"Showrooming" Can Be a Blessing
Target recently began asking its customers not to "showroom," which basically means to conduct searches on their smartphones for a better price. That strategy, though, won't work for Target or for the thousands of independent CE dealers struggling to increase sales, profits and traffic against Amazon and the thousands of other competitors online. (Make sure to read Ann Zimmerman's Wall Street Journal article about Target's dilemma, "Showdown Over 'Showrooming'").
By posting signs that ask your customers not to compare your prices with others, you're automatically telling them they can find better prices elsewhere. Essentially, you're asking them to shop someplace else and never come back to your store. Instead, your signs should read: "Feel free to search for a better price. We will match it AND offer you more."
Face it, mobile payments, mobile advertising, price comparison apps and social commerce are quickly becoming the norm and will all play an essential role in how consumers shop for everything, from a simple accessory to a posh home. And with the state of the economy, high unemployment, unsure future and rising cost of everyday necessities, it's a consumer's responsibility to find the lowest price.
Instead of treating "showrooming" as an evil, sales associates should treat it as a blessing. When one sees a customer searching on a smartphone, they should view that as a golden opportunity to begin a conversation. With a smile on their face, the associate should thank the customer for coming in, find out what he/she is searching for, take out their tablet and offer to help, match the lowest (legitimate) price, and talk about EVERYTHING the store AND its ecommerce site can offer that the competition can't.
The "MORE" conversation can include the store's easy return policies, white-glove customer service, transparent and comprehensive warranties, full set-up and installation offerings, invite-only store events for valued customers, the community support it provides that customers make possible, add-on products and accessories that optimize the core purchase, etc... Store managers should make a comprehensive list of their store's value-adds/competitive differentiators and make sure every associate, cashier, janitor, etc. knows it and can use essential pieces of it at the right time.
Associates and store signage should also constantly remind customers about the company's e-commerce/e-marketing sites. At some point in their visit, every customer should be asked for their email address as a way of keeping them informed about special deals, hot products, store events, giveaways, contests, new service offerings, etc... And if managers and associates aren't meeting at least monthly to learn about and leverage the latest e-commerce and social commerce trends, tools and strategies, they have to start.
None of this is easy, especially when fighting against Amazon's competitive muscle, but it is essential. And, unlike Amazon, you have a face-to-face opportunity with the consumer. Take full advantage of it.