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Cynthia Clark | August 15, 2013

Showrooming: Two Companies, Two Opposite Experiences


showrooming2.jpgThe concept of showrooming has become ingrained in customers' shopping habits. Since customers rarely leave their homes without their mobile phones, it's easy to research an item and make comparisons while still in the store.

As we highlighted in this article, research by analytics firm ForeSee shows that almost 70 percent of mobile users used their phones while in a retail store, with almost 40 percent accessing a competitor's website. Customers are using their phones to look up price information, compare products, look up product specifications, and view product reviews.

While some organizations are still trying to combat showrooming, the best way to make sure that customers don't make a purchase elsewhere is to provide them with value and a great experience. Earlier this year I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond with the intention of checking out a product and then purchase it on Amazon. The service at the Manhattan store was so great that I left with the juicer I was only planning to look at to make sure it wasn't too bulky. When one of the associates saw me looking at the juicer and at the phone, he came to ask whether he could answer any questions and then offered me a discount. The strategy worked. I happily scrapped my plans to go for a walk (the juicer is not only quite big but also heavy) and instead went home to try out my new purchase.

But the same cannot be said about the Sunglasses Hut at the Jersey Shore Premium Outlets. After I found a pair of sunglasses that I liked, I asked the associate whether they had them in black. She dismissively replied: "Those don't come in black." So I looked at the sunglasses, found the serial number, and looked them up online. I immediately found them on The Sunglasses Hut's website, in the color I wanted, and showed the page to the associate. She said she'd look for them, but by then I was already on my way out and told her I'd get them online or at one of their stores in NYC. Her reply was: "I'd much rather you got them here." But her attitude felt so arrogant that I decided not to do business with that particular store.

As soon as I left the store, I realized that the sunglasses weren't available online at The Sunglasses Hut. Had the associate bothered to look them up instead of telling me that they didn't come in black, she might have been able to point this out and probably convince me to buy them there and then. Instead, a very quick search led me to find the same sunglasses on Amazon at less than half the price.

These two experiences show how an associate can make a difference between a customer making a purchase in the store or leaving and buying the same product from a competitor. Retailers need to train associates to not only recognize when a customer might be showrooming, but also equip them with tips on how to turn browsers into buyers.


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