If you can't beat showroomers, join 'em

Your customers like to shop online, and it’s easy to see why. They can sit on their couch with a bowl of ice cream and shop a dozen stores at once. They get amazing variety, choice of sizes, product information, ratings and reviews. And they can shop when it’s convenient, not when the store’s open. No wonder the National Retail Federation predicted online shopping will increase 9 to 12% in 2014. But does mean the end of brick-and-mortar stores?

Absolutely not.

That’s because online shopping isn't an all-or-nothing activity. Customers are doing both, enjoying the best of both worlds to get their shopping done most efficiently.

The In-Store, Online Customer At last week’s Ad Age Digital Conference, Walmart.com’s vice president of marketing Brian Monahan spoke about how retailers can bridge the digital-physical divide. According to Monahan, the key is embracing technology, and understanding that consumers like to shop in-store as well as online.

Remember, your customers are looking for anything that makes their life easier. This is especially true for busy parents. They’re looking for shortcuts, doing whatever it takes to buy themselves a few extra minutes every day.

For instance, when it comes to baby products, Monahan says moms prefer to do their research on the retailer’s website, then go to the store to see the product they’ve zeroed in on, size it up in person and make their final decision.

Your Next Move? As a smart marketer, you know it’s not a good idea to try to outsmart your customers. So don’t fight the trend. Monahan pointed to how Walmart has adapted by using technology to connect the company’s digital and physical assets. Sure, Walmart customers use their smart phones to “showroom” in-store. But instead of trying to clamp down on it, Walmart actually helps make it easier.

The Walmart mobile app uses geofencing that reacts to a user’s presence in the store, revealing a set of features that are normally hidden. One of them is a comparison-shopping tool. (How’s that for confidence in your low price?) The same app lets customers skip the checkout lines and pay with their smart phone instead.

That tells the customer Walmart “gets it” and wants to help make their life easier. It builds a positive connection between the customer and the brand. And it keeps that customer coming back for an experience that can’t get at home.

This is just one example of how a smart retailer is embracing shopping trends and using technology to continue earning their customers’ loyalty. What are you doing to make your customers’ lives easier and create a great shopping experience? Tell us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.