The Show(rooming) Must Go On!

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Though showrooming continues to draw much discontent from brick-and-mortar retailers across the board, many have conjured up their own ways to fight back. Just last week, one Reddit user posted an image (also below) from the window of an unnamed store. The sign warns customers that the store will begin charging anyone who enters the establishment a $5 fee. If the customer makes a purchase before leaving, the $5 will then be deducted from their total. This tactic, clearly designed to deter showrooming, aims to ensure that only serious buyers will pass through the doors.

Though showrooming continues to draw much discontent from brick-and-mortar retailers across the board, many have conjured up their own ways to fight back. Just last week, one Reddit user posted an image (also below) from the window of an unnamed store. The sign warns customers that the store will begin charging anyone who enters the establishment a $5 fee. If the customer makes a purchase before leaving, the $5 will then be deducted from their total. This tactic, clearly designed to deter showrooming, aims to ensure that only serious buyers will pass through the doors.While any consumer can see the good and bad in such a policy, this post elicited many differing, yet interesting, responses from users.

Niximus writes: My first stop is online. I use the internet to research products, I read reviews, I research features, I look into the competition and I check prices. Basically, by the time I walk into the physical store, I know what I want, I know why I want it, and I know how much I am prepared to pay.

chalupacabrariley writes: My family runs a locally owned yarn store. Of course our prices are higher and if someone is going to buy a pattern when they can get it for free we tell them. If they want yarn that's too expensive to buy at our store we call the two other yarn stores in town and check their price and the internets price. We also offer free knitting, crochet, and spinning help which the store pays for. These are some of the reasons that the other yarn stores are taking a huge hit. Costumers notice that we are in this to help them better themselves at the crafts we sell.

bacon_tastes_good writes: I used to work for a store that sold dance (ballet, tap) shoes, among other things. The store started charging a 'fitting fee' for the dance shoes because so many people would come in to get fitted and then not buy them. I believe the fee was reasonable because the employees would actually assist with the fitting, and since the shoes were stored in the back they might make many trips to help get the right ones. It could often be time-consuming. If the customer bought the shoes, the fee was deducted from the cost of the shoes.

Many may see showrooming as an epidemic spawned by our hyper-connected society, but there are many consumers that still understand and value the brick-and-mortar experience. In fact, the chance to interact with items before buying has launched a new fad among online retailers.

For brands like Bonobos, Piperlime, and KiddiCare, customers were lacking the opportunity to see and touch products before making their purchase.

"Online retailers are realizing they have holes in the consumer experience that are holding them back from their full potential," says Patrick Spenner, marketing director for CEB. "They can't touch and see items, or experience the instant gratification inherent in the nature of physical stores--the opportunity to discover new, appealing things in the moment."

To compensate, these brands are testing new brick-and-mortar locations that act only as showrooms. Consumers experience the brick-and-mortar benefits by exploring the goods the brand has to offer, trying things on, and then making their purchase online, as none of the locations sell the items within the store. The brands stock one of each item in every given size, but nothing more, avoiding the overhead costs and inventory management problems, while engaging their customers in new, exciting ways. Essentially, these brands use the showrooming concept to their advantage by moving their virtual storefront to the physical realm.

But, while these online retailers redefine showrooming to their benefit, Spenner believes traditional retailers are beginning to recognize that they, too, must start blending the online and the in-store experience to remain ahead of the curve. "It's like physical stores have some chocolate, and online stores have peanut butter," he says. "Wouldn't it be great if we could just put the two together?"

For instance, Nordstrom has begun to experiment by allowing independent Etsy designers to sell their handmade items alongside the department store's regular high-end goods. By voluntarily bringing the online world into the physical, stores such as Nordstrom acknowledge that they understand how shopping has evolved and that they are determined to remain a player in this daunting game of keyboard and mouse.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION