Losing Customers to Showrooming?

by Jeannie Walters

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Humans are wonderfully complex. We say one thing and do another. We carry on about what we want, but don’t want it once it arrives. Predict as we might, we can’t always see what the next collective action is that we’ll take.

That’s what has been so challenging about the trend of showrooming. According to Wikipedia:

Showrooming is the act of examining merchandise in a brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it there, then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item.”

It’s part of how we operate now. In a world of unprecedented transparency, we can easily discover where to find a product cheaper.

Some interesting things to note:

  1. According to research by Foresee, a significant percentage of showrooming is actually happening BEFORE the actual shopping. As consumers, we are preparing ourselves to be savvy customers. So don’t assume it’s only the customers who whip out their phones while examining the merchandise who will abandon the store for an online purchase. Many will do so before smiling at the greeter.
  2. Closing the pricing gap, as this MarketingProfs article suggests,  between traditional retailers and those online is a challenge. Online sellers have the benefit of lower overhead, better distribution models, and the ubiquitious nature of how we now shop. (Have you seen Amazon’s new commercial? They are touting how they’ve made so much of online shopping normal.)

What can regular old retailers do?

  1. Wake up to reality. Like it or not, many people are shopping based on price. If yours are not close to competitive, then it’s time to figure out how you can be.
  2. Make sure your in-store experience is what it should be. People are willing to pay for smart advice, a special in-store experience, or fun! Here’s the sticky part – you have to keep up. If your products used to be unique but are now easily replicated at Target, it’s time to find something else that is special.
  3. Understand the buying experience is not just what happens when the money is given at the register. Walk through your experience with fresh eyes. Is there enough variety in products and pricing? How are returns handled? These are big reasons online purchases are gaining. The return experience has become easier and more accessible, thanks to the Zappos promise and others.
  4. Care enough to communicate. If your promise is a personal experience, then make sure you don’t forget about your customers when they walk out the door. Send personal communications. Offer something they care about.
  5. Showroom on your own! Sell your products and experience before your customers walk in the door. (Change it up, make sure it’s current and PLEASE optimize for mobile.)
  6. Offer convenience. This is a HUGE driver for women. What can you do to make it easier? Delivery? Special orders? Gift wrapping? Whatever you can do, make it so someone can do what they set out to do.
  7. The only way to create a special experience is to actually know and understand what your customer’s experience truly is. Do you know? It is rarely what you assume it is. Typically, there are easy ways to make it better.

In my opinion, this is the tip of the iceberg. Mobile devices are not going away, and customers have the power to be price-conscious on a level rarely seen in the past.

Instead of lamenting over the good ol’ days, it’s time to make something special happen.

Photo credit: _tar0_ via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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