April 05, 2013 | Eric Head

Showrooming: Browsing Fees? Really?

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So…when did window shopping become a crime punishable by a fine?

I’m happy to pay a cover charge at the corner bar to experience a good local band, or at a museum to experience fine art. But to pay $5 just to enter my local grocery or electronics store is where I draw the line. Unfortunately, that is what some business owners are charging people as they enter their stores.

Showrooming not as bad as you thinkApparently this “just looking,” or browsing, fee will theoretically combat showrooming – when customers come to the store (the “showroom”) to look at the merchandise in person but then shop online to get a better price through a competitor – according to an article on the Yahoo! Finance website.

Well, the good news is that these cover charges will more than likely curb showrooming for those particular stores enforcing such a policy. The bad news is that sales (especially new sales from new customers) will deteriorate as most people – prospective customers and the like – will walk by without a second look. And why should they when they can go across the street, across town, or online in order to find a company that doesn’t charge them for browsing?

Granted the charge is deducted from the final sales price if you purchase. But, if you don’t, you leave with a little bit of a lighter wallet than what you walked in with (with nothing to show for it) and probably a chip on your shoulder. And the last thing retailers need these days are customers with chips on their shoulders. If a customer is not satisfied they will go someplace where they are and it won’t cost them a thing (not even $5).

While showrooming is something that definitely warrants monitoring, there are ways to minimize the negative impact and maximize the value of it. Our research actually shows that showrooming isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can read my last post on this subject where I delve into ForeSee data demonstrating that showrooming poses just as much opportunity in converting long-term and loyal customers as it does a threat.  It’s just a matter of how you look at the glass – half empty or half full.

Maybe some brands can get away with charging a fee just to walk the aisles of their precious stores…however, I am pretty certain most cannot. Using a precise and accurate measurement to understand customer needs and expectations can help companies figure out whether a model like this makes sense for them or is actually a terrible idea.

Categories: Retail,Uncategorized

About the Author

ForeSee | Eric Head

Eric joined ForeSee at its inception in 2001 and today leads new business efforts for the company. During his tenure, he has been a central figure in establishing the ForeSee sales engine, building the company’s core base of clients, building the company’s presence in the UK and Europe, and developing strategic partnerships. Eric also introduced ForeSee’s offline business including Store and Contact Center channels and is a frequent speaker on customer experience measurement. He earned a B.S. degree (Marketing) from Miami University and an MBA (Strategy & Marketing) from the University of Michigan.

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