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How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Showrooming

That could have been the title of a special showrooming panel held this week at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF’s) Annual Convention & Expo in New York.

According to NRF senior director Angela Elder, the panel’s overriding message was that “Showrooming isn’t going anywhere, and retailers should use it as an opportunity to remain focused on how to gain customer trust and loyalty.”

How exactly to do that?

Panelist Jerry O’Brien, a 27-year veteran of Target and director of Kohl’s Center for Retailing Excellence at the University of Wisconsin, said showrooming is the next evolution of retail and a new way to do business. Rather than countering it by cutting prices, retailers should focus on improving the customer experience, he argued.

Panelist Herman Nell, VP/CIO at Petco, said retailers should enhance and better integrate their interactive displays.

Macy’s consumer insights and strategy director Cheryl Berinato emphasized product differentiation through unique partnerships and private-label brands.

All of the participants agreed that sales associates are a retailer’s most powerful tool, and that merchants must invest in training them and equipping them with new technology. The latter should include mobile devices, which can serve multiple purposes such as adding sales, informing customers, and training associates, Elder observed.

The panel also featured a student presentation on showrooming, which was the winning submission in the annual NRF/American Express Aspire2Retail Intercollegiate Challenge. According to the kids, merchants must pursue a multi-faceted strategy that includes omnichannel retail, mobile apps, an improved in-store experience, and bundled merchandise, Elder said.