Showrooming, whether retailers like it or not, is here to stay. In fact, as smartphone usage grows, it's only going to increase. 

Naturally, as retailers see the threat of people using their mobiles to compare prices and buy elsewhere, they are concerned about this trend. 

But what can they do about it?

Here are a few suggestions for tactics that offline and multichannel retailers can use... 

Here's how not to deal with showrooming...

This sign was spotted in a Melbourne store and posted on Reddit. A great way to deter your customers... 

So what should retailers do instead? 

Accept that showrooming is a fact of life

Unless you want to try the approach used by the Melbourne store, and risk deterring customers altogether, the best approach is to try to use showrooming trends to your advantage. 

According to a consumer survey carried out for our recent How the Internet Can Save the High Street report, 43% of UK shoppers now use smartphones while on the move to compare prices and read product reviews.

This figure is up from 19% in the same survey last year. 

Q: Have you used your mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while out shopping?


The digitally enabled store

Retailers are now looking to create digital shopping 'experiences' which bring digital technology into stores. 

For example, Burberry's flagship London store contains and impressive array of digital gadgetry to provide a better shopping experience for customers. 

This includes iPads by the dozen, lots of video screens, including full-length screens which convert into mirrors, as well as clothing which has been chipped to trigger catwalk videos when in near a mirror. 

M&S has tried something similar in its Cheshire Oaks store, adding virtual make-up counters, lots of video screens, and wi-fi. 

Some of the gadgetry may be beyond the budgets of many offline retailers, but tactics like adding wi-fi and using prompts for mobile users don't have to cost a fortune. 

Offer unique products

This obviously isn't possible for every store, but if retailers' products cannot be price-compared, then showrooming is less of a challenge. 

Indeed, Target has been asking suppliers to create product lines that can only be sold in stores, thus reducing the impact of showrooming. 

This may work for a bigger retailer with the spending power to influence suppliers, but it's not a tatice that will work for many others. 

Launch an app or mobile site

The threat posed by comparison apps and sites, and those offered by retailers like Amazon shouldn't be underestimated.

Chances are, if you have a product that Amazon also stocks, it will probably be cheaper with the online retail giant. Add to that the flexible delivery and free shipping options and it's easy to see why it's a threat. 

However, if you can point customers at your own mobile sites and apps for product research, then the Amazon effect can be reduced. If they can see product details, reviews etc then they may not feel the need to head elsewhere. 

Point people at your site

If you have an app or mobile site, shout about it. Prompt people to download it in stores, add prompts to product displays, even incentivise people to download and use apps and sites with discounts and other offers. 

For example, users of Debenhams's apps were encouraged to scan a QR code for a free coffee. A small thing perhaps, but it meant that customers spent more time in stores, increasing the likelihood of them making a purchase. 

Provide free wi-fi

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Let mobile users access the internet with ease in your stores, in conjunction with your own app and mobile site which, of course they are prompted to access in store. 

This can help to attract customers to your store, and they will appreciate not having to eat into their data allowances. Indeed, recent stats from JiWire found that 44% of all age groups say that the availability of in-store wi-fi influences where they shop

There are added benefits to providing wi-fi too. You can ask customers to register and provide a few details in return for wi-fi access. I wouldn't recommend that retailers ask for too much, but an email address and a few details aren't unreasonable. 

This then opens up possibilities for location-based targeting of promotions while users are in store. Dave Wieneke provides some examples of how retailers can use preciosion marketing

According to an OnDeviceResearch survey, 74% of respondents would be happy for a retailer to send a text or email with promotions while they’re using in-store wi-fi.

Use reviews in store

Consumer reviews are powerful, and if they work online, why not use them offline? 

According to the same JiWire study mentioned earlier in this article, 57.3% are using wi-fi to find product reviews, which indicates they are considering a purchase and merely require some reassurance, or the social proof offered by reviews.  

Of course, retailers should prompt customers to check out the reviews on their own sites (and 36.5% of the JiWire respondents are using wi-fi to browse the store's website), but there are other ways of using reviews offline. 

They can be offered at point of sale, as Blackberry does here with Reevoo reviews. They offer useful information for consumers and are detailed enough to allow customers to assess different product characteristics. 


Price matching

This is perhaps a risky tactic, and one employed by Best Buy in the run up to Christmas. There were a few caveats (no obscure online retailers for one) but it's potentially an effective tactic. 

The risk I mentioned is that posed to the retailer's bottom line. Amazon's economies of scale can be matched by very few offline or multichannel retailers, so price matching alone could just lead to a race to the bottom. 

However, if retailers can use this to gain repeat business, or cross-sell at the same time, it may be a useful tactic. 

Offer excellent customer service 

As the online channel matures, and growth slows, customer service (and customer experience) will be the key differentiator. It can also trump price in some circumstances. 

For some purchases, price online will be the deciding factor once customers decide to buy a certain product, but they will also appreciate great service and the personal touch. 

Use the advantages that a multichannel presence provides

While multichannel retailers can't always match the likes of Amazon for price, there are many other factors that should be used to provide an advantage. 

These include: 

  • Reserve and collect. This appeals to customers who like to do their research online but prefer the convenience of in-store collection. Indeed, 40% of UK shoppers used collect in store services over the Christmas period. This allows retailers the opportunity to drive customers into stores, where they may make other purchases, as well as saving them from the hassles that are sometimes associated with delivery
  • In-store returns. The smart online retailer will offer free and convenient returns, but many don't, and customers will often prefer to return items to a store where they can exchange them or receive a refund faster than they could via postal returns. 
  • Appeal to the 'want it now' mentality. Sometimes, if you want a product, you just don't want to wait, and offline retailers will always have this advantage over online rivals. Retailers can make the most of this by offering the ability to check stock in local stores. 

Make sure staff have the knowledge

One of the reasons in-store shoppers turn to their mobiles is to find information, so why not make sure they can find out more in-store? 

If staff are knowledgable enough to answer customers' product queries effectively, then they may not need to head online. 

Let's say a customer if considering buying one of two laptops. If a knowledgeable staff member can explain the differences and pros and cons of each, then they may persuade the customer to purchase there and then. 

However, if staff don't have the required product knowledge, then it's easy to find this information online, where customers may also find the same laptop at a cheaper price. 

Use social media

If people are in your stores using their phones, why not find a way of turning this to your advantage, and getting these 'showroomers' to promote your store? 

One example of this comes from TopShop. After receiving free style and make-up sessions, shoppers were invited to create a digital “Wish You Were At Topshop” postcard using the photo-sharing app, Instagram.

The shoppers’ images were captured though an iPad, set with an Instagram filter.

Shoppers were then encouraged to upload and share their images on social media. 

QR codes

QR codes (rightly) have their detractors, and implementation of QR has been patchy to say the least.

However, it can work when used well and a good place to use QR is in stores where people are seeking product information, and have some 'dwell time'. 

QR can be placed at the point of sale to prompt customers to product details or a demo video, as in this example from Selfridges: 

Selfridges actually messed up on execution here, as one of the codes leads to an unoptimised landing page, not the promised video, but the idea still stands. 

Of course, it doesn't have to be QR, the same could be achieved by using a barcode scanner, or simply adding a URL to the point of sale. 

Have I missed anything here? How else can stores appeal to mobile shoppers? Have you seen any great examples recently? 

Get the lowdown on the latest multichannel trends at Integrated Marketing Week in New York on June 10. 

Graham Charlton

Published 3 April, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (20)

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The 14th way is: Be the cheapest in PriceItBuy App to be sure that all customers and their friends will rush to your shop.

As a social network to share prices in shops, PriceItBuy acts as a WebToShop solution and drive the customers to the cheapest shop.

Besides, this article is very interesting and valuable. It was shared around us and to our networks.

over 5 years ago


Brennan Sayre, President at Prime-Elite LLC

I think major stores like Best Buy will be forced to price match. Consumers want instant gratification on their electronics so most will be willing to purchase that same day instead of waiting a few days for shipping. On the other hand Amazon has them beat on pricing to a point where the savings outweigh the instant gratification of taking the TV home that day. Having people in your store who are actually knowledgeable, can show current reviews of the product, and generally seem like they really want to help you is also a major plus. The sad thing is most stores don't have this.

over 5 years ago


Errol Denger

The 15th way is: Offer unique services that online retailers can't replicate: these could include in-store childcare while you shop (such as Giant Eagle's "Eagle's Nest"), host special in-store events like fashion shows or DIY workshops, or provide other delivery, installation, service, assembly, and education options.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Errol Nice idea on added extras, and they would certainly attract people into stores. I imagine some people would still buy from Amazon in the end, but providing that special in-store experience is a great idea.

over 5 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

Great article thanks. In store WiFi can help retailers with the multi-device challenge - login via their customer account to get free WiFi, then can tie-up that device ID with their account. Not perfect as some people share devices, or someone might use a partner's phone in-store etc but it does provide an opportunity.

I'm not convinced by price matching. Perhaps for the commodity retailers whose direct competition is Amazon but otherwise it can lead to price and margin dilution unnecessarily. Yes people are price conscious but there is sufficient research showing that price isn't the only, and not always the primary, motivator for a purchase. Being competitive can and should be sufficient if you wrap around excellent customer service and a level of differentiation, as Errol points out.

For example, I have 4 local hairdressers I can choose yet I go to the same one every time even though they're £5 more expensive than the cheapest offer. Why? The service is brilliant - warm welcome, complimentary drinks while i wait, highly trained staff, great atmosphere etc. I value those elements far higher than saving money.

Of course there are those who want the cheapest but if you base pricing on the bargain hunter, you risk eroding margin.

For me the multi-channel challenge is to use mobile to enhance service delivery and encourage people to love your brand and identify with its values. That's why activities like Topshop's SCVNGR challenge take customers beyond price fixation, helping them associate the brand with fun and excitement.

I'm sure we'll see more retailers arming their in-store staff with handheld devices that are app enabled so they can interact with customers and give them a more immersive and personal shopping experience e.g. help them create a wishlist and share with friends even if they're not ready to buy / shop with them to provide guidance and advice on product selection, opening up additional content via the app.


over 5 years ago

David Sealey

David Sealey, Head of Digital Consulting at CACI

Some great ideas Graham and it's something that I'm researching as part of my MBA dissertation (

The sad fact for some retailers is that the retail market has moved on and they couldn't move fast enough. Trying to catch up now is going to be difficult if not even futile.

However other brand retailers appear to go from strength to strength (Disney stores, Lego stores, Burberry, Hollister, Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch). Notably all these companies are retailer manufacturers and I think we'll see more high street shops moving this way.



over 5 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Hi Graham, nice post on a very pressing issue.

Or is it?

Fact is, people have always shopped around - mobile has just made the process instant.

It's not going away so those that evolve in the new context will win the day.

I love the poster on the shop window: those guys need to challenge their natural reaction to their dilemma and adapt.

@James: you pay to have your hair cut? I would never have guessed...


over 5 years ago


Kevin Harper

Give potential customers a virtual tour of your store using Google Business Photos provided by Google Trusted Photographers like me.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@James I'm not sure about price matching either - perhaps it may work short term, and for bigger retailers like Best Buy, but it isn't a great long-term strategy. In fact, it encourages people to price compare, which is maybe not what retailers are aiming at.

Improving the in-store experience has to be the way forward.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Kevin Nice try;)

I'm not sure business photos are an anti-showrooming tactic, but could certainly be useful in driving footfall.

Some examples here:

over 5 years ago

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

Don't underestimate Customer Service! The retail experience is all about the experience, real and digital. This is what makes you different from an online store and a customer on a day out window or otherwise shopping is always going to get turned on by a friendly, helpful, interested customer service/sales person. Empower your staff to react to the changing requirements of customers and combat issues over price, quality, options etc. All the digital tricks can work but wont beat a great user experience both online and in store.

over 5 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Good point Pete.

I guess evolution via technology favours the bigger players, although it doesn't cost fortunes to implement some instore terminals these days.

That tactic works better when driven by staff, and I think that's a really key element where smaller players can outdo the big boys - staff.
Employ skilled, friendly staff and your environment improves immediately.

over 5 years ago

John Kimbell

John Kimbell, Managing Partner at Navigate Digital

I completely agree with Pete & Mark.

Customer service should never be underestimated and it's why brands such as Lakeland have such a strong presence online AND on the high street.

Yes, many people are driven to purchase by the price of an item but customers love to be loved and you can't put a price on that.

over 5 years ago

Kate Hyslop

Kate Hyslop, Head of Marketing & PR at BookingBug

Thanks Graham - this is a pretty comprehensive list and I think there's just one key thing missing that Errol touches on in his comment about in-store services, and you hint at when you talk about excellence in customer service and making sure staff have the knowledge - taking an "online-to-offline" approach to in-store retailing.

By defining, offering and promoting added-­value in­‐store services that cannot be delivered online, AND in parallel using existing online channels to promote and drive uptake of these in­‐store services, brands can increase footfall, improve the in-­store customer experience, create new opportunities to upsell and most crucially generate increased revenue.

Lots of retailers are already offering some level of "services" in store but largely in an ad-hoc un-optimised way. The key here is maximising the value of these services... There are examples of brands doing this really well already (e.g. Pets at Home (UK) with their in-store pet nutrition consultations, and Golfsmith (US) with their specialist golf club fittings) and I'd take a hefty bet this is going to be something we see much of over the next year or two.

The notion of retailers becoming truly omni channel (i.e. using online to drive in-store sales) is fascinating and something I could write about for ages.. but rather than do that here, he's a white paper on the subject that might be of interest..


over 5 years ago


Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Essential Nails

Its very simple, many manufacturers/brands are creating 'signature' product lines which are only available in store. Clothes, TV's and Computers are not the only markets out there. Don't forget the likes of Pet Stores, Marine Fish, Tools and Hardware.

Some have gone as far as stopping supply to small online outfits all together, and there was me thinking price fixing was illegal.

over 5 years ago



What about treating the store as a kind of members club - with lots of treats & privileges for loyal customers. And to showcase really cool concepts and ideas.

Part of people going 'into town' to do their shopping is for something to do and to socialise.

Why not just use the store to make them loyal brand advocates. More loyal customers get treated better. VIP rooms, promotions, more service etc.

Then let them do what they like in there.

Apple do this a bit. It's fun to kind of 'hang out' in their store and learn new stuff to do with their kit, see what's new etc.

Apple don't seem to care where you buy as the price is the same everywhere?

over 5 years ago


Ketharaman Swaminathan

Each of these suggestions can help increase sales, build loyalty and so on but, IMHO, I don't think any one of them can help retailers combat 'showrooming' and still stay in business. For example, re. price matching, with brick-and-mortar retailers are already subject to higher overheads, how long can they afford to match prices with e-tailers and survive? In many ways, showrooming has been around in some form or the other for ages and the retailers that have survived until now have survived despite showrooming and the ones that have died would've died even without showrooming. With less than 10% of retail sales happening online, I don't think retailers need to worry too much about showrooming as of now. But, for the antsy ones, we recommend a different GTM approach to really fight showrooming:

Doing proper inventory planning and ensuring that they avoid stock-out situations is one way that retailers can prevent showrooming.

over 5 years ago


Romero Cavalcanti

Thank you Graham Charlton for sharing. Excellent article. Greetings from Brazil. I wrote about showrooming . Many large retail chains have failed to keep up with the pace of e-commerce and transition to online sales, which has led to a decrease in traditional brick-and-mortar locations, due to being increasingly captured by online operations with lower prices. Combine this with a new breed of mobile apps that allow users to automatically check prices, and you have a disaster in the making for chains that can't compete, in terms of price. This is especially true with stores that sell home electronics. 

over 5 years ago


Robert Jacobs MD, Clyde Media UK Ltd

Improve your online presence to create awareness of what your store has to offer.

Example is for a clothing store but is easily adaptable to other products.

This can be done using video on your website, of shoppers having a good experience in-store, with the likes of free sessions on make up and hair styling or small fashion shows of latest in-store buy it now fashions and accessories.

In-store have a virtual display in the window of whats in-store, to tempt people inside.
Use tablet devices at various points around the store, these show a fashion shoot video of the clothes in various colours, sizes, styles with/without accessories, these same clothes are sitting on hangers ready for buying right in front of the customer and they now know what shoes, bags etc go with it and what it looks like.

High street retailers need to give the customer an enjoyable shopping experience, this is the advantage they have over online retail. You can't get free coffee and face to face advice over the net.

over 5 years ago




Great article! Here are my thoughts on the future of retail:

Any thoughts welcome!

over 5 years ago

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