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People are still going to the mall, they’re just not buying stuff. Don’t worry, this isn’t an article about how the economy is in shambles because of diminishing consumer confidence. This is an article about shoppers browsing through brick and mortar stores only to go home and by their products online.
Showrooming, when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases the product online from home (according to Techopedia), has become the latest challenge to face retailers. Consumers still enjoy the aspects of shopping – zipping up the dress and realizing it looks perfect, debating between the 56” or 60” big screen – but realize they can buy the exact same product for a lower price on Amazon.
However, it’s not just the good deals that are driving shoppers online. The 2012 Kellogg Shopper Index found that 40 percent out of 1,900 respondents didn’t actually intend to showroom, but they left the store to shop online because of bad customer service. Retailers shouldn’t blame Amazon for their shortcomings; they should blame their own failure to put the customer first.
Wal-Mart has picked up on customer distaste, and hopes to provide a solution by reversing the showrooming process entirely. This summer, they will be testing the use of lockers in stores for consumers who buy online. After buying the product from their website, shoppers will enter a code into their locker and pick up their items. This means they don’t have to wait in line and they don’t have to talk to any Wal-Mart employees. But this might help Wal-Mart with more than showrooming. Because their stores are open 24 hours a day and two-thirds of Americans live within five miles of one, stopping to pick up items in a locker is exponentially easier than going to the post office during business hours or waiting at home to sign for a package. The customers decide when they get their items.
Of course, not all stores are approaching the showroom conundrum by trying to improve the customer experience. A few days ago, Reddit user BarrettFox posted a photo from an Australian store that now charges $5 just to enter the building. The “just looking” fee will be deducted when shoppers go to buy their products.
Pro tip: the solution to showrooming does not lie in making the shopping experience even more miserable. At the very least, this store is isolating new customers who are curious about the products and impulse buyers who might stop by on a whim. Entering the store already requires a $5 commitment, which customers perceive as a $5 loss.
The basics of business aren’t changing with the Internet revolution. Whether customers are buying from online retailers or shopping at small brick and mortar stores, they’re still looking for an easy and enjoyable experience. Some businesses understand this and are improving the time spent in-store while developing easy to use online stores. Others, like the Australian boutique above, look to punish shoppers for modern shopping habits. Those that fail to listen to the habits and needs of customers will be the ultimate showroom losers.