The Amazon Price Check app was an inevitability for the industry — smartphones eliminate information asymmetries on pricing and do so while the customer is in the store at the moment of the purchase decision. Fighting it won’t help, just like fighting digital downloading of music didn’t help the record labels. If it wasn’t Amazon, it would have been another business, so retailers need to best Amazon’s price advantage by adding more value to the customers’ overall shopping experience. What retailers should know is that they have the advantage in this fight.
To counteract the Amazon Price Check app and thwart “showrooming” — when shoppers come into a store to see a product in person, and then buy it from a competitor online, often at a lower price — brick and mortar retailers need to embrace multichannel retailing and offer an in-store experience that negates any price advantage that may be found online. Retailers need to shift from a “we sell to the customer” mindset to one which says “we partner with the customer in solving their problem or meeting their needs.” The difference between these two approaches is relevance, embracing information sharing and integrating the online/offline shopping experience. Multichannel can help enable retailers to achieve this and drive positive customer experiences – and sales – with their business, rather than a rival’s.
Think of it this way. Effective multichannel retailing is the ability to offer consumers a compelling, consistent experience across multiple channels, creating an environment where customers can start researching or communicating with a business in one channel and purchase in another. It helps to keep the consumer interacting with a retailer – regardless of which channel they choose — rather than driving him or her to another. Retailers’ physical stores can benefit greatly from a cohesive multichannel effort.
For example, smartphones offer as much opportunity for brick and mortar retailers as they do for Amazon. If brick and mortar retailers can add value to the shopping experience with examples like pushing relevant and personalized offers to the consumers’ smartphones while they walk the aisles or providing mobile apps that drive interaction between the retailer and consumer, e.g., an app that tells the consumer where the closest location is and includes a coupon, then retailers can effectively combat Amazon’s price advantage.
Beyond the use of smartphones, retailers can provide multichannel fulfillment options such as buy online/pick up in store. Offers like this make it easier for consumers to get what they want, how they want, when they want and where they want.
If Amazon is planning to open retail locations, they, too, recognize the value of an effective multichannel model, and that the experience consumers have in-store can have a strong impact on their purchasing decision and overall perception of a retailer’s business.
Brick and mortar retailers currently have a huge advantage over Amazon with their stores, but they have to offer a multichannel shopping experience that truly meets — or even exceeds — their customers’ needs and expectations. If they provide this, then the experience they deliver can best any price advantage Amazon may have.
Steven Kramer is responsible for running business in the Americas for hybris, www.hybris.com, which provides a complete multichannel commerce solution. Previously, Kramer was President and Co-founder of iCongo.