Stefan de jong

Showrooming. One of the biggest threats of this day and age facing the traditional retailer on the high street. Consumers walk into the shop in droves, getting extensive information from the helpful staff, and then order the items online. At least, that’s what the retailers are telling us.

But is this actually true? 80% of the population has a smartphone, but I can’t help but feel that the majority of all these people have other things on their mind than looking up retail prices. Perhaps they are just shopping around. After all, you see people in the shops sending apps all the time, like a photo to the home front: “What do you think, babe. Should I buy it?” Why not simply do a search for “fitting room selfie” on Googles Images or Instagram? You’ll soon realise that there are plenty of people sharing their potential purchase online right from the store.

But the notion that customers stroll into retail stores with the premeditated idea to score bountiful information and inspiration from the expert store staff, only to use this newly acquired knowledge to buy the item online, makes no sense at all in my honest opinion.

In fact, exactly the opposite is true. People go online to explore what’s for sale and often already know what’s available and at what price before even setting foot in the store. Internet has now taken over the brochure as the main source of orientation. Moreover, as a consumer you know by now that nine times out of ten you’ll be ‘informed and inspired’ by a dispassionate, untrained Saturday temp anyway. The price tags don’t offer much help either: about three lines of half-baked information.

Whenever I walk into a store, I already know everything about what’s on the shelves, because that online competitor of yours has taken the time to list all the product specs on its (mobile) website. And what’s more, on review sites, YouTube and Pinterest, I’ve been able to get a pretty good idea on the product quality, applicability and the alternatives. All that information is neatly available right here on my smartphone.

The only reason I’m in the store at all is because you’re only slightly more expensive than the online store I visited earlier and I wanted the product right away. But, as is almost always the case, you didn’t have the item I wanted in my size.

It’s about time retailers begin to realise that many customers now think like this. Be like Ikea or Albert Heijn: let me make a wish list in the app that guides me through the store quickly and without any hassles. Just make sure I can see all the product specifications on your (mobile) website. And that I can get to this information by scanning the price tag. Then I won’t have to go to your competitor in search of more information, increasing the chance of you losing the sale. Make sure I can view the in-store stock levels online, that I can reserve products and, please, send a confirmation to my smartphone when my order is ready for pick-up. Preferably within the hour. And lastly, integrate the customer card into the app so I don’t have to keep carrying the card with me every time.

In other words: don’t look at the smartphone as a threat, but make sure it becomes a competitive advantage.