Showrooming is a new reality that most retailers and marketers are seeking to understand and address. For snow sports retailers, many of whom are single-store mom and pop shops, it can seem like a frustrating and potentially devastating problem.
“It is a growing concern,” said Ray Stenson, President of Country Ski and Sport, a family owned shop in Quincy, MA. “I see it more and more. Pretty much every weekend, people come in, pull out their phones and ask me to price match. Unfortunately, I can’t always do that.”
Stenson said that it’s mainly a problem for him when a customer has taken up an hour or more of his boot fitters’ time and then they end up buying that boot online. “You have to walk a very fine line with it, and try to figure out whether the person is a true customer or a showroom customer.”
He said he’ll price match if he thinks it’s a legitimate deal the person has found online, but Stenson thinks the real solution for snow sports retailers is a strong MAP policy and policing, as well as good old fashioned customer service. “I think brick and mortar will be here forever if it’s run right. There’s no substitute for a combination of a well trained staff, great service and competitive pricing.”
Stenson’s approach is backed up by a growing collection of research that shows consumers are more likely to buy in store if they feel they have dealt with knowledgeable staff and experienced personalized service.
Recent research from Columbia Business School and global loyalty firm Aimia shows retailers can take concrete steps to entice consumers armed with mobile devices to make purchases inside their store walls. “Our findings debunk many of the common assumptions about the threat of showrooming and who is doing it,” said Matthew Quint, a co-author of the study and director of Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership. “Many shoppers with smartphones care about more than just the lowest price on every item. In fact, while roughly 25% of mobile-phone-shoppers may require a discount to motivate in-store purchases, a clear majority can be enticed to purchase in-store through information assistance, engagement strategies and strong loyalty rewards programs.”
Stay tuned next month for another installment in our series about Showrooming. We’ll be featuring a different snow sports retailer each week to give you a feel for what people around the country are doing to either combat or embrace this new reality. In the meantime, you can always hope for the situation Ray Stenson faced last weekend. “One guy came in and asked me to price match some boots,” he said. “Then he looked online only to find that my boots were $20 cheaper. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll match that!’”