Competing in the On-line World: Is Retail Showrooming Overblown?

You read it in the headlines, see it on TV, and hear about it from the pundits…”Showrooming” and competition from on-line retailers like Amazon is killing traditional retail.  But is this really the case or is it an excuse for poor results, bad decision making, and an inadequate customer experience?  Let’s take a closer look.

The Hard Facts:

While there is no doubt that on-line retailers are seeing huge growth there are many traditional brick and mortar retailers who are doing well.  In fact a recent survey indicated that 84 of the top 100 retailers in the nation had year-over-year sales increases in 2012.  The truth is that for every JCPenney or Best Buy that is doing poorly, there is a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dollar Tree, or Wegman’s that is having success.

Recent studies by Deloitte and the Consumer Electronics Association are bearing this out as well.  They tell us that while consumers DO use their wireless devices in the store to research prices and features they are still likely – as much as 96% the time – to buy from a brick and mortar retailer…but much of the time it won’t be from the first one that they visit.

The Real Question:

Retailers who are concerned about showrooming behavior need to ask themselves “why do consumers feel the need to conduct product research in-store?”  Is it because they are not getting information from sales representatives?  Could it be that retail sales representatives are not building rapport and positive relationships with their customers?  Or could it be that the customers are not being contacted at all?

Competition is Not a New Phenomenon:

I have no doubt that retailers are losing customers and sales to on-line competition.  And they need to change and adapt to overcome it.  But the truth is that competitive pressures have been a problem for as long as retail has been in existence – consider the impact of big box stores in the 2000’s, the advent of the discount mass merchants in the 90’s, the growth of shopping malls in the 60’s & 70’s, and the explosion of department stores prior to that.

Look Within Your Four Walls:

The key to attacking a competitive problem is having a plan – and executing that plan – to provide your customers with a quality retail customer experience.  Ensure that they feel special and welcome in your stores.  Show them the attention that they deserve.  Give them the information they need and solve problems for them.  Suggest ways to improve their lifestyle and provide them with complete solutions.  In other words…stop treating them like customers and begin treating them like family.


Then Reach Outside Your Box:

Once you have addressed your internal issues through recruiting team members that care, giving them the retail customer service training and product training that they need to execute, and ensuring that you are inspecting what you expect through good management practices you can begin reaching out to your base.  Institute a plan to have your sales associates call 3 customers a day to check on their satisfaction, create and use a loyalty program, and develop your own on-line presence and applications.


Showrooming is just another word for competition.  The real question is “Are you going to meet the competition by taking action or are you going to let the competition beat you?”


Would you like to reenergize and retrain your retail team?  Maybe it is time to take advantage of the retail customer service training programs and retail selling skills courses offered by Retail Training Services.  If so, contact us for a free one-hour consultation.


–          David Goodwin is the Principal of the Retail Advocacy Group.  A 30-year veteran of the retail industry, he has worked with Fortune 500 companies and operated hundreds of independent specialty retail locations.  You can learn more about instructor-led, e-learning, and other training solutions for retailers at