Retailers have long dreaded showrooming — when people pull out their phones in a store and, presumably, start looking for a cheaper, better product from the competition. It's true that people are on their phones more than ever in stores — mobile search queries that take place in a store have grown 15% in recent years.¹ But that's not necessarily bad news.
To get to the bottom of what people are doing on their phones in stores — and help retailers craft a marketing strategy that will help those customers — we conducted new research and found that people no longer follow a predictable and straight path to purchase. Now, they continue widening and narrowing their options as they shop across their channel-less shopping journey.
So how can you help customers looking for more information while they explore your store? Here are four key things to consider.
Make it easy for shoppers to find answers before they get to the store
Once a shopper has decided to visit your store, they turn to mobile to plan the trip in advance. From getting brand recommendations to checking product availability to looking up store hours, customers arrive at your store more knowledgeable than ever before. Make these details easy to find across your online experiences to get them primed and ready to buy. For example, 41% of shoppers wish retailers would do a better job of sharing inventory information.² Our data also shows that shoppers continue to hunt for deals while they're in-store, and search online for things like "[retailer name] + in store coupons" or use deal aggregators.³ Speaking of deal-seekers, they're a mobile-heavy group, with more than half using mobile to shop while they're in a store.⁴ Help these customers get a head start by making this information readily available before they've even walked through your doors.
Focus on yourself, not your competitors
A common misconception is that when a customer uses their phone to search in-store, they're just trying to see which of your competitors sells something for the cheapest price. While comparison shopping does happen, most in-store shoppers are actually searching online for more information about your store, brand, or the products you offer. In-store shoppers are 4X more likely to search on Google for the retail brand of the store they're currently in compared to the next highest competitor. So, stay focused on making sure your digital offerings are accurate and easy to access.
Empower the in-store shopper
People are also looking for other kinds of assistance, such as language assistance. Demand for translation help is quickly growing. In-store searches for Google Translate and "traductor" (“translator” in Spanish) climbed the rankings year over year in the majority of retailers we analyzed. We also found that 50% of shoppers use online video while in stores to brush up on a product before talking about it with sales representatives, to remind themselves of what to buy, and more.⁵
Moments like these create an enormous opportunity for marketers to provide fast and meaningful assistance that augments the overall customer experience.
Upgrade the in-store experience
When customers are in your store, they're getting more done than just their shopping — they're also finding ways to pass the time and answer everyday questions while they shop. Checking social networks and the weather are popular in-store searches. They're even brainstorming their next meal. Restaurant and food-related searches like "restaurants,""restaurants near me," and "food near me" commonly appear in the top 20 searches for many retailers.⁶
Marketers are taking advantage of these insights by investing in "experiential retail" that gives shoppers more reasons to stay and invest time in their stores beyond just shopping.
As you build your online and offline strategies, retailers should consider what people are searching for before, during, and after they arrive at your store. Whether it's helping them find the right product, tracking down coupon codes, or even stopping hunger pangs, predicting their intent will help retailers anticipate and deliver on those needs, increasing in-store growth.
¹ ³ ⁶ Google Data, U.S., aggregated, anonymized store traffic for top retail brands in Big Box, Department Stores, Drugstores, Warehouse Clubs, Home Improvement, Electronics, Grocery, Clothing, Office and Toy Stores from a sample of U.S. users that have turned on location and search history, N = 28 retail brands, 2017.
² Google/Ipsos, U.S., Omnichannel Holiday Study, Holiday shoppers 18+ who shopped in previous 48 hours n=5944, Nov. 2017–Jan. 2018.
⁴ Google/Ipsos, Omnichannel Holiday Study, U.S., Holiday Shoppers 18+ n=1092 Deal Seekers, Nov. 2017-Jan. 2018.
⁵ Google/Ipsos, U.S., "How People Shop with YouTube," study, 18- to 64-year-olds who go online at least once per month and have purchased something in the last year (n=2,401), July 2018.