image-3Have you ever experienced people coming into your showroom to compare prices with the Internet?

Smartphones are changing the way people shop.

Our industry often finds the idea of competing with Internet sellers annoying enough, but what about when it happens right before your eyes?

Smartphones and tablets have made the Internet mobile and that has allowed customers to compare prices in a way that was previously impossible.

What happens is that someone comes into your showroom; finds the product that they are looking for, examines it, checks out the quality, might even ask you questions about it. Then they use their smartphone to look the same thing up online, compare prices, decide they can get it cheaper online and off they go. They have used your showroom, found what they want, and bought…nothing from you.

‘Showrooming’ is a name that comes from the States and it was a trend that was first recognised in the USA but, of course, it now happens over here.

In America, around about 50% of young men – 18 to 34 – are saying they plan to increase the amount of showrooming that they do.

In the UK last year, 24% of people did a bit of showrooming while they were doing their Christmas shopping.

This isn’t a trend that is going to go away.

How much, or how good?

Just because someone uses their smartphone in your showroom, don’t assume that they are comparing prices.

Social media and review sites mean that a lot of people will check what their friends and others think about a product before they buy it. They are looking for recommendations and advice.

But still, it can be a bit disconcerting and it can seem rude.

In America pool and spa retailers have responded to the trend in different ways. Some store owners have banned the use of cell phones. Some have installed equipment that blocks cell phone reception. Apparently some have even started to charge a ‘just looking’ fee.

That sort of response is unlikely to start the relationship with this potential customer off on the right foot is it?

And they certainly are a potential customer. They are in your showroom, they have found what they want to buy. All you need to do is make the sale.

Price isn’t everything.

Of course, we have all met the customer who is obsessed with getting what he or she wants at the lowest possible price, but most people just want to think that they have paid a reasonable price.

If you know what the online price is for the products that you sell, then you can ask yourself, ‘is the service, support and advice I can give valuable enough to make up the difference’?

Hopefully, it is and you can explain that to the customer.

After all, the Internet doesn’t have everything it’s own way. People can be dubious about the reputation of the online seller they are buying from. Many people are still not entirely comfortable with putting their card details online.

These things add up and, alongside some good, old-fashioned customer service, can tip the deal your way.

Looking good?

The environment that a customer sees a product in goes a big way to how they value it, how much they want it.

Modern, e-commerce web sites can look pretty impressive these days so it’s important that your show room looks as good as it possibly can.

If you’ve left service spares and returns lying around, that isn’t going to help your case that the customer is making a smarter choice by buying what he or she wants from you.

Showrooming is set to become a fact of life. How you deal with it, decides whether it is a threat or an opportunity.

As one of our LinkedIn group members said, “Clients who buy all their chemicals cheap from the web also miss out on service that loyal customers receive.” That’s the added value that more than makes up the price difference.

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