There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “showroom” effect – people using brick and mortar stores to see, touch and feel products, then turn around and order them online. Smaller retailers are really struggling with this – especially those who may not be able to compete effectively on price. So they have to figure out other ways of enticing customers to buy from them and are making changes in the way they do business – things like making sure sales associates have intimate product knowledge – or quick access to it, providing superior customer service, offering complimentary products and services and ensuring easy returns or exchanges.

Unfortunately, for customers whose purchase decisions are based solely on price, these retailers may not stand a chance. These types of customers are willing to risk a bit more of a hassle if they need to return or exchange something. They are willing to wait a few days to get free delivery and a lower price. They are even willing to spend their own time to do their own research on a product. I frankly, don’t have time for much of that, so I’m really hoping brick and mortar retailers up the ante on those other capabilities I just mentioned.

What else needs to happen? Price matching. Probably. Best Buy did this long before showrooming was an issue. You could bring in an ad from Circuit City (RIP), show a Best Buy associate the lower price, and they’d give you that lower price plus 10% more off. It’s the same game, just now the ads are digital, and product information is viral. I mentioned in a previous blog post about an experience at CVS, where cross channel, their prices are not aligned, and a customer called this out. Fortunately, CVS does match their own prices – although I honestly don’t know if they’d match competitor’s pricing.

But the point is, retailers – if you’re worried about this – and you should be: a recent poll found that found that 40% of shoppers do some level of showrooming – then you need to take action.

Don’t fight it – embrace it. Digital and mobile shopping are here to stay, so you might as well take the bull by the horns and figure out how you’re going to handle it. As an example, Walmart created their Endless Aisle initiative, where they encourage shoppers to order from their online sites while in the store. Why not be one step ahead of the game? If your sales associates are a key part of your customer experience, then leverage this role – equip them with the tools and support they need to turn a showrooming customer into a loyal one.

Imagine this: a customer has researched online a particular bedroom suite they’re interested in and goes into a furniture store to make sure the color and quality are up to their expectations. This customer knows very well that the online price is lower than what the brick and mortar store’s advertised price is, and they have absolutely no intention of purchasing from that retailer. However, imagine this customer being approached by a design consultant, who also has knowledge of the online pricing and can not only match that price, but provide next- or same-day-delivery and suggest complementary items such as lamps, rugs and accessories. Furthermore, imagine if that design consultant introduced the customer to the brand’s interactive mobile room design app, interior design blog, Pinterest boards or other online services.

These capabilities and associate empowerment have now changed that customer’s entire experience. The design consultant, who was probably initially viewed as a threat (since the customer most likely wanted to showroom incognito) is now an ally, a consultant, and a trusted advisor. That customer who was previously focused solely on the price of a single item has now been introduced to other items and services the retailer offers that are relevant to the customer, based on the purpose of their visit – in this case the purchase of a new bedroom suite.

Showrooming customers are ready, willing and (hopefully) able to buy. Their visit to your store is usually the last confirmation they need to ensure the product meets their expectations. Get ‘em while they’re hot – leverage your employees, leverage your in-store capabilities and create the customer experience that turns showrooming into an advantage for you.

– Tricia

Published On: May 23, 2013Categories: Retail Strategy, Showrooming, Store Operations, Tricia Chismer Gustin