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Showrooming: 13 Reasons Your Brick and Mortar Retail Store Is Susceptible

Amazon showroomingShowrooming occurs when customers at a brick and mortar store, after having physically touched, smelled, lifted, handled, and most importantly priced your products in person, go online through their smartphones and comparison shop – most often to Amazon.

It’s one of the risks I’ve addressed in my manifesto.

Showrooming to brick and mortar retailers it is akin to stealing.

Whether customers do it in the privacy of a deserted aisle, in front of your best employee or in the parking lot walking back to their car, showrooming is causing a lot of retail executives a lot of worry.

Customers walking into your store no longer are “just looking,” they’re taking your hard-earned retail reputation, using all the beautiful displays, premium products and employees to cancel out any suspicions they have before they buy online.

To shoppers, it’s smart shopping.

To cellular companies it is the reason they can sell the more expensive smartphones.

To Amazon, it’s just business.

Once  your customers go to Amazon, they’re hooked. Cosmetics? Groceries? Gourmet Coffees – even wine? Amazon will let them setup an auto-order for refills.

Once your customers purchase, Amazon does a swell job of showing them related items meaning they have even less reasons to go back to your brick and mortar store.

So how does your store open the door for them to go to Amazon or other online retailers in the first place?

Thirteen Reasons Your Brick & Mortar Store Is Susceptible to Showrooming

  1. Your merchandise is stacked and displayed like everyone else’s. When the merchandise is seen as nothing special, online sites beckon.
  2. You don’t have enough employees. When it’s tough to find someone to answer your questions, the customer’s smartphone is always-at-the-ready for a quick Amazon price check.
  3. The employees you have take too much time with one customer. It’s great to have technically proficient employees whose passion is knowing every nuance, and who can regale the customer with story after story, but like a restaurant, your selling floor needs to turn customers regularly.
  4. The employees you have take too little time with customers. Employees who say, “It’s over there,” or “I’ll get someone” might as well say, “Find it yourself.” When there’s no relationship, there’s no loyalty to shop with your brick and mortar store.
  5. Your employees have no bond to your business. When your employees don’t value making the sale as necessary for a profitable business, they are just as likely to let the customer walk.
  6. Your employees stay clustered around the registers “waiting.” When customers feel like they are interrupting an employee clique, they will feel awkward.
  7. Your shopping experience is unremarkable. If a customer gets the silent treatment and only is talked to at the cash wrap, they don’t get a good feeling from their purchase.
  8. You let customers help themselves with self-service. If you designed the store for customers to feel free to help themselves, they will now feel free to help themselves … with their smartphones.
  9. You don’t respect your customers. When you don’t respect the fact customers go out of their way and spend their limited time to get to your brick and mortar store, you treat them with indifference. Indifference costs you sales.
  10. You think competing with Amazon just means “matching prices.” But denying that your real costs are more than Amazon’s, you’re just digging your debt deeper with every sale.
  11. You have an owner or stockholder who doesn’t want to lose any business. They want you to offer any discount it takes to keep all customers.  The best merchants know you have to walk away from unprofitable customers in order to remain profitable.
  12. Shopper behaviors are changing. Since customers have been conditioned to know there’s always a sale somewhere, they will look for it online to keep from paying your price.
  13. Customers assume everything online is the same as yours. Unless your employee shows the value of the real thing in your store, customers might be misled to buy something online at a lower price that could be counterfeit, damaged or mismatched. If your employees aren’t trained to poke holes in online shopping habits, customers may purchase apples when they wanted oranges.

Unless you personally take the initiative to stop showrooming, you’ll be a victim of it. 

Why? Because Amazon does so well and many brick and mortar stores add no extra value to the shopping experience. It does all just become price.

Customers walking into your brick and mortar store still want the warm feeling they get from shopping, from feeling the products, the ambiance of your store, the warmth of your employees. That can’t be had with a computer screen, mobile device or virtual anything.

Customers may be shopping less but when they decide to spend that money they are more sensitve than ever to indifference from the retailer and their employees.

Amazon and other internet sites will continue to grow as stuck brick and mortar retailers refuse to look in the mirror and change.

The chance to make a powerful impression and disarm the smartphone in your customers’ pocket is yours but it will take work to mitigate these thirteen reasons why your store is open to being showroomed.

What say you? Please enter in comments below…

I’ve added a new speech, How Not To Be A Showroom For Amazon that will share the strategies and tactics your association, chain or store needs to compete. Visit my retail motivational speaker page to start the dialogue about bringing me to your next event. 

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on June 12, 2012.

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17 Responses to “Showrooming: 13 Reasons Your Brick and Mortar Retail Store Is Susceptible”

  1. Valerie says:

    wow, this is true and we just had a staff meeting about this very thing on Saturday. I am having a business owners meeting tonight and I plan to share this with them tonight!
    Thanks for the interesting topics you cover in your blogs.

  2. Provoking post, Bob! I’d bet that most biz owners don’t know how to handle this problem. This is helpful info that I’ll use. Thanks!

  3. LOVE your blogs! I learn from everyone of them! Sometimes it just reiterates the gut is correct! Priceless on this road of the unknown!

  4. Great post Bob! The hard part is getting local retailers to take a hard look at the 13 items, then after looking they must take positive action! As the old saying goes “Talk is cheap!”

  5. timo platt says:

    Showrooming poses real risks for all retailers. They can combat by using the latest mobile tools to engage shoppers in- and near-store, finding out why they want to buy, guiding the purchase decision, and closing the sale. #SoLoMo http://amex.co/KDVEn4

    • Respectfully Timo I couldn’t be more against use of mobile. The customer is walking into your retail store with a gun, you either transform it from connecting it back to the web to look for “deals, coupons” and all that junk or you negate it with your human salespeople. The more retailers pull people back onto the web, the more distracted they will be from their brick and mortar four walls.

      Additionally, as LBM and SOLOMO is used to promote, disrupt and interupt customers with notices about “deals” and “coupons” to come to the store next door, I predict shoppers, the profitable ones, will avoid it as it becomes spammy. See this blog/video http://www.retaildoc.com/blog/retail-trends-2012-is-location-based-marketing-just-a-coupon-device/ with Ben Sprecher of Incentive Targeting and I discussing it. Thanks for commenting though.

  6. James Brooks says:

    Fantastic points Bob. In addition to the showrooming element, your 13 Reasons are basically retail 101. I linked through to your manifesto, and how many of the 13 Reasons and the points in your manifesto are directly linked to the associates in retail stores? Virtually All!

    In my opinion, it all starts at the recruiting and interviewing level. Granted, most associates and even manager candidates look at retail either as a PT gig or an entry level job. Taking the time to learn if a candidate can actually carry on a conversation with enthusiasm, has a long-term goal and can do the job is the best way to avoid hiring a warm body to stand in your stores.

    One technique I have used is to have my Managers interview me, or an employee I brought in from another store (Mystery Candidate) if you will. Many Managers will amaze you, others will scare the you know what out of you.

    Training Managers in effective recruiting and interviewing techniques can pay off great rewards. Combine increased sales, enhanced customer service and reduced turnover and you get three great additions to the bottom line.

    Companies need to look at themselves as well. If the associates are seen as expendable, they will act that way. Opportunities for advancement, commissions, vendor paid spiffs on high margin products, even is store “leaderboards” / contests for bragging rights and rewards can pay-off in a better ROI.

    One thing I always reminded Managers and associates I saw standing behind the register, “We’ve never lost a cash register, but we have lost a lot of customers…get out there…”.

    • Good points James. I think you are spot-on with who is hired to begin with as it all pins on how well the customer bonds to them as a person first. Without that, no matter how many signs you put up to “shop with us” you’ll lose the battle. Thanks for commenting!

  7. To tackle points 1 and 7, several retailers we are working with are countering showrooming by taking some sales and marketing techniques from online resellers such as customer reviews and plan to adopt even more of them. Providing lots of valued product information encourages some shoppers to want the product now without having to wait for an online retailer to deliver.

    • As far as that goes Lauren, that’s great. The challenge I’m seeing in the US is that the more such information given, the more attractive you are for the customer to have the best of both worlds. A FB fan told me she worked with a customer for 1 hr for the perfect book for reading to her son at bedtime. At the counter, the woman scanned it and said she found it for $2 less online. The owner said, if everyone did that she’d be out of business. The customer’s response, “I just have to save money.” Thanks for commenting.

      • What a sad example, however, seeing as the store is providing excellent customer service that will be the way to win customers back. This is what we had found drove consumers online in the first place. At Pierhouse we have seen retailers stating from their research that finds the numbers of online sales are actually starting to plateau.

        • My concern Lauren would be that their own online sales are plateauing precisely because customers find it easy to shop on their smartphone via Amazon. The numbers out there don’t support a plateau to online shopping by any means in the US.

  8. Sycamore says:

    Regarding Amazon there’s a point that is being overlooked here. I used to be a long long time ebay user, since inception basically. In the past two years as Amazon has quietly bought all sorts of retailers, crown jewels like Zappos and Abebooks to name A FEW, I have increasingly been using Amazon for everything, and I don’t even showroom at all. As a matter of fact I hardly go into any store at all unless its a restaurant pub or bar or something. The reason is the reviews. One of the things that even online giants like ebay are losing to Amazon is the reviews. I have bought tons of stuff because some top 500 guy or gal or vine user posted this 10 page review of xyz product, and along the way included this insane comparison with 10 different products. And you know what, I TRUST them, I really do. I see them as people who are not out there to “get me” or to “sell me” something but instead are UNBIASED people who are SHARING their experience with me and some of these people really know what they’re talking about. And don’t get me started on book reviews, Amazon by far trumps everyone, unless you’re looking into buying old rare volumes which sometimes I do and I use ebay for that, Amazon has a great system and its almost like a forum where people exchange ideas and are knowledgeable about the subjects.

    What I mean is that it’s not just about knowing your product. I feel like retail brick and mortar should evolve to another degree and people that should be hired to sell must be by definition not just sales people but as knowledgeable as an analyst is about a stock for example, or a professor regarding his subject that he or she teaches. Any other technique will render brick and mortar obsolete. Tomorrow Amazon or the next big thing as a result of who knows, maybe holographic screens combined with gesture technology or whatever might come along(and don’t think these technologies are sci fi, look here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/culture/how-microsoft-kinnect-will-change-the-way-we-live/8513/ might implement something unique. I can just stand 3 ft away from my tablet or whatever and I can try an M size t shirt of xyz brand which will be projected in my body. This technology already is at its infancy and people are picking it apart.

    Sales people have to really really love what they do and be motivated somehow either by commission based on top of salary or giving them other incentives. Its not just about the price, far from it.

  9. Len Denton says:

    Hi Bob,

    You’ve made some really great points about showrooming and how local retailers can address it.

    Its important for retailers to understand that online e-tailers like Amazon are creating the situation for customers to put the retailer into an on-the-spot price renegotiation where all the benefits accrue to the e-tailer. Its a clever ploy on the part of Amazon, and if the local retailer isn’t aware and carefully prepared, they will lose the battle often without realizing they were even in the fight in first place.

    The key is to be prepared for these price duels, and to actively and cheerfully engage customers when you see the price check occurring.


  10. Carol C. says:

    We’re acutely aware of showrooming in our store: we sell books and toys. But what can one say to someone who may be doing that — or texting the babysitter, or checking their FB page? My only ploy is to add a line to our signage that says “Browse here. Buy here. Keep us here.” (That’s a variant on the line Harvard Bookstore created.)