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5 Retail Technology Approaches to Combat Showrooming

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Showrooming was a big topic at last week's National Retail Federation (NRF) Expo in NYC. A growing number of shoppers are researching their purchases in-store then buying later online, which would be fine if the sale went to that retailer. But when it goes to Amazon or a competitor, it means the store served as an unpaid showroom.

Five approaches stood out from discussions with some of the 500+ attending technology vendors hoping to help retailers reverse the trend.

PERSONALIZE WITH PERMISSION

In a global survey released at the show, Cisco reported that 75 percent of shoppers want a personalized experience but only if they auth-in. Facial recognition software was considered intrusive and mobile usage data was off-limits.

To enable self-serve personalization Cisco created Interior Inspirer, a solution for home retailers that lets shoppers design their own room on a big screen. As they customize the room it captures their product choices and with a single click enables purchase.

Shoppers might still walk away but with all items in a single shopping cart they're more likely to purchase from that store. "People want personalized experiences," says Lisa Fretwell, Cisco's Senior Director IBSG, Retail and CPG. "Focus on content in context."

ENABLE SELF-SERVE

Chris Aubrey from Adidas has an inventory problem. As Director of Commercial Experience he has 450 different soccer shoes to sell but his retailers only stock 10-30 in each store. With the help of Intel's Virtual Footwear Wall -- one of the lead products in the emerging "endless aisle" category -- walk-in customers can now see the full lineup.

To encourage shoppers to stay in-store Intel made the screen huge and interactive with 3D product models, sorting options, and product comparisons. Once a selection is made the salesperson either gets the shoes from the back room or makes the sale online for delivery. Early results show an increase in purchases and basket size; Aubrey said customers are spending as much as 70 euros more than planned.

Retailers might think their salespeople would be threatened by self-serve technology but Intel's Michelle Tinsley, Director Transactional Retail, reported it enables a more effective and better-informed sale.

CREATE RICHER EXPERIENCES

"Ten years ago it was about managing inventory," says Mike Terzich, SVP Sales at barcode printer Zebra Technologies. "Now it's about enhancing the customer experience."

Customers abandon long checkout lines, and nobody knows lines better than Vail Resorts. Faster ticket scanning at every chairlift means their skiers and snowboarders get more runs. Zebra's RFID technology enables scanning at longer ranges and through ski jackets (no more fumbling to find that hangtag) but since each tag is identifiable they can go a step further and show each skier the total miles they covered. This personalization through collected data has positive implications for retail.

Retailers can also improve experiences by removing frustrations. According to Pricer's Pierre Salagnac, Sales Director Europe, 8.5 percent of items in grocery stores are mispriced. Their electronic shelf labeling solutions bring that closer to 0 percent by enabling automatic price updates.

GIVE THE CUSTOMER MORE CONTROL

PayPal is piloting an option that gives customers control over how they pay after they've already paid. "We call it the oops button," says PayPal's Patrick Gauthier, Head of Product Strategy & Business Operations, Retail Services.

Consumers can turn a debit purchase into credit or even split their debt over installments for five to seven days afterwards. It's a smart tactic to give customers more control and eliminate in-store doubts and objections.

STAFF BETTER

If a customer needs help and nobody's there, is she still a customer? Probably not. Retailers constantly deal with staffing issues, basing their decisions on that store's historical POS data. But in today's omnichannel retail world, better clarity is possible.

Enter Kronos, the early punch clock providers from the '70s. Using predictive analytics on data pulled from online and in-store POS, their Workforce Tablet Analytics product can forecast demand peaks and valleys, allowing for more accurate staffing. "Compliance isn't sexy but battling showrooming is," says Liz Moughan, Kronos' Director Retail and Hospitality Practice Group.