The digital revolution continues apace in retail. And one of the latest trends is showrooming, when consumers go into a store to look at and test a product but then leave to buy it online. This is fast becoming a mainstream phenomenon. So how do retailers react to this trend? There are some examples of retailers reacting quite angrily to this, for example an Australian Retailer introduced a $5 fee to browse in store.

Perhaps retailers should embrace showrooming and see it as an opportunity and not a threat? One thing they cannot do is ignore it, as it is here to stay. With the proliferation of smart phones and wi-fi it is only going to become an everyday occurrence. Hence retailers need to think how they are going to address this digital phenomenon.

There are some tactics that retailers can implement that ensure showrooming is an opportunity for them and not a threat to their business.

Customer Service – You can’t put a price on excellent customer service. Knowledgeable and well trained staff are worth their weight in gold. They can help and advise customers and offer valuable insights when they are making purchases.

Get Digital – Create a digital experience for consumers in store. For example Virgin Media’s concept store in Westfield, White City, London. They have a full touchscreen wall for product browsing, TiVO lounges and iPads consumers can use to find out information, test products and so forth.

Retailers can use digital technology to allow customers to shop online when in-store. Tablets, such as iPads, linked to the retailer’s website, allow consumers to check product information, look at reviews, as well as online offers and live stock levels.

Wi-Fi – offering free wi-fi to customers may sound counter intuitive but it allows retailers to collect information when consumers register to use the wi-fi, retailers can then also target special ‘daily’ offers to these consumers.

Be Multi-channel – retailers with a presence online and on the high street are at an advantage. They can offer services such as ‘click and collect’, ‘reserve and collect’, in-store returns for goods bought online, online videos and tutorials about products and services. This is about offering a better retail experience and customer service.

There are other tactics such as price matching, in-store apps and so forth, but not all of these would be relevant to all retailers.

However, it is worth noting that retailers won’t always win out, there will always be those that showroom. And remember it is not just a digital phenomenon this has always happened, mobile phones just made it easier. People have always checked and compared prices, whereas before they might have been just compared prices between high street shops now they can do it anywhere. But the more agile retailers will turn this to their advantage.

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