In my business I see a lot of retailer versus online retailer competition. This is a growing topic held among retailers and retail associations. They hold forums, bring in specialists and seek new ways to overcome the new phenomenon known as “showrooming”. I would argue that it is not new with the onslaught of mobile devices and access of online retailers, but that people would comparison shop long before the Internet. As a wholesaler we always debate on how we should confront this is a wholesaler. Is it our duty to get involved? Or should we cater to the retailers that sell to our target consumer no matter the medium? This should not solely rest on our shoulders. We need to grow as a business so we sell to both brick-and-mortar as well as online. We want to support local as best we can with the desire to support them in marketing and branding that is paid for a lot by the online methods.
Before diving into my thoughts and insight on this topic I will explain some of my buying habits and philosophies. I am a touch and feel buyer. I love to see what I am dropping a couple of hundred dollars on. I will research online, but then prefer to take it physically out of the store. If a retailer has it in stock and I receive the service I deserve then they get my money. If one of those two are missing then it’s a no go unless they commit on the spot to order that for me. I will buy online at the best price IF 1- I don’t have to pay shipping 2- I know EXACTLY what I want AND 3- No retailer near me has it available. Don’t get me wrong, I am price conscious, but I will also pay for service and availability. Now on to expound my thoughts on this matter.
I believe that it has been up to the brick-and-mortar to cater to the consumer and treat them as they should be treated to get them to return. How much of brick-and-mortar’s problems are due to their lack of service than online prices? Yes I can go online to get things cheaper. However, I would not buy them online for a lesser price if they were readily available from a retailer that could educate me on the product. To illustrate this I recently experienced excellent customer service at a local retailer when I was buying a new fly tying vice. I could have purchased the vice online easy enough. I thought that I knew exactly what I wanted, but I wanted to have the experience of making sure that I received the best product for me and my needs. I was ready to spend $200 on a vice when the retailer educated me on the proper vice to purchase and actually saved me $70. I was guided to a better product for my needs and actually spent a lot less money to do so.
Showrooming tends to just be an excuse. If you provide the proper service as a retailer the customer will have no need to showroom the product. They not only will buy from you, but will share their experiences with their friends. They will be your best marketing dollars. If you don’t train AND compensate your staff appropriately then you won’t get these experiences for your customers to brag about.
Another great experience I recently had was I purchased a new fly rod from a local shop. Again, I could’ve gotten better deals online, I could’ve found different fly rods online. However, I wanted to find the right fly rod for me. So I purchased it from them. After using it a few times a then a few weeks later that rod broke. That was a disappointment to me. I was frustrated. So I took it back to that retailer to see if they would help me with the warranty. They were outstanding! They not only helped me with the warranty issue, they also gave me a rod to use for any period of time while I was waiting for my rod to be fixed and returned to me. They did not charge me at all for the lent Rod. I have now received the replacement in a quick turnaround. They took care of everything for me. It was excellent!
I am not saying that there isn’t a problem and that people aren’t showrooming. A recent study by the Business Insider, a US based business technology portal showed that while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, 67% of the customers compared prices online and around 62% of them left the store and purchased the product via internet. However, there is a way to beat it or at least cut it down.
If you pay attention to the people that are already in your store they will bring more people back to your store. They will share the experience of their visit as long as it is a positive experience, however, they will also share the negative experiences. If you fail to acknowledge them then they will really share that experience and you will have less people in your store. Choose how you want to run your business. Are you blaming it on “showrooming” or cranking up your staff service to keep them coming and telling more about your store? I hope the latter.