Have you ever checked out something you want in a shop, only to find out it’s cheaper online and walk out of the shop? This practice is known as showrooming, and is seen as a major threat to our high street.
In a great display of sarcasm, ‘The staff at Jessops would like to thank you for shopping with Amazon’ read a sign perched in the window after the camera chain closed its doors. Electronics, along with cosmetics and entertainment are the products most liable to this treatment, but is it entirely to blame for the demise of our high street?
Instead of admitting defeat, the high street needs to embrace the madness. Yes, we cannot stop showroomers passing our thresholds, but we can convert them into sales. The first avenue to explore is service and experience, while this may seem obvious, many big names have fallen down in this area.
Time for a little experiment, think of a random music album, walk into your local music store, find the album and use your smartphone to compare prices online before walking out. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Truth be told it is, by simply stacking records in their store without using service or experience to add value, HMV set themselves up to be showroomed. There is nothing in store that cannot be acquired online.
Steps To Take
The first step they needed to take was to have more attentive and knowledgeable sales assistants to guide customers along the buying process. This does not mean pushy sales, walking into a phone shop you are immediately set upon by a commission earning sales rep who drags you through a contract signing before you know it. While this has had instant results, it is off-putting for customers in the long run, with many now choosing to go straight to the internet for their next upgrade.
A Few Examples
Clarke’s shoes seem to have the right idea. When taking a toddler in for her first pair of shoes, a well-trained assistant got her measured up while offering sound advice on what shoes to opt for. While I could have, in theory, just get all the details I needed and walked out the shop, the caring attitude of the assistant almost embarrassed me into buying.
Going back to phone shops, customers going straight online isn’t much of a threat is it? Not if it is to their website anyway. This provides an ideal model for the others to adopt, a two pronged attack using both physical stores and a strong online presence.
At the moment, customers use high street stores to get a feel of the product, they like this tangibility. Then they go to sophisticated sites like Amazon for the price and convenience. The best performing brands are the ones which cover both of these bases. A combination of good in store service with competitive prices and online accessibility, creates an attractive, efficient buying process.
This is where brands such as John Lewis have lead the way, and many more names are now looking to emulate them by employing services such as MITIE. The majority of high street stores adopting this approach is not unlikely, but neither is an online giant opening up a high street store.
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