This content was originally posted on WrapsodyBaby.com, a website and babywearing business formerly owned by the author.

Showrooming: when a customer shops in a local store with the intent of purchasing a product elsewhere. It is particularly difficult for independent retailers such as natural parenting stores, but even large brick and mortar stores struggle with reducing or preventing showrooming.

It often looks like this: An expecting parent wants to choose a baby carrier, but has a gift card to an online superstore. They go to their local store and ask the staff to help them choose a carrier. The retailer has paid for space, merchandise, and staff costs, and is excited to help the customer find the perfect product and also to close the sale so they can pay their rent and staff. After an hour, the customer thanks the staff, leaves, and purchases the product online.

The retailer pays not only to keep the product in stock and for the space, but also is paying in time and staff costs to educate the customer about products. The online store can keep they haven’t paid for store space or staff, and the local store will not be reimbursed for that work. Over time, this happens repeatedly, and the store can no longer pay rent or salary.

In twelve years of growth, I’ve watched many babywearing and natural parenting stores rise and fall. Keeping the doors open as a small retailer can be a huge challenge, and it’s sad to me when I see a viable and valuable resource close its doors because those in the local community don’t understand how showrooming puts small local resources out of business. Therefore, I read a lot about preventing showrooming in natural parenting stores and at other independent retailers. Wrapsody strives to be a brand that supports the amazing people doing education and connecting in their communities.

Preventing showrooming as a consumer

First of all, if you’re a consumer, consider the worth of your local community resources. It can be difficult to pay what are often higher prices at small local shops, but the main reason that department stores and especially online superstores can charge less is that they pay their staff less, they offer them less training, and there is nobody in their diapering and baby carrier aisle helping you choose what’s best for you and your baby. They also buy huge amounts of merchandise at a time and bargain with manufacturers for lower prices, sometimes offering look-alike products but at lower quality (for instance: Target carries Aden and Anais blankets, but last I knew, they were 9 square inches smaller than boutique blankets of the same brand).

Also, for all their massive aisles of inventory, big boxes often don’t offer the same curated variety your local store will.

However, this post is for store owners.

Here’s a short list of steps you can take right away to help combat showrooming in your store. Several of these tips come from this article by CRMSolutions.com, but others are  not in the article.

Name your customer objective, or your “secret sauce.”

What do YOU have to offer your community and your customers that other stores or online experiences don’t? Once you’ve named it, write it down and display it where you and your staff, and maybe even your customers, can see it every day. Is it education? Custom fittings of baby carriers? Cloth diapering groups? After-hours shopping parties? Try to put it into one or two sentences.

This article about showrooming from USA Today is four years old, but it’s got some great tips for how to carve out a niche for yourself in your local community.

Consider bundling items into neat packages.

Many retailers, including Wrapsody, enforce a strict UMP/MAP. Even when they don’t, it’s usually true that you can’t compete with Amazon on price alone. However, you CAN offer customized packages because you know the needs of the parents who shop your store better than the local big box does. You might consider:

  • brand-specific packages (like a Wrapsody breeze and matching head wrap)
  • “of the month” or “of the quarter” clubs, such as “baby’s first year carrier club” or “photo of the month outfit club”
  • cloth diaper starter packages where you bundle a few brands together in a way that compliments your customers’ lifestyles

Offer community classes, events, or support groups

Even if leading groups or teaching classes is not your strength, there are certainly groups in the local community looking for space. Perhaps you ask a Music Together teacher or mom passionate about baby sign to come lead a group weekly. Our local toy store, Noggin Factory, partners with Sole City, our local dance school to host an after-hours tea party with a few costumed cast members from the Nutcracker. I took my 5 year old, and it was magical. Invite your local babywearing group to do demos. Don’t forget to offer them something in return, though!

Bump to Beyond in Dundalk, Ireland offers highly customized in-store classes in which customers leave with several tips they are unlikely to easily find elsewhere. Her highly specialized knowledge is of great value to her customers, and they won’t find her personalized help easily in an online forum.

Keep a list of live chat links or phone numbers behind the register for products you carry

Even well-trained staff can’t be experts on everything, but many brands offer live chat. Even if they don’t, you can usually call the office to get information you don’t have. Ensuring your staff has access to this information means you never have to leave a customer with “I don’t know” as the answer. Once they go home to Google it, you have probably lost the sale.

Consider your window displays and exit practices

You’ve probably spent a lot of time on window display, but have you looked at it from the perspective of question one? In the same vein, have you considered your exit practices? As a customer leaves, do you offer them a reason to come back? A note about an upcoming sale or event, a coupon for a free trinket with their next purchase in a specific month, or simply something that brightens their day and makes them smile? Last impressions can be as important as first impressions.

Ensure your in-store signage reflects your store culture

If your employees are generally hands-off with customers, preferring to allow customers space and time to browse without feeling pressured, consider adding signage that connects customers with employees. They could be quotes from employees about their favorite products, for instance, or “we know that peace and quiet is a rare joy when you’re a parent, so we won’t interrupt your browsing — but we would LOVE to talk with you or answer your questions!”

If particular services in your store lead to showrooming, consider offering the service itself as a product.

For instance: even if a parent has gotten a gift card to a non-local online retailer, they may want to try on baby carriers first. They may even feel embarrassed about coming into your store to try on when they know they will purchase elsewhere. If you have a particularly skilled baby carrier expert and/or cloth diapering expert, etc., you can hang a menu of services in the store.

“Our Awesome Store has the following services available to all customers. $xx fitting fee for baby carriers (can be applied toward the purchase of any full-price in-store carrier). $xx Cloth Diaper Consulting (can be applied toward) ….” And so on.

This works best when you can also direct your customers to a free local resource if they need free help, such as a babywearing group or API group.

Alternatively, the sign could say, “Each baby carrier purchase comes with the following custom services! Expert fitting. Custom initial use consultation. Staff support if you need small tweaks to your carrier. XX% discount on our Carrying Consulting services.” Or, “discount on cloth diaper stripping with [local service.]” EcoBuns in Holland, MI offers complimentary fittings with each carrier purchased from their store, and they’ve found that their customers really love the value of their expert personalized service.

The point is to think outside of the box of ways to ensure your customers realize how much awesomeness you are actually providing them.

Have a Social Strategy

Poll your customers. What social media do they use? Now, think about how you can connect with them to create a win-win situation. “Take an in-store selfie and tag us on Instagram! We’ll trade you for a xxx!” Perhaps you purchase bumper stickers for your store that you offer free for a social tag. You can add to a program like that by periodically shouting out the stickers you see around town.

The goal here to take the amazing customer experience you either craft after reading this article, or more likely, the one you’ve ALREADY created and to make sure your customers tell the world about it. When your community recognizes how valuable they are, hopefully they will realize that without their purchases, you cannot continue as the amazing local resource that you are.

Check your website

If you are a brick and mortar location, are your store address, phone number, and hours prominently displayed on your homepage (and entered in a way that Google will show them when someone Googles you)? Is there a captivating, high quality photograph of your store on your homepages that conveys your answer to the first question? If not, fix it. Many people use the internet to connect with you prior to entering your store.

So, now it’s your turn. What would you add to this list? Have you tried something and it hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!