5 Steps to Fight ‘Scan and Scram’

People like to touch before they buy. They want to feel the material and texture, heft a small fixture or accessory in their hands to be assured of its quality and sturdiness, or play with the handles, levers or drawers to gain a sense of how well the product will work.

E-commerce has been a game changer in how consumers purchase. Smartphone-wielding consumers stalk the aisles of retail stores, scan model numbers and then leave to buy the product online for a better price. It’s what some retailers call “scan and scram.”

Consumers are often in the stores because they still want to see before they buy. Nowadays, however, they may not purchase from the source that gives them access to that all-important touch test or first-hand information.

Customers sometimes take up designers’ and showroom consultants’ valuable time, asking technical questions about products and soliciting opinions and free plans–without having any intention of buying products or services from those professionals. In a cabinetry or kitchen design center, scan and scram may be harder to do than with an off-the-shelf product that requires little or no expert help, such as a desktop printer or a pair of shoes. But plenty of designers can attest to how customers try to use and abuse their assistance.

One of my friends owns a knitting shop that sells high-quality yarn. Admittedly, this yarn can be pricey, but seasoned knitters appreciate the difference–and they love that the staff will help them through knitting difficulties. All too often, though, someone claiming to be a customer will walk in the store, dump a stringy mess on the counter and plead for free help. Judging from the cheap yarn, however, the staff knows they’re looking at a Walmart special. Not only is the yarn bad news, but Walmart doesn’t troubleshoot knitting disasters.

My friend’s solution: She now has set hours when anyone–for a fee–can ask for help. Yarn purchasers, however, receive free assistance at any time.

How do you defend your business against online or cheaper competitors? Demonstrate ongoing advantages of shopping in person rather than online and how you will personally guide customers through all steps of the process with your superior knowledge and experience:

  • Emphasize how your service doesn’t stop after product selection or once customers have design plans in hand.
  • Share stories of exemplary service and how you have risen to the occasion in unusual situations.
  • Point out why you recommend specific products and how you’ll stand behind the products you sell.
  • Let customers know that you are personally responsible for working on their behalf with contractors, manufacturers or sales reps during installation or if anything goes wrong.
  • Tell customers to visit your website or Facebook page, showing your portfolio, design tips, testimonials and more, to reinforce your value.

Feel free to also inform customers, perhaps through in-store signage, how important it is to support local businesses such as yours. Your business matters, so be sure to let people know why it does!




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