The Grapevine

Showrooming in Wine Shops and How to Combat It

June 26th, 2013

We’ve written recently about the good and bad of smart phones for small wine retailers. Smart phones are part of the showrooming phenomenon, but showrooming goes beyond that. [level-members]

Showrooming is the practice of consumers coming in to a retail establishment to touch and feel a product and get some expert advice … and then going back to their computers, tablets or phones to place the order online where they can get it cheaper.

It’s a very real problem, though it has been hyped beyond belief, mostly using Best Buy as an example. They were in real trouble, closing store and posting dismal sales numbers, and showrooming was almost always cited as the cause.

There was more to it than that, but regardless, Best Buy gets to stay front-and-center in this debate, because they seem to have found a creative solution. Or, more accurately, a number of them.

First, they took the plunge and extended their price matching to include online retailers as well as fellow bricks-and-mortar competitors. I’m not sure there’s much we can learn there – electronics is far more a commodity business than wine, and we don’t want to compete on price, anyway.

But another of their moves does hold a lesson for small wine retailers. They improved the buying experience for their customers. They did this in little ways, like improved training and specialization for their floor employees. And in larger ways, like their partnership with Samsung which has created the Samsung Experience Stores inside of Best Buy stores. Employees there are even more highly trained and more specialized.

What’s the lesson here? Speak your customer’s language. Respond to their needs and interests. How? One interesting idea we discussed with a colleague recently was how your shop is organized. It’s tough to argue against organizing your shop by region – people know Bordeaux reds and New Zealand whites and Italian wines and South American wines. Yet their are entire chains that dispense with that and organize by taste – fruity or dry or whatever.

But what about doing both? Organize your wines by region, but also offer a “boutique” or two. Like the Samsung Experience shops in Best Buy stores, where you find TVs outside of the TV department, in your, say, Picnic Boutique, you’d place a handful of whites, light reds, and rosés that pair nicely with typical picnic fair in your area.

The point is, people come in to your shop with different things in mind. Yes, some want a Chilean red. But many are shopping for an experience – that picnic or dinner with the boss or to accompany an elaborate dinner they’re preparing at home. Speak their language and you’ll sell them wine.