Best Buy’s acting CEO Mike Mikan made waves in the retail community when he announced bold plans to eliminate “showrooming” in his stores. Showrooming may keep big box retailers awake at night, but it doesn’t have to ruin your sleep. In fact, some inexpensive technology and a change in your customer service approach could help you ride the trend to bigger sales and enhanced customer loyalty.
1. Enhance your own mobile shopping experience.
Many customers aren’t just using smartphones to hunt down better prices. They’re scouting for product specs and customer reviews. You can leverage a customer’s presence in your own store by encouraging them to seek that information on your own website. Manufacturers now provide spec sheets as data files that you can integrate into your own shopping cart software, enabling your customers to remain on your own website when they compare models. Encourage your own shoppers to rate both the products and the service in your store on your website.
2. Optimize your price tags.
Retail vendors have proposed shooting laser beams through stores that can prevent smartphones from scanning barcodes. Instead of taking such a hostile approach, you can head showrooming customers off at the pass by supplying barcodes that link directly to a mobile-optimized version of your own website. You can even install an iPad near big ticket items, preloaded with product comparison details.
3. Emphasize immediacy.
Although retail analysts have predicted the arrival of same-day delivery from Amazon.com, the online retail giant won’t be rolling that service out in every market or for every product. Keep tabs on your competitors’ delivery options, and use iPads in your store to show customers the real cost of ownership. Your online competitor may post a cheaper sticker price, so don’t be afraid to show customers how shipping and handling charges could erode their savings.
4. Reward loyalty with service.
Even as online shopping has turned many popular products into commodities, e-commerce companies can rarely match bricks-and-mortar retailers when it comes to customer service. You can use store-issued iPads or smartphones to track customer purchases, then offer enhanced returns, repairs, or training for frequent shoppers. Introductory classes and expert clinics give your staff a chance to shine, and to make competitors’ customers jealous.
5. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
According to Jeff Weidauer, Vestcom International’s vice president of marketing, Walmart poses an even bigger threat to small retailers than Amazon.com. If your staff discovers a customer who’s insistent on finding a cheaper deal online, you can still capture a portion of that sale by joining Amazon’s Associate program. You can bookmark a link to your Amazon affiliate page on a sales floor iPad, and help your customers complete their purchase without leaving your own store. Your profit margin won’t be as high as when you fulfill the order yourself, but you’ll have earned some revenue while building customer trust.