Showrooming is one of the biggest threats to retailers today – here are some tips to beat it.
Showrooming is rapidly establishing itself as every retailer’s greatest fear. Smartphone-equipped shoppers can quickly and easily check the prices of goods online and order them from a competitor after viewing the item in your store.
How common is the problem?
Showrooming is on the increase, suggesting that retailer fears are not misplaced.
- 24% of all UK shoppers admitted to showrooming during the 2012 Christmas shopping period.
- 40% of showroomers bought their items elsewhere.
- 20% of showroomers admitted they went instore simply to check an item they planned to buy online later.
The issue of showrooming is not restricted to the UK either. The Yankee Group estimates that 46% of US shoppers use their smartphones to check prices in store.
Some proposed solutions
Many businesses have come up with novel ways to try and combat showrooming:
- A specialist food store has begun levying a $5 browsing fee on any shopper who fails to buy anything. The owner Celiac Supplies believes that she was serving 60 people each week who were “just looking”, before going elsewhere to buy the same items cheaper. The $5 browsing fee is deducted at the checkout when the shopper makes a purchase.
- Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins has suggested that charging a refundable browsing fee in bookshops is “not that insane”.
- Clothing retailers in Sydney have started charging shoppers “fitting fees”, or to use changing rooms.
- Asda has announced that it is installing free Wi-Fi across its 550 UK stores. Clearly this makes price comparison easier, so it is a confident step by Asda to allow more shopping-time scrutiny of their prices as part of the Asda Price Guarantee, reconfigured for the digital age.
The overall goal of these solutions is the same:
- To deter time-wasters.
- To claim back some of the otherwise-wasted staffing costs.
- To try and create a sense of exclusivity for the shop involved.
The fee-based deterrent has been tried before with little success. Fashion designer Vera Wang once implemented a $500 fee for women trying on her gowns, although in that instance she was attempting to stop time-wasters. The fee was abolished after receiving heavy criticism from the media and shoppers alike.
There is a better way
Rather than trying to penalise showroomers, some businesses have unified their multi-channel retail offerings to create a consistent shopping experience across platforms. Some of these new approaches include:
- Developing smartphone apps and encouraging showroomers to download and use them in-store. In this way shops have a second chance at capturing the buyer. Some companies even provide free WiFi to help shoppers get online.
- Using multichannel software, retailers can link web and bricks-and-mortar operations so that the customer can interact with businesses as they choose.
- Pre-showrooming. Encouraging shoppers to reserve or purchase items online and then trying them out in store, backed by a good returns policy.
Showrooming is a definite threat to retailers, but with a good underlying multi-channel platform and some creativity, it is still possible to win. As businesses face up to these challenges, they can also streamline their operations, helping to cut costs and maximise profit.