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Will a $5 'Just Looking' Fee Stop 'Showrooming'?

Many customers come into a store simply to check out the product in person before buying it online. It's called "showrooming," and many business owners have had enough. In fact, one store is charging customers a $5 fee for "just looking" as a way to discourage "showrooming."

In Brisbane, Australia, a specialty food store is imposing a $5 fee just for browsing the store's merchandise, reports Business Insider. But if customers purchase something from the store, the $5 will be deducted from the final purchase price.

Critics have ripped apart this store's strategy. But is there no other way to combat "showrooming"?

Of course the problem with charging customers a $5 "just looking" fee is that you may drive away many potentially paying customers. Customers often have no idea they will be spending money in a store until after they browse around. By imposing a "just looking" fee, these casual customers may no longer drop in. In addition, many paying customers may stay away just out of principle.

Instead of charging customers to browse, here are some other strategies to combat "showrooming" that may make more business sense:

  • Internet price-matching. Many businesses like Best Buy have incorporated this strategy. Basically, if the customer can find a better price online, the store will match it. However, as online stores may have less overheard and costs, it may not always be feasible for a small business to match prices.

  • Launch an app. Compete with online businesses on their own turf. It is not that difficult to create an app, and this will allow your customers to browse your wares online and make Internet purchases. This can also cut down on some of your costs, allowing you to offer more competitive prices.

  • Offer great service. The biggest problem with Internet shopping is that there is no customer service. That's why your best bet may be to turn your sales associates into your greatest assets, which can turn "showrooming" customers into paying customers. Many people will want to reward a pleasant shopping experience, and will return to your stores even if your prices are slightly higher, suggests.

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