As a Target "beauty concierge," young Chelsea Mathison prowls the cosmetic aisles at the retailer's Nicollet Mall store, sweetly asking shoppers if they need beauty tips and recommendations.
The pixieish clerk seems an unlikely front-line warrior in the Minneapolis-based retailer's effort to embrace showrooming -- where consumers fiddle with products in stores, only to surf their smartphones to see if they can buy the items cheaper somewhere else. Amping up customer service in key product areas like beauty is one way Target hopes to address the fast-growing showrooming trend, especially as the crucial holiday shopping season approaches.
Showrooming may be a delightful win for value-oriented shoppers, but it has likely made retail executives gnash their teeth.
Not Casey Carl, however. Last month, Target's president of multichannel declared in a widely read essay on Target's Web site that he loves showrooming. Well, he qualified, as long as Target books the sale.
Devising a strategy to do just that means embracing a "utopian" version of Target where consumers seamlessly access bull's-eye merchandise in stores, on the Web, through social media and via smartphones, Carl said in a recent interview. He calls it a "multichannel journey where the experience is truly personalized. If we do that, ultimately that's where we win."
Amy Koo, senior analyst with Kantar Retail in Boston, said that "obviously, the elephant in the room is Amazon," the $61 billion online marketplace. "In the last year, there have been a lot of adjustments by Target to counter the Amazon challenge, a lot of initiatives, some of which have not been fruitful, but it's a good start," she said.
Koo said there now appears to be a new, open attitude about showrooming. "They're saying, 'We know we have to do something.' "
A study by Deloitte Consulting concluded that too many retailers dismiss mobile applications that may spur showrooming as a way to simply drive revenue to their respective Web sites. With up to 21 percent of total retail sales expected to be mobile-influenced by 2016, "store-based retailers should consider mobile as a strategic imperative because it affects the entire business," the report says. "Mobile should be used as a strategic lever to boost sales across the business."
As the Deloitte study pointedly notes: "It should be a C-suite issue, not a minor topic buried at the bottom of the e-commerce division's to-do list." (continued...)
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