We are never going to solve for true consumer-centricity, if we keep acting like this.
First, we had "showrooming." Showrooming is when a consumer goes to a physical location and uses a mobile device to either compare prices with other retailers or complete their transaction with another retailer (even later at home). Showrooming has been a headache for retailers for several years – and continues to be a challenge – as more mobile devices become increasingly connected and pervasive for consumers. Now, we have "webrooming." Webrooming is when consumers are researching online and buying in physical stores.
Brands… we have a problem.
Let’s all take a step back and think about this… for just a second: consumers have devices (computers, laptops, mobile, smartphones, tablets, Google Glass, whatever). These devices are connected and give them access to both information and the ability to buy in a twenty-four-seven scenario. It’s an always open retail landscape. They don’t need for a store to be open in their local neighborhood to get information about a product or service, and they don’t have to wait to buy something during regular/traditional store hours. While retailers may not like the fact that they have this kind of access to information and inventory, it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon (especially, if Jeff Bezos and Amazon have anything to do with it). When was the last time you were confused about a potential product that you were interested in? Have you ever hopped over to YouTube and searched on it? Outstanding, isn’t it? The in-depth reviews, discourse and additional information is astounding (and, that’s just YouTube). So, why even bother calling it showrooming or webrooming?
It’s just shopping, isn’t it?
Brands struggled to build what they have called an omni-channel environment. How does a brand move from multi-channel (stores, catalogues, Web,) to omni-channel in our digital age? Take a look at the AdWeek article, Study Shows Prevalence of Consumer ‘Webrooming’, and think deeply about what it is telling us. Webrooming and showrooming are just new terms and ideologies that reinforce the multi-channel mindset. In reality – if you break down the channels, remove the silos and really think about it – the advent of these activities are simply the consumer leading a true omni-channel life. Consumers don’t stop and think about a separation between a physical store, the website, the mobile experience, how the brand interacts on social media and beyond. Every interaction with them is either an investment (or divestment) in the brand. Retailers and marketers can keep making up terms, writing white papers, building infographics and more to reinforce just how much the consumer has adapted, but what we really have is an omni-channel consumer in a world where brands are (sadly) still thinking in a multi-channel way.
What’s a brand to do?
In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I dig deep into the notion of the one screen world. This isn’t about physical, TV, computer and mobile devices. Screens are everywhere. They are connected, cheap, ubiquitous and easy to use (and this is only going to increase as the Internet of Things becomes a reality and all devices are connected in one way, shape or form). So, instead of thinking about a Web strategy, an e-commerce strategy, a social media strategy, a mobile strategy, etc… why not build, develop and deploy a one screen world strategy? Build a strategy that embraces and understands the contextual reality of consumers in 2014. We can call these things whatever we like: showrooming, webrooming or whatever. The truth is that it’s all hyperbole. Consumers are doing what consumers do best: trying to get the best deal from brands that they want to deal with. The more brands try to turn everything into it’s own unique and different channel, the more they are going to struggle with the realities of business in this day and age. The more they are going to build a multi-channel environment, while thinking that they’re building an omni-channel one.
Don’t call it showrooming or webrooming. Call it what it is: shopping.