Embracing customers instead of “fighting” Showrooming

The use of smartphones and other mobile devices by customers to find the best deal is a recurring theme in our meetings with clients and is one of the hottest industry news trends.  Related to this, our retail consulting firm has just been engaged by a leading retailer to develop a new sales training curriculum.  One of their specific requests was to ensure the training had elements that were focused on “How to combat showrooming.” 

But recent studies by firms such as IDC and Delloitte have confirmed what we have been telling our retail training clients for a long time and especially for the past year or so.  Namely, that the key to retaining a loyal customer base and to closing the sale is having well trained sales associates who respect and build relationships with their customers.

The Brick and Mortar Advantage

IDC’s most recent study indicates that 64% of customers say that what they learn in-store is as impactful on their purchase decision as is what they might learn on a smartphone.  The question is, what are they learning?  Are they learning exciting facts about your products and your store’s unique value proposition or are they learning that there is no reason why they should not buy from the Internet?

The IDC study goes on to say “The merchandising and customer services strategies that differentiate a retailer and define its value bear on showrooming shoppers’ propensity to rely on their smartphones in stores,”.  In other words, if your retail sales associates are trained and managed to provide high levels of service your customers will be more likely to buy from you than not.  The IDC study confirms this by saying “60% of shoppers with their smartphones in-hand say that they will be “more likely” or “much more likely” to buy what they find in the store…when assisted by trustworthy knowledgeable store associates.”

Showrooming…The Next Evolutionary Step of Comparison Shopping

 Traditionally, retail sales training courses have taught that when a customer tells you that they are going to “check out the competition” that means that they want to buy and all you need to do is ask them “what about the competition interests you?” and then handle the objection.  As soon as a one of your sales associates sees a customer pull out a smartphone and start searching in your store, they need to realize that they have a motivated buyer and need to begin selling!

While I am not discounting the fact that Internet retailers have distinct advantages with regard to lower SG&A costs, they do not have the advantages that brick and mortar retailers have with regard to providing information, service and the immediate gratification that comes with taking your purchase home today.

Join the Mobile Revolution!

Once you have completed the sale, you and your team members can now take advantage of the smartphone.  Foster your top-of-mind awareness and relationship with the customer by reaching out to them via new media like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well as through text campaigns, email and even old-fashioned, but often more impactful methods like thank-you notes and personal phone calls.

So make sure your pricing is competitive, then get out of the backroom and make sure you are training your retail associates to build relationships with your customers and prove to them why your business is special!

Retail Training Services can help you to improve customer service and increase your sales through our retail sales and management programs.  Contact us for a free one-hour consultation and don’t forget to place us in your circle at Google+!

–          David Goodwin is the Principal of the Retail Advocacy Group.  As a 30 year veteran of the retail industry he has operated hundreds of retail locations and has hired, trained, and performance managed thousands of retail sales representatives and retail managers.  You can learn more about instructor-led, e-learning, and other training solutions for retailers at www.retailertrainingservices.com.