How to stop customers milking staff for info then buying online

By Patrick Avenell

One of the most frustrating modern scenarios for retailers is a customer walking in their store, checking out the latest products, milking the staff for information and then going home to buy the product online — sometimes for only a few dollars in savings.

Insiders at leading camera retail chains have said this is a particularly big problem in their industry. Interchangeable lens cameras can be very complex, even for experienced photographers, so customers are naturally interested in learning more about which model is best for them, what accessories they need and how they can best utilise the myriad features.

Having gathered all this information, some customers then proceed directly to the hungry grey market — which is prolific in digital imaging — to order goods directly from southeast Asia or the United States.

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Scott Gillies, director of retail at Manhattan Associates, calls this trend ‘showrooming’. He said traditional retailers need to be proactive to counter this phenomenon and retain sales.

“Showrooming is becoming increasingly more common amongst consumers and is causing concerns for traditional brick-and-mortar stores,” he said. “To win this showrooming battle, retailers will need to build customer profiles based on previous purchases to encourage future transactions.

“Many traders are also in the process of deploying omnichannel strategies, such as buy online and pick up at the store. To connect all channels and obtain a holistic view of customer activities, it will be essential to run an effective and reliable order management system in tandem with other enterprise systems.

“Furthermore, those merchants that are most likely to combat showrooming are those that provide a great in-store experience, run outstanding loyalty programmes, offer private labels or exclusive brands, embrace both consumer and business technologies, and provide consistent superior customer service across their multiple and integrated channels.”

One extreme option for retailers is to charge a nominal fee for professional advice, which can then be put towards a future purchase. For example, if a customer needs help choosing a DSLR camera, the store could charge $20 for a walk through of all the available options. A $20 voucher is then presented to the customer for them to use at that time or on a future visit.

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