Recently, Target sent a letter to its vendors requesting help to stop the practice of “showrooming.” Showrooming is shopping in a store to check out a product, and then purchasing it online, frequently at a lower price (or, at a minimum, minus the 6-10 percent sales tax paid in most states). In the letter, Target requested its suppliers either create distinctive products that are only made available in-store, or help Target match its competitors’ prices (read as online retailers).
This is troubling on many levels. To begin with, it indicates that big box retailers are not willing to do the hard work required to compete online. Or, they cannot or will not invest in in-store technologies. So first they try to cut off supply (or tell their vendors that they are going to pay for their failure) by exercising their buying clout. Next will come stepped up lobbying activity to force online retailers to collect sales taxes, or perhaps they will try to ban Internet shopping altogether. (The Retail Industry Leaders Association recently released a statement accusing Amazon of unfair practices because of its shopping app.)
Internet and smart phone shopping does not signal the death of brick-and-mortar retailing. In fact, these alternative channels should be embraced for what they are: new and distinctive ways to sell and serve your most loyal customers.
In the interest of full disclosure, I carry a Target Red card, love their stores, and probably spend more money annually at Target than at any other retailer. If they could manage to empower me to shop when I want (at midnight on the Internet), how I want, and with the information I need to make a purchase on my phone, they might be the only retailer that I ever shop.
To learn more about retail cross-channel marketing, be sure to register now for PRI’s Retailer Education Forum. It takes place in Las Vegas on March 6, from 12:30-5:30 p.m., in conjunction with Digital Signage Expo 2012. Read more about the Forum and register to attend.
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