Showrooming: Browsing Fees? Really?
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.
Apparently 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.