In its defense, Best Buy does seem to have at least somewhat wised up. Under the direction of interim CEO Mike Mikan, a new effort to retrain floor associates on customer service etiquette is under way.
Old habits die hard, though, as the company also is taking measures to prevent showrooming in its stores by replacing manufacturers’ bar codes (that are scanned by smartphones to call up more information about that product) with a bar code that only directs the showrooming shopper to a Best Buy site. And, though it’s only been rumored as a possibility, the idea of using invisible lasers inside the store to prevent the successful scanning of a bar code or quick-response code has been mentioned as a possible tactic to thwart showrooming.
It might prove to be effective, but many consumers — even those who don’t do in-store comparison shopping — are already voicing outrage over the insulting idea.
Dicks Sporting Goods, on the other hand, is treating the showrooming movement as an ally rather than an enemy.
For starters, Dick’s created its own interactive iPad app before the beginning of youth football season this year, essentially serving as an aggregated checklist for the needed equipment. Better still, the app itself was feature-rich, including links to online videos about each piece of equipment in question. Simply put, the app wasn’t just a checklist, but it was a complete experience in which a buyer could become immersed … a shopping experience so rich that the consumer didn’t even want to bother looking for a better price.
The approach worked. Dick’s reports that the average purchase was 20% bigger when made using the app via a tablet compared to the average purchase size through the retailer’s Web site. And the transaction size was 53% higher on a tablet versus orders placed through smartphone.
It’s not just a Dick’s phenomenon, though. Runner’s World found that runners would prefer to buy shoes in a store rather than purchase them online, even when the same pair of shoes was available online at a lower price. The most cited reason? The experience of trying on the shoe and getting the proper assistance from a knowledgeable sales associate.
There’s no denying that if there was ever an arena that could overcome showrooming, it would be shoes — shoes have to fit; it can’t be chanced. One can’t help but wonder, however, if that in-store experience and qualified advice from store personnel is what’s keeping stores like Cabelas, Dick’s and Foot Locker out in front of the digital trend rather than regretting it. If there ever was an opportunity to revalidate the value of real customer service (and beat the advent of showrooming, even if by embracing it), it would be in specialty stores like those.
In the meantime, retailers who continue to pretend they can thwart showrooming without stepping up their service games will continue to struggle.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.