BOB HEIDENREICH: Combating Showrooming
Strategies and tactics to help avoid losing sales to online competitors.
Technology has become a way of life. Long gone are the days where, if you needed a product for your project, you were required to get in your car and drive to the closest lumberyard or hardware store. While some people still enjoy face-to-face interaction or knowledgeable advice, others choose convenience over customer service. They’re perfectly okay with typing in a keyword, clicking “shop” and “buy” from an online site. As online sales continue to grow, showrooming—where customers gather information from a brick-and-mortar retailer only to buy online—has expanded beyond books and consumer electronics, and now affects LBM dealers.
While this is in no way an ideal situation for any business, it is a reality for some—including myself. Internet prices change so frequently that it can be almost impossible to match online competitors. Throughout the years of distinguishing the “lookers” and “buyers” who visit our showroom, I’ve developed a few methods.
If a product’s sales, which usually ran high in the past, have been coming up short, the first thing to do is to look the product up online. You might notice that a competitor is selling the product at a lower price, therefore, killing your sales. If the manufacturer permits, I will sometimes rename and promote products under a different name. This allows for people to come into the store and view the product, but when they go online to price-shop, search results come up blank because the brand only exists at my store.
On the other hand, there may be customers who come into your showroom to view a specific brand name, and this method may deter them because they don’t recognize the brand. Also, renaming a product can increase your liability and that’s something to be aware of. However, with the right knowledge and information, I’ve found that rebranding often allows me to capture what otherwise may have been a lost sale.