What is showrooming?
It’s a typical day for a retail team at a small store in Boston. They’re focused on helping customers, ringing orders, restocking items, and performing inventory. But as they’re working, they’re noticing a disturbing trend. Someone walks through the door; that someone looks exactly like their ideal customer. She knows exactly what she wants, asking for the product by name or efficiently ferreting it out on the shelf. After checking out the product and looking at the price tag, the floor staff waits with baited breath to see what happens next.
Does she pick up the item to buy? Or does she whip out her smartphone?
A recent retail survey has uncovered the growing trend of showrooming. Consumers are going to physical stores to check out items they’re planning to buy in person. For example, maybe a customer is purchasing the first pair of shoes for their child and they aren’t sure of the appropriate size. They want to try the shoes on their child. Or in other cases, they want to test the picture quality of a TV, or feel the construction of various home décor items. But when it comes to buying, price sensitivity is the biggest driver.
So instead of buying there, they hunt around online for prices before committing. Some customers have a buying plan that involves hitting the mall to get the inside scoop and then buying online. Others simply check their options before buying at the retail store.
What are the effects of showrooming?
There’s no question that businesses are being impacted. Big retailers have taken steps to dissuade customers from engaging in this practice. At the same time, it’s the smaller and medium size businesses that are being directly impacted. In a time when sales are down across the board, every brick and mortar that’s losing sales is suffering. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that getting frustrated is not productive. It’s critical to adapt to this new way of doing business and get ahead of the trend by building responses to it into your store’s DNA.
How can mobile market research help?
Market research is the single biggest weapon in helping reduce the showrooming trend. It’s not going away. As customers become more mobile and as the economy places increasing pressure on people to spend wisely, it’s important to keep in mind that this represents the direction that shopping is going. The retailers that thrive will be the ones that find a way to work with showroomers, not penalize them.
- Know what your customers really want. Find out why they’re showrooming and adjust your business model to meet those needs.
- Train your staff to approach showroomers and see how they can help. Emphasize benefits like immediate ability to use the item, no shipping costs, and generous return policies.
- Use incentives as a last resort to get people to take action now. Usually a good incentive is a discount (e.g. 10% off) or some sort of a bonus (e.g. buy this now, get a second item half off).
Is your business experiencing showrooming?