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REI to combat showrooming with Wi-Fi content

NEW YORK ? An REI executive at Mobile Marketer?s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference talked about how the sporting goods retailer is betting on in-store Wi-Fi and customer service to beat showrooming.

During the ?Mobile Commerce: The Runaway Hit in Mobile and Retail?s Savior? session, executives from REI, Resource, Grand Street, Deloitte and Gin Lane Media spoke about how marketers can best leverage mobile to drive on-device and in-store sales with unique content. One of the main topics discussed was the dwindling threat that showrooming and price-comparison shoppers are for bricks-and-mortar retailers.

?When an employee sees a customer with a smartphone in their hand searching for a product review on a product that they?re trying to decide if they should buy, that?s an opportunity for our employees to engage with that customer ? not only to help find the product that they?re looking for, but also to help them understand overall the REI brand and our value proposition,? said Michelle Eten, divisional vice president of digital retail at REI, Kent, WA.

The session was moderated by Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

Will showrooming die?
According to Ms. Eten, REI has price-monitoring technology, but the company is not responding to the market item by item.

This means that REI will not necessarily always offer the lowest price, but the executive cited research that finds consumers are willing to spend three to five percent more for something if customer service is attached to the higher price.

REI is also leveraging in-store Wi-Fi in all of its stores. In the future, the retailer wants to push content out to consumers through the Wi-Fi.

The next big step in REI?s roll-out of Wi-Fi is in-store signage that will help educate consumers on how to connect to the technology while shopping.

This strategy is focused on keeping consumers in-store for as long as possible with all of the pieces of information that is needed to buy a product.

Additionally, opting-in to Wi-Fi gives REI a better understanding of which sites consumers are looking at in-store.

The REI executive also said that mobile-armed consumers are more likely to be multichannel shoppers.

?They?re in our store, they?re on our mobile site or on our app ? they are transacting across all of these channels, so they?re a high-value customer for us,? Ms. Eten said.

When it comes to mobile-generated sales, REI has a mobile site, an Android and iPhone shopping app and a snow report engagement app.

Similar to other retailers, REI is noticing that smartphones generate higher traffic than tablets, but tablets convert more sales.

Additionally, REI is slowly making a shift from direct mail marketing to more desktop and mobile paid search.

Mobile?s in-store impact
According to research from Deloitte last year, 19 percent of all in-store transactions are influenced by mobile.

There is no doubt that mobile transactions continue to gain traction, but retailers that neglect to incorporate mobile into the in-store experience are clearly missing out on a bigger opportunity to drive sales.

Dealing with showrooming head-on can accelerate loyalty efforts and actually increase incremental mobile transactions if done correctly, according to Kasey Lobaugh, chief innovation office of Deloitte, New York.

Deloitte?s research has also found that when consumers use their mobile devices in-store, mobile conversion rates spike.

?What we see is that the trend is moving faster than what we had originally understood,? Mr. Lobaugh said.

At the same time, online retailers are stepping up their mobile initiatives to mirror in-store experiences.

In fact, online retailer Grand Street makes design and product decisions based on online showrooming to give consumers the same type of experience that they receive in-store.

?It?s really interesting when you hear in the media, ?Oh showrooming is a terrible thing,? and I think it?s important rather than asking how do we stop it, it?s how do we encourage that behavior on a medium that benefits ourselves,? said Joe Lallouz, cofounder at Grand Street, New York.

Final Take
Joe Lallouz is cofounder at Grand Street, New York