“Showrooming” is yet another new wrinkle that the Internet and mobile technology have brought to our culture. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when someone goes to a bricks-and-mortar store to look at an item but fully intends to make their purchase online. This isn’t new behavior, but it’s certainly been on the increase for the past decade.  

Smartphones have really contributed to the increase of this practice. Now shoppers can compare prices on the go, right there in the store. In fact, showroomers use their phones in retail establishments 50 to 60 percent of the time.

They might be comparing prices, checking product reviews or even creating a shopping list for later.  

Whether you own a retail establishment or not, you can see the rub. The retailer goes to the expense and time to stock the item, the shoppers actually are in their store and yet they still don’t buy it there. There’s no reward to the retailer at all for helping the shoppers get exactly what they wanted.

When asked, the No. 1 reason cited for showrooming is price. Almost three-fourths of showroomers checked and discovered that they could get a better price online. Interestingly, very few of them had ever asked the retailer to match the lower price.

Nearly 50 percent of the time, the shoppers walked into the store fully intending to actually purchase a product later, but they wanted to see the item before they made the purchase or do a little legwork before they went home and made the buy.

One of the main reasons? They did not want to carry the item home. Many showroomers have gotten very used to the convenience of home delivery, and as we know, in most cases they are not paying extra for that service.

Interestingly, these shoppers are different from the “I like to shop at 2 a.m. shoppers” who rate the 24/7 access as the primary reason they shop online.  

The retailers own some of this trend too. If 50 percent of the showroomers walked into the store intending to buy online, that means the other 50 percent intended to make their purchase right there in the store. So why didn’t they?

About half of them discovered that the store didn’t actually have the product they were interested in on their shelves. They were out of stock or didn’t offer some of the conveniences (like free home delivery) that could swing the decision.

But this isn’t all gloomy news for retailers. There are also plenty of shoppers who are reverse showroomers. They do their research online but want to buy locally, for a variety of reasons.   

So what should a retailer do to encourage the showroomers to buy immediately rather than going online to shop, and at the same time, keep the reverse showroomers happy?

Increase the caliber of your sales staff: Make sure they know the merchandise and also have the tools in the store to get an answer if they don’t know. They also need more sales training so they can genuinely be helpful.

Over-service to keep selling: Try a mix of price matching, free home delivery, extended warranties, tech support and checking in on customers after the sale. An online store can’t offer that level of service.

Leverage their phone time: Why not send time-sensitive coupons and offers to their phone using geo-targeting to get them to buy right now? Invite them to use your in-store Wi-Fi and help them comparison shop.

This connection between our mobile devices and shopping isn’t going away. This is the new normal, and if anything, it’s going to become more pervasive. Retailers have to find a way to leverage it to their advantage.