guide the consumer to the best product for her/him.

Increasingly, brands and retailers have introduced their own web and mobile apps to develop a stronger relationship with the customer. Outlets are making mobile apps available to customers that will make it easier to track their purchases and also enable the retailer to provide more intelligent, more targeted product and promotional offers.

But as long as they’re in your store, give them something that will enhance their shopping experience–you know … customer assistance.

This is the opportunity to offer ideas, suggestions that not only help the customer (something he/she didn’t think about) but also build sales and profits … accessories.

Say the consumer buys an interactive HD TV. What about:

-Medium to high-end surround sound

– Streaming video service

– An enhanced sound bar

Say the customer is using an iPhone5 or iPad. What about:

– External speakers for better audio experience when they watch content.

– Richer tone earbuds/headphones.

– Protective case, add-on keyboard or other accessories to protect/personalize their mobile device.

Sales improve, profits improve and customer loyalty increases because your staff paid attention to/aiding the customer, not just ringing up the sale and moving on.

That’s what customer assistance/service is all about … listening, suggesting, helping.

That’s where the retail store has the advantage, which is why some retailers are changing the title of their staff from salesperson or sales associate to customer associate.

It’s a little thing but a big change in mindset!

According to Pew Research, younger Millennials, the connected generation and boomers have taken to online buying for a lot more reasons than price.

Millennials who have grown up online and boomers are the fastest growing age groups that find it fast, easy, convenient and trouble-free to shop online. It’s not just a matter of price.

In fact, price is much lower on the priority list, especially when you look at rising stars in the online arena like Zappos, macsales, Gilt Groupe and yes, Amazon, as well as retailers that have become effective in both spaces like Nordstrom’s, JC Penney and others.

This year, in anticipation of a significant increase in online research activity (and hopefully sales), the major PC/CE sites have been constantly upgrading their servers, software, search activities, carts and offers.

Just as with brick and mortar retailers, the 4th quarter is a peak selling/customer service period.

Etailers have spent the entire year tuning and refining every aspect of their online store to help customers buy. The newest option, mobile commerce, is just beginning to find its way, giving consumers an even more immediate opportunity to take advantage of coupons, special offers and purchases.

The etailers who rise to the top are those that build depth and breadth into their sites:

– Comprehensive product information

– Comparisons

– Application information

– Customer review of “store,” product postings

– Open online user forums

– Online, onphone sales, support experts

– How to documentation, videos

– No question, no hassle return policies.

Perhaps retailers should worry less about the possibility of showrooming and more about people who don’t even leave the comfort of home to shop around town, around the country, around the world. Retailers are rushing to ensure their websites are handled properly by all devices because a growing volume of sales will be either web influenced or web impacted in the years ahead.

For some of us though nothing beats the convenience of being able to kick back on the sofa or in a chair to do your shopping.

After all, the world of information is at your fingertips; and in a few minutes, you can know more than you want to know about the product, service, etailer/retailer.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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