For years, brick and mortar retailers pretended showrooming didn't exist. But with the explosion of the smartphone, online shopping – and, well, Amazon – retailers had no choice but to admit and accept that the phenomenon did exist.
From that point, brick and mortar retailers began developing strategies to offset the effects of showrooming, such as selling exclusive products, ramping up online sales channels and creating mobile apps.
However, despite anxieties, the savviest retailers are not just trying to counter showrooming, but are instead viewing it as an opportunity to reposition their business models to get closer to and engage more with their customers as well as to differentiate their brands.
The Road Less Traveled
Nordstrom, for example, found an innovative way to benefit from the practice by forming a partnership with jewelry website Blue Nile, who happens to be a direct competitor with Amazon.
Under this new pilot program, Blue Nile is paying Nordstrom an undisclosed amount for display spaces in its new Wedding Suite at the flagship store in Seattle.
At first blush this partnership may seem counterproductive, but this unique setup actually benefits both parties.
By displaying 75 engagement rings and 40 wedding bands, Blue Nile gives customers the opportunity to see the jewelry in person and try it on.
While customers must still order online, a representative from Blue Nile is readily available, with an iPad in hand, to help answer questions and create customized rings.
For Nordstrom’s, this arrangement helps to attract customers to its Wedding Suite, where they have the opportunity to look through and buy wedding dresses and other items.
Although the pilot is only a six-month long engagement at one store, if it proves to be successful it could expand to Nordstrom’s 17 other Wedding Suite salons.
Is This Strategy Right for My Brand?
Although the store within a store concept is nothing new, the Nordstrom-Blue Nile program is indicative of things to come as online retailers look for physical showrooms to build brand awareness and have face-to-face interactions with customers.
However, before investing in a store within a store format using a purely online retailer, brick and mortar retailers need to answer many questions and understand customer desires.
By developing customer profiles, retailers will be able to identify not only if their customers would favor this type of store format, but also identify what retail pairings would fit best.
After all, the more you understand the customer, the better you can secure their business by optimizing your product mix.