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Retailers bemoan British high street’s transformation into showrooms

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17th Apr 2013
Contributor MyCustomer.com
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Retail optimism has hit rock bottom with retailers forecasting poor sales and the decline of physical stores, caused by the ‘showrooming’ effect.

Rakuten surveyed over 100 attendees at the Internet Retailing Expo event and found just 7% of retailers expect sales growth this year whilst 63% expect sales in physical stores to decline.

Additionally, one in four respondents said they expect Britain’s high street to shift to a showroom-led dynamic following the rise of the showrooming trend – whereby consumers look at products in-store but then shop elsewhere via their mobile for a better price.

Adam Stewart, marketing director at Rakuten’s Play.com commented on the trend: “There’s no question that shoppers still love that tangible branded shopping experience that the high street delivers so well, but this idea of showrooming is growing in popularity.

“Ultimately it’s about creating multi-touch shopping experiences and this extends online, from interacting with customers through social channels to providing a dynamic and entertaining digital shopping experience.”

The survey also revealed that retailers were concerned about attracting enough consumers to an independent website, highlighting the growing role of the online marketplaces as a virtual high street.

In terms of marketing activity, retailers still rely on email for the majority of their communications with customers (69%) and, despite the hype around social shopping, were shown to use Facebook and Twitter just 13% and 15%, respectively.

Stewart added, “It’s interesting to see that few retailers are taking advantage of free social tools like Twitter and Facebook to engage shoppers. It’s true that social is not for everyone, especially when you consider the resource required to run these channels effectively, but it’s a key part of delivering the multi-channel brand experiences consumers are fast coming to expect.”

Forrester research into the showrooming trend last year found one in five uses their device to get the best price online.

Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru warned retailers that they must “seriously consider ways to avoid losing sales this way by using strategies such as price matching, personalised in-store service and loyalty programmes.”

More recently, IBM’s survey of 26,000 shoppers in 14 countries revealed that nearly half of all online retail purchases were made by ‘showroomers’, which the firm said signified the rise of the omnichannel customer. 

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