Everyone in retail wants to bemoan “show rooming” or the tendency of shoppers to check products out in store, only to buy online. It’s a huge problem, and I am not the only person to point out that customer service can often make the difference between someone shopping in store versus hitting Amazon on their iPhone as they walk out the door.
Runner’s World took a closer look at the statistics involved, and came up with some interesting conclusions. First, they looked at a survey that indicated the higher the discount online, the more likely shoppers were to not shop in store. The percentages ranged from 43% to over 60% as the discounts rose. Surprisingly, the survey was not sponsored by Captain Obvious. The more interesting counterpoint is another survey they cited, where 49% of shoppers were more likely to hit up the local running store over an online retailer. This was consistent even if discounts were far greater online.
There isn’t any special reason running stores command a higher level of loyalty. Consumers like the service they receive and are willing to pay a bit more for it. Remember, we aren’t talking about your local Foot Locker. These are stores that will spend time with you talking running, watch how your feet fall, and spend an hour while you try on every shoe in the store. Often they also have very generous return policies, letting you buy a pair of shoes and then return them after a run if they don’t feel right. They also organize group runs, races, and other ways to connect the area running community.
The thing is, this isn’t something special to running. Bookstores used to know how to do this, and they could do it again. Instead of group runs, it’s children’s reading hour and book clubs. Every local store has some angle and hook they could use, and it starts with the simplest concept: customer service.
Running shoes can be expensive (high-end shoes can run over $150 a pop!), and if local stores have found a way to trump Zappos and Amazon for running shoes by offering good customer service … well, then it might not hurt if local bookstores were to take a lesson from them and try giving a little extra customer service a shot!