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Retailers Embrace Showrooming

Mobile shopping seen as an opportunity to engage customers

January 2013 By Bob Ankosko
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The tide is changing on the once-fearedpractice of showrooming, where customers check out products in the store and whip out their smartphones to search for a better deal. A growing number of retailers are adopting the philosophy of engaging smartphone-wielding mobile shoppers in an effort to win them over and, ultimately, boost sales.

Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, which has lost more sales to Amazon than any other electronics retailer, even went so far as to proclaim in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “We love showrooming.”
 
What gives?
 
Consumer electronics retailers are finding that engaging mobile shoppers in their stores is a perfect opportunity to showcase the strengths of brick-and-mortar, the most compelling of which are instantgratification—being able to walk out with a coveted tablet instead of buying online and waiting for it to be shipped—and the ability to experience products firsthand. Another advantage is ease of return if a product is damaged, defective or just turns out to be a poor fit. No need to go through the hassles of shipping a product back.
 
Engaging showroomers is also a way to promote the store’s own website as a shopping destination offering free shipping or same-day in-store pickup, as well as an opportunity to let a crack sales staff shine by demonstrating products, explaining features, answering questions on the fly, and matching online pricing.
 
Match that Price
“We like customers being able to compare prices and to be confident they are getting the best price,” said Jeff Pearson, senior vice president of marketing for the regional chain, hhgregg. “With our sales force, we can use this to our advantage.” The chain has a Price Match Guarantee that applies to local stores and a list of major e-tailers, including Amazon.
 
Michael Perlman, president of Florida-based BrandsMart USA, sees a positive in showrooming. “It can actually help you, and here’s the reason: In the old days, the customer would come in, you’d work with them and they’d say, ‘Well, let me go drive around and check other stores.’ They don’t have to anymore. They can do it from their phones right there. We actually approach customers and let them shop the competition in our store and, then, if we have to make a deal or meet the price, we do it. We have commissioned salespeople and as long as they deal with customers one on one, I’m not really concerned about it.”

 
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