I am here in Boston having just finished giving a lunchtime talk on mobile commerce to the Outdoor Industry Association, gathered here for its annual Rendezvous conference, which has drawn more than 350 outdoor retailers and manufacturers.
They are offering a yoga class tomorrow at 6 a.m., but unfortunately I have a plane to catch.
I devoted most of the talk to “showrooming” — using a retail store to touch and feel merchandise before buying it (for less money) online.
The mobile device is of course key to showrooming for scanning barcodes in the store to ensure that a better price can be had on Amazon or some other online outlet.
The OIA audience was reasonably familiar with the topic. However as outdoor retailers, they are probably in the second wave of impact from the trend — clothing and consumer electronics have already felt the pinch.
Comscore’s Jennifer Vlahavas spoke before me and emptied a cornucopia of data on online shopping behavior. One of her many insights was that showrooming will impact all retail categories that share one common trait — the comparability of merchandise. Given that definition, the outdoor retailers are clearly vulnerable. A North Face parka is a North Face parka.
One of my core observations, borrowed from my colleague Mike Boland, is that the ROBO paradigm has been completely flipped. ROBO originally stood for research online, shop offline, but the trend has clearly reversed, enabled largely by the burgeoning smart phone population.
Here were my key takeaways:
* Reacting defensively to showrooming is counterproductive.
* May as well embrace the trend – it’s here to stay.
* Many popular countermeasures – unique inventory, in-store pick up, enhanced EQ (entertainment quotient)– are helpful but insufficient.
* Critical to give tangible rewards for in store purchase behavior – via deals, points, card-based loyalty.
* What is beyond loyalty? Using data to predict behavior of in store consumer and direct offers to them in real time.