Combating the "Showroom" Phenomenon

Showrooming – the act of a consumer using a physical store as a reference, and then buying the same item elsewhere online – is one of the top issues facing brick-and-mortar retailers in the 21st century. Retailers have employed a myriad of strategies in order to fight off so-called “show roomers” or to entice them to buy on-site, to mixed success. Recently, a story about a health food store in Brisbane, Australia charging a $5 “just looking” fee went viral.

As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for “just looking.” The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased. … There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else. This policy is line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.

In our experience, we haven’t actually seen any other stores attempt to charge a fee like this; and considering a grand total of 4 people have paid the fee at the Brisbane shop, it’s easy to see why.

So, what’s the right way to do this?

Customer service and in-store experience will always be key to the success of a brick-and-mortar. The ability to handle physical goods is something that can’t be replicated online, and creating a positive atmosphere in which to do it helps build customer loyalty. Everything in your store contributes to this, from the layout of your space, the efficacy of your staff, and the technology you use.

Obvious advantages of in-store tech like LightSpeed include rapid transaction times and in the case of LightSpeed for iPad and LightSpeed Mobile, a less intrusive checkout experience that lets you focus on building relationships with your customers. But there are more concrete ways you can use LightSpeed to improve your in-store experience. For example, returning items at most stores – both B&M and online – is generally frustrating, particularly if you’ve lost your receipt. But Lightspeed HQ tracks all invoice history with incredible detail, making it easy to look up a customer’s purchase and process the return, even without a receipt.

Have an online presence. More and more people are doing research about products online before selecting where to buy it from, and it’s crucial that your store is a part of this process. Lightspeed’s Web Store is a great way to get online easily, since it syncs your already existing product information to your website. You can even lure so-called “showroomers” to your online presence by offering them, say, a $5-off promo code for use on your web store. This first act of generosity is a great way to begin building a relationship with a customer.

No matter what, showrooming is going to be an inevitable issue going forward. The best strategies are pragmatic ones, playing into the positive attributes of your business, rather than making customers uncomfortable and creating a negative atmosphere.