Could I prevent showrooming by charging shoppers to browse?

In the face of increasing price competition from the online sector, several US store-based retailers are reportedly considering introducing a fee for customers to browse, with the amount then deducted from any purchases.

Eric Head, senior director at customer experience analytics firm ForeSee, says: “This move is in response to the growing trend of customers visiting a store to view merchandise in person, only to then venture online to get a better price through a competitor.”

Introducing a showrooming fee would be a controversial decision, however, as it could also put off customers coming in store at all.

Head says: “These types of cover charges could curb showrooming, but to the point that sales, especially from new customers, will deteriorate as most people will walk by without a second look.”

Many customers would ask why they should pay a browsing fee when they can find another retailer that doesn’t charge them for having a look at the merchandise. Head adds: “Very few retailers today are in the position that they can afford to frustrate or disappoint their customers and charging for browsing could lead to exactly that.”

While showrooming definitely warrants monitoring, there are ways to minimise the negative impact and maximise the value. Head says: “Showrooming isn’t necessarily a bad thing - it presents just as much opportunity in the long-term as it does a threat.”