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Best Buy iPhones

Showrooming is a big problem for retailers, but it doesn’t have to be.

A new study from Aprimo and Forrester underscores a lot of what we already know the trend: More people are strolling into stores, checking out prices, then going home to shop on Amazon.

According to the survey, which polled two thousand people, 20 percent of consumers said they compared prices online while in stores. A third of these respondents said their research ultimately led them to buy the products elsewhere.

Naturally, this freaks retailers out. How can any company compete against Amazon’s uncanny ability to steal their business?

For Forrester Research retail analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, the answer to that question is clear: Stop competing with Amazon altogether.

“Eventually, I think the end game to this will be a major contraction of big box stores,” Mulpuru told me on Wednesday.

Sounds grim, but there could be a silver lining: Showrooming itself.

“Over time, whats going to happen is that stores like Best Buy are going to become showrooms where companies can rent space to display their products,” Mulpuru said.

It’s a crazy thought: Rather than fight showrooming, retailers are going to one day be forced to embrace it.

But there’s more to the future of brick-and-mortar retail than just displaying and selling products. Retailers have to do a better job of improving the shopping experience, too.

“There are a lot of retailers that are on fire because they make consumers want to go there. It’s the full lifestyle experience,” Mulpuru said.

For example, consider shops like the Apple Store and Ikea. These are places where shopping is only half the reason anyone visits. There’s an experiential component, too.

In the end, the future of big box retailers will be a complete reversal of the way they look today: Smaller stores, better products, better experience. That day can’t get here soon enough.

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