Times are tough for retailers. Not only are they facing the fallout from a flailing economy, but more and more people of all ages are turning to the convenience of their smartphones, tablets and computers to find the best prices. From gifts to groceries, clothing to electronics, everything can be found online and, almost in every instance – can be found cheaper.
However, even though people are becoming more savvy shoppers, they still like to try before they buy. And that’s where the growing trend of showrooming comes in. Consumers still want to look at new computers, try on clothes and browse books before buying. They want to see what they’re getting for their money. But ultimately, that money will go to the cheaper internet retailers, after the bricks and mortar stores have effectively footed the bill for the customer test-driving the product.
“The staff at Jessops would like to thank you for shopping with Amazon.”
This was the sign in a Jessops shop window when the camera retailer went into administration earlier this year, after failing to compete with the low prices of internet giants like Amazon. High street names like Comet and HMV have also fallen foul to the rise of internet retailers.
So if big brand chain stores aren’t managing, how can independent retailers prevent the trend of showrooming and stop their doors from closing?
Some shoe stores in Australia and America have recently tried implementing a “fitting fee”, charging customers a small amount in order to try on a pair of shoes. The fee is then taken off the bill if the shoes are purchased. But is this controversial practice really the way for retailors to attract more genuine custom? Or will it just, ultimately, drive even more customers away?
Some safer ways of standing out and keeping your customers coming back are:
- Be an expert – If your shop is staffed by specialists who are trained to be experts in their area, then there will always be a place for you in the market. Specialist running shops for example offer expert advice on an individual’s running gait and spend time picking the perfect shoe for the customer. Although the shoes may be found cheaper online, this type of knowledge is invaluable.
- Personal touch – being attentive and helpful towards your customer makes them more likely to want to buy from you. It makes the retail environment more pleasant and also makes a customer feel embarrassed to use your shop as a showroom. Don’t overdo it though – you don’t want to scare them off.
- Be progressive – You may not be an internet retailer, but people still expect to be able to see your presence online. A clean, simple and functional website is all you need to make sure people have access to the information they want – such as location, contact details, opening hours and items you stock. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are also an excellent way to expand a customer base and advertise for free.
- Price – this is, of course, usually the main driver in a customer’s decision to shop with you or not. It may be unrealistic for you to keep up with the low prices of internet retailers, but if you keep the margin as small as possible, you can still win the customers over with your expert advice and personal touch. One way to lower your overheads and keep your prices competitive is by checking out specialist energy deals from providers such as npower business. Make sure you’re getting the most for your money as well by making your shop more energy efficient.