After contemplating a purchase, you head to the store to check out the item. Then, you buy it at a cheaper price online – from a different vendor. Are you guilty? This common practice, called showrooming, has become a thorn in the side of many brick-and-mortar retailers.

Thwarting the showrooming trend has become a top priority for big box chains like Best Buy and Target. According to The Wall Street Journal, Target recently sent a letter to its suppliers stating, “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices without making investments, as we do, to proudly display your brands.” Those are fighting words!

Stores’ efforts to reduce the detrimental effects of showrooming have taken many forms, including:

  • Aggressive pricing and price-matching guarantees / If the price is right, chances are the customer will choose instant gratification over waiting for an item to be shipped.
  • Exclusive items / Target often works with suppliers to offer limited-time, exclusive merchandise.
  • Option for online orders to ship to a physical store for free – often the same day / The New York Times reports that more than half of the sales from http://www.walmart.com/ are now picked up in Walmart stores.
  • Integration of physical and online merchandise selections / Macy’s and Nordstrom customers can now browse online and order from a physical location’s merchandise. This provides a broader selection to shoppers.
  • Drive-through returns/exchanges/online pickups / Sears is one merchant that has decided to cater to customers’ desire for immediacy in this manner.

Some businesses are taking it even further, hoping to capitalize on, rather than just prevent, showrooming. These retailers are using smart phone technology to send push notifications and location-based incentives (coupons or discounts) to their in-store shoppers create a sense of purchasing urgency. Conversely, notifications can also be targeted to shoppers in competitors’ stores with the aim of picking off potential sales.

With all this change in the retail landscape, one thing has remained the same in recent years: the consumer continues to be in a position of influence.