Trying on shoes in a shop and ordering them later online from the cheapest retailer. Browsing but not buying, a practice known as ‘showrooming’, has become a serious problem for physical shops. Peter Verhoef, professor of Marketing at the University of Groningen, and his colleagues Sonja Gensler (University of Münster) and Scott Neslin (Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth) examined the causes of this type of consumer behaviour.
Their research showed that showrooming is a very common practice. Saving money is obviously the main reason that customers make their purchases online. But in addition to price, non-financial factors also play a key role in the decision on whether to go showrooming. They include people’s expectation of poor service in a physical shop, such as having to wait until someone serves them. The researchers have published their findings in the Journal of Interactive Marketing.
The results of the research offer opportunities for ‘old-fashioned’ retailers, says Verhoef. ‘They need to approach potential customers coming into their shops much more actively. People who seem interested should be served immediately. Back to basics, is the motto. Increase the sales team and encourage them to be more active, as the chance of showrooming drops considerably if more sales staff are on hand. More staff generates better results than giving the existing sales teams extra training. Our research reveals that the quality of an employee doesn’t have a significant impact on showrooming.’
Verhoef and his German and American colleagues studied over 550 consumers in the United States to work out how the advantages and disadvantages of showrooming influence customer choice. Retailers who manage to increase the perceived availability of their sales staff can reduce the chances of showrooming by up to 26%, claim the researchers. This means that the results are not only significant statistically, but can also make a serious difference on the shop floor.
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