They’re calling it “showrooming.” I’m calling it the beginning of the end of what we think of as the store design industry.
I know, you’ve heard that before. This industry always seems to have a cataclysmic reaction to everything new. Here it is again, spelling our doom. A decade ago, it was kiosks and the Internet. I’m sure display people in the 1920s were convinced that as automobiles replaced walking to the store, they’d also destroy window merchandising.
So, am I just crying wolf? See if this sounds like “wolf” to you.
Showrooming is the name given to the way shoppers walk your stores and check out your merchandise. When they see something they like, they take a picture, do a Google search or, worse, simply scan the bar code with their smartphones. Then they order online. From someone else. Sometimes, while still standing in your store.
It’s not that retailers aren’t fighting back. Best Buy, for example, is replacing standard bar codes on big-ticket items with special Best Buy-only codes so they can’t be scanned or used for online ordering – except from Best Buy.
Many retailers are encouraging shoppers to buy from their sites by waiving shipping charges if the item is purchased on their site and picked up at their store. Walmart is also allowing shoppers to order online and pay cash when they come in to complete the transaction. More and more consumers these days don’t have credit cards – or even bank accounts. And even if they have credit cards, they’re reluctant to put that information online.
Joel Anderson, ceo of Walmart.com in the U.S., told The New York Times that the service already accounts for 2 percent of Walmart.com’s sales and that online orders for in-store pickup tend to be much larger than in-store purchases.
Okay, but shoppers still have to come to the store to pick up their purchase, right? So what’s the big deal? Here’s the big deal!
Sears proudly announces a drive-through service in which customers are met by a clerk waiting outside the store who registers the purchase via the customer’s mobile phone receipt or printout. No need to get out of your car. In fact, no need to get out of your pajamas.
The Container Store, too, has a drive-through service so, they boast, online shoppers don’t have to leave their cars and go into the store to pick up their orders.
Now go back and re-read those words: “. . . don’t have to leave their cars and go into the store.”
Is it just me, or does “people don’t have to go into the store” sound ominous? What do retailers need with store planners and visual merchandisers if people shop online and do not have to go into the store?
I’m afraid that does not sound like crying wolf to me.