WRITTEN BY: ENZO CAPOBIANCO, Retail Market Development Manager EMEA at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility
Showrooming is the growing trend that sees shoppers try out products in-store but buy them cheaper on the web, often using their smart phones while still on the retailer’s premises. Consumers search for product information, compare and evaluate offers and look for the best deals via price comparison websites. It is a serious threat to the in-store retail channel, but one that retailers can counter by taking full advantage of mobile access to data and systems.
Mobile devices have been commonly deployed for standard inventory management applications, but a few retailers have begun to deploy a new breed of multi-function devices integrated with customer-centric applications. For any that have not taken this step there remains a huge communication gap between tech-savvy shoppers and offline store employees.
Used to the immediacy of online retail channels, shoppers expect in-store personnel to be at least as informed and knowledgeable as they are, looking for the personalised service and care that continues to make in-store shopping the main retail channel. However, even the best-informed store assistant cannot amass detailed knowledge for each product available on the shelf without the help of mobile access to online information.
This information gap in today’s relationship between the in-store sales staff and the connected shopper is costing multi-store brands the most important high street asset: customers’ loyalty.
To engage with such demanding and connected customers, store staff need to be empowered with tools that allow immediate access to real-time information on product features, stock availability, prices and promotions, making them more effective and prepared to face and interact with the omni-channel shoppers. The goal is to increase both in-store profitability and enhance the in-store customer shopping experience.
Leading retailers are deploying the latest mobile solutions to empower the virtual teams working across their store networks. They can look up product details from the corporate store system or if necessary browse the internet for additional information.
Once mobilised, the sales assistant does not have to leave the customer to go to a computer terminal in the backroom to find the correct answers. Right on the shop floor they can see if the item is available at another store, on the online channel or when it will be replenished and offer a direct delivery, or have it ready to be picked up the next day.
Transparency of customer data enables sales assistants to make personalised offers and advise on new offerings to complement previous purchases. With a mobile device in hand they can access vital information, such as brand preferences, sizes, names of family members or birthdays, or they can interact with shoppers by reading the mobile loyalty card or by redeeming mobile coupons stored on a shopper’s smart phone as digital QR codes.
Sales assistants can compare prices on the internet and make a counter-offer based on the margin of the product, or knowledge about planned promotions and the customer’s shopping history. They can also use the same multi-function mobile device as a mobile POS to complete the sales transaction on the spot.
Customers want to be served not sold to and they want retailers to listen. In order to engage with customers, store staff need to be equipped with tools to bridge the information gap. Mobile technology can empower in-store staff to develop an enhanced and more productive relationship with customers that successfully will combat the growing threat of showrooming.