Showrooming Becomes A Problem For Retailers

The way that people shop is changing and some larger retailers like Target don’t like it. A new trend that they’re seeing is “showrooming”, which is when a shopper goes into a brick and mortar store like Target to check out certain products (think TVs, toys, appliances, furniture, etc.), finds what they like and then goes online to do price comparisons and make the actual purchase (usually from somewhere like, eBay or other e-commerce stores).

The Wall Street Journal’s Ann Zimmerman wrote up a great piece on showrooming and how Target is trying to deal with it. Target was the focus due to an urgent letter they sent out to their vendors as a plea to help them fight the battle against savvy shoppers taking advantage of the time and money they spend on creating a great retail environment, only to be cut out of the equation when they end up buying online instead of in one of their stores.

Last week, in an urgent letter to vendors, the Minneapolis-based chain suggested that suppliers create special products that would set it apart from competitors and shield it from the price comparisons that have become so easy for shoppers to perform on their computers and smartphones. Where special products aren’t possible, Target asked the suppliers to help it match rivals’ prices. It also said it might create a subscription service that would give shoppers a discount on regularly purchased merchandise.

I think this is an interesting new behavior that shoppers are doing and it’s cool to see how Target is dealing with it. Target has to compete with the online retailers and really the only way to do it is through stronger relationships with their vendors (which basically means making them drop their prices and making the supply chain more efficient like Wal-Mart). It’s a competitive world out there and I think we’re just starting to see the effects that the efficiency of the web is bringing into the retail market.

I’ll admit that I’ve showroom’d before and I know it’s not going away anytime soon and it’s going to be up to Target (and their vendors) to adapt to the speed at which the web is changing the ways that we all shop. No matter what happens I think the end result is always going to be better prices for all of us consumers, so I guess we don’t have a lot to worry about.

Good luck, Target.


How Taking The Sticks Out Of Kebabs Equals Good Product Development

Something hit me today when Stephanie and I went and had dinner at a place called Mediterranean Kebab near my office in Burlingame, CA. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it’s the type of thing that I notice and appreciate as a customer. I’m guessing that most people who stop in to grab some kebabs don’t think about it, but I sure did.

After we ordered Stephanie and I took our number, sat down and chatted for a bit about our days at work while we munched on some pita bread and hummus (one of my all-time favs). A few minutes later our food was brought to our table and we were ready to get our grub on. Once our food was on the table I noticed something that was a little different than I’ve seen at other Mediterranean restaurants — the kebabs didn’t have any sticks in them. For the first time in my life I was looking at a stickless kebab!

So why did I notice this little detail? Mostly because I’m a dork like that. But other than that I noticed because instead of taking the time to pull off the pieces of chicken, peppers and onions off of the kebab, getting my hands all messy and pushing half of the meal off my plate in the process I went straight to eating. The cooks had taken out a simple, yet sometimes complicated step out of my meal, had saved me time and effort and had still gotten me to the point to where I could get straight to business (aka ‘getting my grub on’).

If you think about it 100% of people have to pull all of the delicious goodies off of a stick before they can get to eating their kebab. It’s what I would call an unnecessary step to get to what I really want, which is eating the meat and veggies that are cooked so perfectly together.

Of course, there are always exceptions and apparently Stephanie is one of them. When she saw that I was writing about this she quickly said “I actually like to pull the stuff off of the kebab…”, which I guess I can understand, but can’t agree with. This got me wondering how many people would actually prefer to have the sticks vs. would rather just have it without them. If I were to guess I would say that most people like not having to deal with the sticks and that the Stephanie’s of the kebab world are the minority. But, just like with any educated guess doing some type of survey or stats on what people really want and what they don’t would be the only way to know the real truth.

Before taking the sticks out of the kebabs I would hope that the cooks would have done a little bit of research, but who knows. Sometimes going with your gut and natural instincts can work pretty well, too. But, the good thing is that even if 30-40% of people really liked the sticks, removing them is making the process more efficient and no matter what this change to the product flow isn’t making the end result any better or worse. Once they give enough people exposure to the stickless kebabs no one will ever even remember what they used to be like anyways.

Do you remember what Facebook was like before the newsfeed that so many people initially complained about? I didn’t think so.

Thinking about this type of thing might not seem that important, but it’s small details like this and decisions that are made around customer experiences that make a product the best possible thing that it can be. I might not deal with kebabs on a daily basis at isocket, but I do make decisions all of the time that have an impact on the product that our customers use on a daily basis. Add a button here, remove a step there — it’s all about getting the product down to the things that are necessary and adding real value (even if some of your customers might disagree).

Taking out steps that don’t matter and making it easier for people to get to what they want is the name of the game when it comes to good product development and taking the sticks out of the kebabs is just another way to do it. It might not be that sexy, but hey — it works.