Showrooming – Reverse ROPO

By Paul Morris
I wrote an article recently on ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline). It took me an age to research/ write and hurt my tiny mind in trying to figure out and measure how Online powers Offline purchasing. Now I’m tackling this topic from a different angle and ascertaining how to deal with Showrooming / Reverse ROPO; Research Offline Purchase Online (the best I have heard it called is by Nicola Boon = SOPO – See Offline Purchase Online)

Unlike ROPO, what I’m finding with reverse ROPO is that there is relatively little research on the topic available from Tim Berners-Lee’s play thing. As a result I’m going to tackle the topic in the only way I know how; musing, pontificating and drawing conclusions from the mire of my mind…

To start with let’s understand why people engage in reverse ROPO and in what situation would it happen.

Generally Research Offline Purchase Online occurs with commoditised products. Now my definition of a commodity does not accurately match that of Wikipedia’s but what I mean are products that do offer differentials however are  ‘want’ based (rather than need based) and are easily defined by identifiers such as UPC, EAN, JAN, ISBN or simply by a product code on a shelf. Items such as a laptop, TV, sound system, posh pen, dslr camera, etc fit in to this category. Essentially people want to know they are buying the right product at the right price.

At present there are around 1/3 of the UK population who actively use smartphones (some cheeky devils even take in their Ipad’s). Some of these individulas actively seek out the sales advice from stores such as John Lewis but then go straight on to their smartphone for more product information and price comparison.

The first question that pops in to my head is ‘how widespread is the process of reverse ropo?; Answer. Not sure.

Moving swiftly on to my next question: ‘How do you deal with reverse ropo?’ Answer: The good news is that I have several suggestions on this hence here goes…

Get in to the places where people are researching. E.g. Cnet app, price runner product feed presence, ppc and seo part number optimisation, affiliate blogs/ forums, web links/ display advertising presence on the review/ price comparison sites themselves, etc. This advice only sticks if you are competitive on price and/or have a great brand or differentiator.

Talking of having a great brand; if you are not the cheapest then you need to create a wrapper around the product that people want to unwrap (wow that’s almost poetic)…

Figure out what are the barriers to exit from your shop and showcase them to your potential buyer. We are therefore talking USP’s e.g. a great: brand, customer service, warranty, set up advice, freebies etc AND/OR create an added value shopping experience in your shop. This added value could take the guise of:

Tiny url’s, QR codes or Snap Tags that ensures the person can get more product information easily.

A mobile friendly site that has product benefits, product videos, reviews (I cannot stress how important these are in terms of how strongly influenced people are by expert reviews and also by broader customer reviews), etc.

Another way of engagement would be to utilise the very device they are engaging with e.g. the Iphone Sephora app (going back to my earlier point on how important product reviews are; you may as well be the portal to those reviews rather than them bleeding elsewhere to find them). Could you even consider implementing killer online customer service where the customer tweets/ messages a team of experts with questions (each product would have an in store code to include with the question so it is an in store USP whilst at the same time easily identifying the product in question to the expert) and then get back to them immediately with the answer?

Could you even go a step further and utilise something like augmented reality to engage with the product? E.g. do something like Parrot have done with the AR Drone via engagement with the mobile device.

Utilise good old point of sale literature and price points that show why they should buy from you then and there and the fact you are competitive on price e.g. Waitrose often show themselves to price match Tesco that gives the illusion (and it is an illusion!) they are competitive on price and thus stops bleed to another retailer.

Then if the person does leave your shop or site deal with this in a number of ways e.g. by utilising discounts in your PPC ad copy (as Comet do), retarget if they have been to your site with standard ‘products you have viewed’ messaging (as Wiggle do effectively) or take it a step further by retargeting with video of the product itself (as ASOS could do with their huge repository of video collateral if they got their act together/ listened to me) or with ‘products you might also like’ (as Amazon do effectively within their site), etc

Key to the marketing mix and in ascertaining reverse ropo risk/ value is the sexy area of economics. It’s all about understanding per product electicity of demand (I blogged about this topic but in relation to online form fill out elasticity) and mashing it up with your brand/ service to ultimately land at a sales price (yes I’m over simplifying things by not allowing for economies of scale, fixed and variable costs, etc however this is not a ‘marketing plan’ blog). e.g. People may not bleed online from your shop environment if the product were £5 cheaper elsewhere but might do so if it were £50 more expensive due to the product elasticity and the fact your proposition is not strong enough to hang on to the sale.

12th November 2013 update: Interesting how some retailers are looking to use ibeacons to defend against showrooming/ reverse ROPO