6 Ways to Combat Showrooming
If you’re a small retailer, you’ve probably heard the term “showrooming,” which refers to a growing trend in which consumers visit physical stores to view and touch products, then look up information about the product online using their smartphones.
Showrooming consumers may be looking for product reviews or ratings; more information or details about a product; or different color options than are on display. What makes brick-and-mortar retailers nervous, however, is when showroomers start comparing prices and looking for places to buy the product cheaper—whether that’s online or at your competitor down the street.
According to statistics cited by the Canadian Marketing Association, one in four Canadian consumers currently practice showrooming, and a third of Canadians say they research product prices online before buying, whether the ultimate purchase is made at a brick-and-mortar store or online. The worst-case scenario, of course, is a customer using his or her smartphone to buy a product you sell from another retailer—right in your store. While this is still rare (statistics from Arcus cited by the CMA show only about 10 percent of Canadian ecommerce purchases in 2012 took place on mobile devices), the trend is increasing by about 4 percent annually.
What influences shoppers to showroom and buy elsewhere than your store? Unfortunately for small businesses, price is the biggest factor. Bigger retailers have combated the showrooming trend by offering to match any prices that customers find online. That may or may not be an option for you, depending on what you sell. However, even if price matching seems like a solution, offering to match, say, Amazon’s pricing could quickly lead your business down a slippery slope to shrinking profit margins.
Other than price, how else can a small brick-and-mortar retailer fight back against showrooming? Here are some ideas.
1. Provide information. Many customers grab their phones just to get more information about a product. They aren’t necessarily intending to buy elsewhere, but if they see a good price, they may. Make sure you display as much information as you can about products in your store, including size and color options, and that your salespeople are well versed in the features of what you sell so they can be more helpful than the Internet.
2. Enlist retail sales clerks as your first line of defense against showrooming. Make sure they keep an eye on customers in the store who look like they have questions or are using their phones. Approach them and offer friendly assistance.
3. Emphasize immediacy. Yes, buying online may be cheaper, but if customers want a product now and you have it in stock, buying in your store is still the fastest way to get it. Focus on the benefits of being able to have the product in-hand right away and the convenience of buying in your store instead of going home to shop online (and possibly find the product out of stock).
4. Offer promotions and perks to keep shoppers in store. Consider emailing or mailing coupons with a discount or two-for-one offer good only in-store. Or set up a rewards program for in-store shoppers encouraging them to physically visit your store.
5. Provide shipping. You may want to offer shipping for large items or as a convenience. Depending on the cost, you can add this onto the customer’s total charge or offer to absorb it. Free shipping from a store offers the best of both worlds to the customer.
6. Make it an experience. Gift wrap, packaging, music, scents and other tactile elements of shopping your store can make all the difference in capturing sales. Create an environment where customers enjoy lingering to contrast with the impersonal feel of shopping online.
When your in-store experience is attentive, personalized and feels “special,” when your employees engage with the customer in a friendly manner, when your customers feel truly listened to and served, they won’t want to buy anywhere else.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com.