Back-to-school promotions are winding down, and Halloween candy is lining grocery and convenience store shelves. You know what that means: The holiday season is just around the corner. This year, perhaps more than ever before, retailers will need to turn their attention to strategies that can boost in-store sales. After all, online shopping continues to grow in popularity, and just getting people in the door is no longer enough. Shoppers are now showrooming, and retailers I talk to are rightly concerned about how this trend will affect their holiday sales.

As the name implies, “showrooming” happens when a consumer treats a brick and mortar store as a showroom. The consumer tries out a product in the store, but then shops around online for a better deal. According to our consumer survey:

  • 50 percent of those who showroom use their phones to search for better deals right there in the store. Apps can make this process even easier. Some have built-in scanners, allowing consumers to scan an item in-store and purchase it from a competitor online.
  • 96 percent of those polled admitted they will either start or continue showrooming in the future. Clearly, this isn’t a consumer activity that’s likely to go away or one that retailers can ignore.
  • Items that rank high on most holiday gift lists like consumer electronics, clothing and video games also ranked very high on the list of items people are most likely to showroom –and that’s what makes showrooming a special concern during the holiday season.
Teradata Applications’ (formerly Aprimo) research into “showrooming” suggests retailers should focus on the customer experience.

So how can retailers plan now to get ahead of showrooming in the coming months?

Price matching may help, but it’s a slippery slope to compete with online retailers that don’t share the same overhead costs as brick and mortar stores. Instead, I advise retailers to consider these long-term strategies for success:

  • Build a great customer experience. Customers who feel appreciated and listened to are more likely to make their purchase in-store –and during the holidays, these special touches make the biggest impact. Keep customers happy with easy returns or exchange policies and pleasant employees who are empowered to answer questions, make decisions and meet customers’ needs. In addition, personalized messaging via e-newsletters or text can make customers feel connected, help them keep retailers top of mind and provide valuable data to help make the customer experience unforgettable.
  • Offer in-store exclusive incentives. Coupons and deals offered exclusively in-store can help bring people to the door, and handing out coupons for future visits means they’ll come back. Think “outside the discount” to offer incentives that help support customer relationship and add a personal touch: a free gift-wrapping service the week before Christmas or perhaps a cup of java from a local coffee shop for early Black Friday shoppers? Brick and mortar retailers have a unique opportunity to give consumers what they can’t get online.
  • Focus on the numbers – all of the numbers. There’s much more data available to retailers beyond just sales numbers, and this data can offer valuable insights into areas that can be maximized for better sales and stronger customer relationships. What are the busiest times of day? What are the most clicked-on items in the e-newsletter? And don’t forget the best way to get information about customers: Ask them. Surveys with in-store incentives can be double impactful when it comes to keeping customers happy.
  • Go with the flow. More retailers are embracing the idea of working with consumers who showroom. For instance, some allow customers to buy online with in-store pick-up. Once the customer is in the store, these retailers can combine a great experience and additional on-site incentives to keep customers coming back for more, even long after the holidays are over.

We’re bound to hear plenty about showrooming during the upcoming holiday season, but don’t be misled: Showrooming is a year-round problem that deserves consistent solutions. Brick and mortar retailers need to use the data they already have along with any additional data their customers are willing to share to build great customer relationships, nurture loyalty and tailor in-store incentives. Think about it. With the right strategies – being customer-focused and making your marketing more data-driven – you will actually be able to turn showrooming into an advantage.