Whatever Happened To Showrooming? How Big Retail Is Taking Back The Shopping Trip


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Enter a Best Buy store and you will see why the technologies that once threatened to condemn physical retail are in fact becoming its nourishment.

(Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for NYX Professional Makeup)

An updated mobile app, expedited delivery, highly trained employees who can explain products in sophisticated detail — these features are the result of one of brick-and-mortar’s most vexing, looming threats: online ordering and, specifically, showrooming.

Once feared to diminish the traditional store model, showrooming — when consumers research products at the shelf and then comparison shop for them online — might have actually made brick-and-mortar stronger.

It’s a testament to retail innovation, and scrappiness. A good salesman knows how to sell, and a better one knows what motivates customers to return. But the key to turning a menace into a meal is using that customer knowhow to make lasting impressions with speed and flexibility. This requires confidence in one’s shopper analytics, and there are some notable cases.

Presented here are five ways retailers can shut down showrooming, illustrated by some of the most traditional physical brands.

Reason 1: Order in-store and pick up wherever. There’s no need to limit selection to the aisle anymore. Walmart, at its new stores in Texas, installed in-store kiosks where shoppers can peruse endless aisles of toys at Walmart.com. Similarly, retailers could provide associates with tablets and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices and assign them to traverse the aisles and assist shoppers who are researching products. For encouragement, associates can extend a special offer if the customer orders right then.

Reason 2: Employees with advanced training. This is particularly the case in areas of technology or required skills. If shoppers are provided in-depth details (and demonstrations) about how a smart home device works or how two refrigerators compare, they are more likely to feel invested in the store and buy from it. Home electronics and DIY stores in particular can benefit from such employee training, which can extend beyond the aisle. Home Depot, for one, offers classes for adults and kids that range from building toy trucks to installing ceiling fans.

Reason 3: Special customized services. This feature takes training a step further. Best Buy, for example, is rolling out in-home advisory services, through which its shoppers get free consultations on how to connect all the electronic products in their homes, such as TVs, computers and security systems. Similarly, cosmetics chains can (and some do) boost sales through personalized beauty consultations. An on-staff professional can help a shopper select the best colors for her skin tone and provide application tips.

Reason 4: They bring checkout to the shopper. At its urban stores in New York, Lowe’s arms employees with devices so they can scan product codes and check out shopper purchases right in the aisle. Nordstrom Rack stores also are known to employ roving cashiers who can check a shopper out before she even looks in the direction of a cashier. These on-the-spot checkouts reduce the chances of research-and-runs as well as shoppers choosing to leave rather than wait in line.

Reason 5: They do the price comparison for them. The motivation for showrooming is price, or using technology to find the best offer online. Many major chains, including Best Buy, are going head-to-head on price when it comes to big sellers. But retailers can go a step further and do some of the footwork for shoppers — by posting side-by-side the prices of products they sell with the prices offered by major online outlets, such as Amazon. One small retailer in Montana, as described in a column in the Billings Gazette, identifies the online price leaders for the hot sellers on his shelves and then posts their prices next to his, ensuring his are always lower.

3 Themes Feed Strategy to Out-Showroom

From specialized services to multi-channel ordering and delivery, all of these efforts have three themes in common, and they have more to do with the shopper than retail strategy. These themes should shape any competitive decision:

They dialed into mobile activity. Even with all that technology, customers aren’t always trying to chase down the lowest possible price. If retailers know how their customers use their mobile devices for shopping, they can turn those devices into engagement tools. Opt-in apps, for example, enable retailers to push special offers to shoppers as they near certain products (thanks to Bluetooth/beacon technology). The same apps can issue rewards for purchase, if linked to a loyalty program.

Know why they come. To engage customers beyond price, retailers need to understand why they enter the store in the first place. If they are repeat customers, retailers can use their purchase data to see what they bought and how much they spent in a given period. This data can reveal brand preferences, pattern shifts and category price sensitivities, which can be parlayed into experiential offers that stretch the value proposition beyond price. Beauty consultations, cooking classes, product demos and contests or games all count.

Adapt like a shopper. What shoppers look at today can influence what they might need tomorrow. If a retailer succeeds in preventing a shopper from showrooming, it can use the information gleaned from her purchase to inform future offers. It also should consider how she made the purchase — did she order online from an in-store kiosk? Did she purchase the product after a class? These behaviors will help narrow down the most effective channel or method for engaging her next time.

It’s important to act fast. Chains such as Best Buy persevere not only because they are willing to take risks and innovate, but also because they didn’t dally too long on straightforward solutions. Knowing the shopper simply means figuring out how to solve her problems, both in the showroom and outside of it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bryan Pearson
Retail and Loyalty-Marketing Executive, Best-Selling Author
With more than two decades experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies, Bryan Pearson is an internationally recognized expert, author and speaker on customer loyalty and marketing. As former President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, a pioneer in loyalty strategies and measured marketing, he leverages the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences. Bryan is author of the bestselling book The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy


  1. Bryan,

    I am in Canada, however, do have experience with Best Buy US.

    Are you suggesting Best Buy has “highly trained employees who can explain products in sophisticated detail”?

    I have to strongly disagree. Best Buy has some of the worst trained staff I have ever encountered, my experience is with 10 stores or more.

    They have no one in their appliance section who can provide comparisons from product to product, if you call Dyson, you get a specialist who knows their stuff plus 20% discount for returning customer.

    This is just one example of one department, I have others for technology as well!!

    Someone I know at a Microsoft Store who used to be a manager at Best Buy agreed that Best Buy experience is poor.

    If Best Buy was so highly skilled, why would Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung have their own retail experiences!!!

    Why is Ron Johnson (ex Apple and Target) have a growing business that bypasses retail?

    For customers who want experienced staff, I think more brands should either go back to Mom and pop stores with owners who are subject matter experts or direct to consumer and have companies like Best Buy be their showroom.


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