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Turning Showrooming Into A Retail Advantage

  • Written by  Janet Valenza, Pop-Up Artists

VP site only Pop-Up Artists head shotBrick-and-mortar retailers are howling about “showrooming.”  Someone comes into the store to see, touch and experience the product, only to return home to the Internet to compare prices and buy it elsewhere. But what if retailers could turn “showrooming” into their advantage?

The good news is retailers can! By displaying samples of e-Commerce brands, taking orders through the existing e-Commerce brand web site and getting a cut of the action. Savvy retailers can even charge a base rent, calculated on sales per square-foot, the model that Bloomingdale’s uses for shop-in-shops. 

Test New Categories

Here’s how the retailer wins. First, they can test new categories without financial risk. The biggest risk in retail is removed!  And, instead of laying out cash for inventory, the retailer can take it in with the base rent, adding to profitability.   

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For example, a clothing boutique can test jewelry.  A small sample presentation can remain live for six weeks in brick-and-mortar, with the store staff taking orders through the brand’s website.  If successful the retailer can continue the relationship.  If not, the retailer simply brings in a new brand and it’s a risk-free way to build their business!   

Expand Business, Not Footprint

Now that you understand the basics, take it a step further. Brick-and-mortar retailers now have a vehicle to expand their businesses using their existing footprint. Without adding any square footage, the possibilities of expanding the business across categories are unlimited.

Picture this: Some well-merchandised little nooks displaying a dozen samples from multiple new categories, with a handy tablet, along with a trained and incentivized staff to help customers “round out the brand” using the tablet to close the sale! Every square foot in the store becomes endlessly efficient and without financial risk.

Concerned about keeping customer relationships intact? Just enter new customers into your own database when they purchase. Your customer is also likely buying stuff online anyway. Why not be the resource that makes the introduction? 

Besides, as a brick-and-mortar retailer, you are providing a valuable benefit to growing online brands.  That is an opportunity for consumers to touch and try on the brand. Or in the case of cosmetics, even to smell it! Today’s buzz is about “experience and entertainment” over “acquiring” but I believe that the most exciting stores have the best merchandising and the best experiences.

Looking To The Future

Let’s take it even one step further into the future. If retailers can spend less time on the trade — buying inventory and selling it — and more time getting to know their customers, we really have something. 

Retailers and store associates can start to understand their customers’ lives. What style home do they have?  Do they commute to work? How? What do they do for fun? Are they married?  Do they have children? Where do they vacation? The list goes on. The retailer can get to know these people as friends and solidify loyalty. 

But what’s the benefit for the store? Well, birthday, anniversary and holiday gifts for starters. If you sell a certain type of clothing, what’s the best fit? In terms of home décor, what does your customer like for their homes? And for the fitness inclined, how about activity trackers? The more the focus goes to the customer, and the less the focus goes to the managing inventory, the better off you are.

From a creative standpoint, there’s another major benefit.  The better the retailer understands the customer’s lifestyle, the more exciting the merchandising can become and the more finely focused in-store events can become. Not only is the shopping experience better but your store also becomes the destination for your customer for their lifestyle. 

Independent brick-and-mortar retailers should not fear showrooming because now they can get everything the big guys have. That’s how to make showrooming work for you!


Pop-Up Artists is a strategic marketing agency that creates focused physical shops integrating e-Commerce for retail and luxury brand clients. Janet Valenza, who is President at Pop-Up Artists, is a former c-suite executive from the Young & Rubicam family of companies.  She can be reached at 917.497.5319 or janetv@pop-upartists.com.   

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