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The Denver Post in the United States ran an interesting article recently entitled "Stores make peace with "showrooming" as we head into the holidays". The article calls showrooming the "act of relying on brick-and-mortar stores to survey and compare products, and then ultimately buying those products online through a phone, tablet or computer." Or, quite possibly, through another dealership.
Showrooming is more prevalent than you think
Let me give you a recent example. Black Friday in the US is insane, but it's the perfect Christmas shopping day if you're looking for great deals. My wife wanted a pair of Nike running capris. The pair she was interested in came in two types of fabric and I had no idea which was better. In this case, I had already made up my mind that I would buy them online from one particular store during an online Black Friday deal. The store's competitor has a location right down the road from me so I went to go check things out. After visiting the store and actually feeling and touching the fabric (no, I didn't try them on), I was able to zip back home and make the purchase from my computer.
Yes, I'm guilty of showrooming, but I'll bet you've done it too.
If you think showrooming has nothing to do with the automotive industry, think again. Virtual dealerships already exist. Take a look at eBay Motors, where my father recently purchased a truck more than a thousand miles from his home. What's more is that showrooming can also mean that a prospect walks in to any given dealer just to get a feel for the vehicle he or she is interested in, only to return home and shop online and compare prices.
A few ways to combat showrooming in your dealership
To combat this trend, some big box retailers are offering price-match guarantees for any store in their local area. Others are going as far as price-match guarantees for any store, anywhere whether it's online or not. Another idea might be to offer products no one else has or provide additional customer support or service that no one else does. Others have suggested eating the cost of the price-match and do your best to upsell additional features or services.
In the automotive market where product differentiation is difficult, I suggest being different by providing amazing customer service before, during, and after the sale. Several dealerships have done this very well by using video presentation tools. Others give away 'Thank you' packs, have light meal services on-site or hold special events for their customers.
Showrooming will only grow in popularity as smartphone usage continues to rise. Each dealership will need to anticipate these trends and be prepared to use some of the strategies above to make sure they're not losing the sale.
photo credit: thienzieyung