11am Saturday on a beautiful Sydney morning. I find myself walking through a department store in the city looking for a new couch. Surprisingly many people are out on a day like today, you would expect them to be at the beach or at least in the sunshine.

Touching leather, moving on and sitting on another trying to find that perfect balance of comfort and height that would suit our living room. This one couch was perfect, not the price tag, but the couch was perfect. It was the right size, colour and could easily fit the family including the puppy.

I thought about the price a little, I usually don’t care about the price but I don’t go out there looking for the most expensive thing to brag about either. I was consciously going through scenarios of this couch in our living room and matching up the dollars to value and emotional connection we may have.

All of a sudden I looked up to my fiancé with a smile and feeling of readiness to buy. But she was affixed to her iPhone as if she was solving a medical mystery. Totally ignoring my glance I was intrigued to what she might be doing so thoughtfully and attentively.  I took a short glance over towards her phone and to my shock horror she had the same couch we are sitting on, on her screen at an online competitors website.

You have probably heard about Google’s zero moment of truth ZMOT. Well this was the zero moment of horror for me as I was not sure what to do, what to say… had I just caught her showrooming? I literally fell off the couch we wanted to buy.

I quickly composed myself and stated that I would be right back, making my way to the safety of the electronics and computer section, but as I did I noticed more and more people glued to the screen of their smartphones with the same products in real life being displayed on their device of choice. More showrooming!  Am I the only one not showrooming in this store?

Showrooming is a trend that retailers simply can’t ignore – while showroomers accounted for only 6% of all shoppers globally, this group accounted for nearly half of all online purchases. What this means is millions are being lost for the bricks and mortars traditional retailers.

A study by IBM which surveyed 26,000 shoppers in 14 countries, one of the largest surveys of its kind, found that for example in China, 24% of respondents identified themselves as showroomers. Online-only retailers are capitalising on this trend, accounting for one-third of showroomer purchases.

IBM’s study found that UK consumers are changing the way they research and ultimately purchase goods. Of the UK respondents surveyed, 77% of shoppers said they chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase, but only 51% were committed to returning there for the next purchase, while 45% were unsure whether they would next shop at a store or online.

This is particularly striking in the consumer electronics sector, where only 30% of the UK consumers surveyed made their last purchase in a store. And other product categories are likely to follow, for example luxury brands, which was found to be one of the top categories for showrooming at a global level.

Showrooming (as I found out for myself) is a serious problem for traditional retailers and one that can be combated with some smarts in technology and wiliness to adapt to the every changing world of commerce.

You see, I care very much about the world of offline retail as I was raised in a women’s fashion retail store and my father still is running his label and even though he is not directly affected (most of the clothes are custom designed) he still sees showrooming being done constantly in store.

What would I do if I was an offline retailer and getting smashed by showrooming you asked? Of course I have a strategy for it.

First thing I would do is dominate using Google Adwords. With a bit of hyper-local mobile targeting you can almost zero in on your store and serve ads for those cheeky enough to search for products you have in store.

So in my imaginary store called ‘Parisis Shoes’ I sell the Phillip loafer. With Google Adwords and targeted hyper- local mobile strategy when the showroomer searches an ad will pop up with some smart text saying “Parisis Shoe Customer – In store looking for loafers? Click to receive instant 10% discount coupon” get the picture.

So this is great in a few ways (if I do say so myself)

1)      You hopefully don’t lose the customer as your campaign is highly targeted and Google Adwords appear way before and SEO listings when your search on mobile.

2)      You send a coupon to the smartphone that gets added to Apple Passbook or Google Wallet. (more about that below)

3)      You find out exactly who was showrooming and offer them a smile and extra special personalised service so they feel the love and want to shop from you again.

Point two above brings me to a very important strategy that will change the game and finally start connecting multi-channel retailers closer to the offline world.

With the likes of Apple Passbook and Google Wallet now making an appearance on people’s phones, retailers can connect even easier with their customers. These apps allow users to store information such as store coupons, tickets and customer reward cards.

“When you have a ‘Pass’ in Passbook, it’s another valuable way marketers can connect beyond showrooming because as consumers walk past a store, an alert message appears on their phones telling them a location is nearby where they can use their passes,” Jack Philbin, cofounder and CEO of mobile marketing solutions company Vibes, told Mashable.

Remind your customers of your presence without being invasive. Without the need to download another local marketing coupon app (Apple passbook and Google wallet is native). As a retailer avoid being locked down to monthly fees and push to send fees of those stated local coupon marketing apps.

If you want to get started using Apple passbook you can have a look at pass source that comes with many templates and easy creation of passes (you may need some technical knowledge for advanced stuff but still easily to use).

You can find out more about Google wallet coupons here.

So I know what you’re thinking? What ever happened to the couch right? Well we still have not purchased the couch. I was too embarrassed to go back to that place and ‘look’ at it again (possible showroom it again).

I also quickly got over the showrooming awkwardness, with my fiancé explaining girls know how to spend money while saving money at the same time and you can take that to the bank. I will also take it to my next strategy meeting with clients in women’s fashion and apparel.

I would love to hear your stories or comments on showrooming below. Are you a showroomer on occasions?

If you’re an offline retailer and struggling to combat showrooming or in general sales, please checkout my Showrooming Defender course by clicking here.

  • Angus

    Great post – showrooming is definitely something more small businesses should be aware of in light of the vast majority of buyers shopping online and looking for the lowest prices/best deal. I also think that the points mentioned should be largely adopted to target local shoppers (not just showrooming), as convenience and location can still be a deciding factor when making a purchase whether on or offline.

  • phillipparisis

    Hi Angus, You’re 100% correct. These strategy can be used to target local shoppers. Specially in a big shopping complex.