Can a drive-through window help combat showrooming?

July 9, 2012 in The Work

The Container Store is drawing business by adding a drive-through service for customers to pick up orders purchased through the retailer’s Website. This is only one of many innovative initiatives adopted by stores to combat showrooming — the act of customers browsing stores and then purchasing from different and often cheaper vendors online.

By Daniella Hartman via Flickr

At OBI Creative we’ve been keeping an eye on showrooming and its effects on brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s part of what allowed us to implement our INlet technology that will help improve the shopping experience when a newly revamped Midwestern outlet mall is completed.

A recent New York Times article about showrooming told of ways that stores are fighting back against online retailers to keep sales. Best Buy, perhaps one of the businesses most crippled by showrooming, has opted to create its own store specific barcodes that can’t be scanned by smartphones. This move makes showrooming harder to accomplish, but is not a complete deterrent.

Other stores have taken a more customer friendly approach by innovating in favor of the customer. Here at the OBI blog we’ve spotlighted several emerging retail technologies that might draw customers into stores to actually make purchases.

A number of retailers such as Macy’s, Walmart and Sears, along with the Container Store, are attempting to make their stores an extension of their online shopping experience. They’re doing this by adding Web return centers, pickup locations, free shipping outlets, cash payment booths and even drive-through service centers for online sales.

Fiona Diaz, the chief strategy officer for ShopRunner, a coordinator of shipping for retailers, told the Times that the trend, “really [is] an offensive strategy against Amazon and pure-play online retailers.”

One advantage that stores have over online retailers is the ability for the customer to pay cash. Stores are capitalizing on this by setting up in-store cash payments for items purchased online through their Websites. Walmart is one of the retailers implementing the policy. Walmart has allowed online items to be picked up in store free-of-charge for six years. It’s interesting to note that more than half of the items purchased at Walmart.com are now picked up in store.

All of these examples show trends towards stores innovating to retain sales and deter showrooming. Further innovation may continue to draw sales back to stores, which could drastically help businesses like Best Buy.

An expert interviewed by the Times believes that e-commerce Websites may fight back by opening physical locations. Time will tell.

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