As the 2012 holiday shopping season heats up, one trend many marketers and analysts will closely monitor is the concept of “showrooming.” Showrooming occurs when consumers try out merchandise in stores then go online to buy them, often at a discounted price.
Fifty-six percent of American consumers are expected to participate in some aspect of showrooming this holiday season, according to Mobile Marketer.
Showrooming is driving many brick-and-mortar retailers crazy as they attempt to thwart the effects of Amazon and other online retailers on their bottom line. It’s also causing several well-known global retail giants, including Best Buy, to seriously rethink the physical size and make-up of their stores.
So what’s a savvy retailer marketer to do in the wake of showrooming’s rise and dominance of commerce?
The marketing geniuses at Google might just have the answer. After surveying 1,500 holiday consumers about their shopping habits, Google has found that the “lines between online and offline commerce are blurring,” according to Direct Marketing News. Google details these findings in its recently released Pre-Holiday 2012 Consumer Intentions study.
Despite dire predictions within marketing ranks that consumers would start to skip physical stores entirely in favor of online shopping, Google’s study finds that isn’t the case. In fact, the distinction between online and offline shopping are disappearing.
The concept is called “nonline” shopping. And it may harken the next great wave in-store shopper marketing.
According to the Google study, 51 percent of surveyed consumers intend to research a product online and visit the store to buy it; 32 percent plan on researching an item online, inspecting it in the store and then retreating back online to complete the transaction.
“I think the whole concept of nonline is customers are connected to brands at all times of the day, and they're going to choose how they want to interact and, at the end of the day, purchase,” Brett Goffin, Google's retail head of industry, told DMNews. “The retailers who understand that are going to be ones in the long-term that, we believe, are going to succeed.”
‘Nonline’ Shopping’s Lessons for Marketers
The Google study presents a multitude of insights for digital and shopper marketers.
According to Google’s Goffin two factors are contributing to the blurring of offline and online shopping: consumers’ rising comfort with online shopping and their decreased fears over online credit-card fraud.
Consumers are increasingly going to a physical store to become more educated about a product – to touch it, play with it and see how it works in their hands. Shoppers then go online to comparison shop for deals. They will either make a purchase online or go back to the store where they first became comfortable with the product and make their purchase there.
The question becomes, What can retailers do to take advantage of nonline shoppers?
To be sure, there are several facets of online shopping that likely will remain immune to the growth of “nonline” shopping. And the actual impact of “nonline” shopping may be negligible in light of the fact that an increasing percentage of Americans make their purchase decisions online – whether through message boards, social media or a brand’s website.
But in an era where the very concept of having a big, physical store to show off expensive, one-time purchases is called into question, the growth of “nonline” shopping is surely a comfort to many reatilers. It presents a new opportunity for digital marketers who are already envisioning a world in which the online and offline mix interchangeably. That world will likely include some form of “nonline” shopping.