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"Showrooming": how can retail stores compete?

PEX Card wants to help businesses with expense management. Each week we will provide advice, solutions, and answers to your questions.

Question: How can my business compete against “showrooming?” I have five retail furniture stores and even though store traffic is up in the past year, sales are down. I watch people take notes and pictures with their iPhones, and then leave the store without having purchased anything. We have knowledgeable salespeople, excellent customer service and a pretty liberal return policy. What else can I do? Any thoughts are much appreciated.    

Answer: You are not alone in your concerns. Showrooming is definitely a top concern among small to midsize retailers today. You mentioned knowledgeable salespeople, excellent customer service and a liberal return policy—but nothing about social media or a web presence. If you want to “fish where the fish are,” then you need to be part of the discussions about furniture taking place online. Your customers and potential customers are posting pictures, providing reviews and asking questions about furniture—not in your store but rather on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites. You can also connect with “influencers” online. Influencers in your category could be designers, bloggers or people with a large number of online followers who know a lot about furniture.

When you connect with people on social media platforms, you want to direct them to your web site. What will they see when they get there? Does your web site reflect the unique offerings in your showroom? Does it highlight the excellent service you provide to your customers? Or is it the same as most other e-commerce sites that does little to make people want to buy from you or visit one of your stores? Showrooming is an obstacle that will separate the strong retail stores from the weak ones. In order to succeed, you must take a 360-degree view of your business from your customer’s eyes. Then ask yourself “Would I buy from one of my stores?”

Thanks for your question and best of luck with your business.

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