Charge 'em: Deal with non-expert customer reviews and showrooming

Fitness industry veteran tries to curb uninformed equipment reviews, showrooming

Consumer reviews can make or break a sale.

Such reviews are rampant in the fitness industry, and all too often the folks writing them don’t know exactly how a piece of equipment is supposed to perform.

“Consumer reviews carry a fair amount of weight,” said Andy Leshik, director of sales and marketing for Leisure Fitness. “If you got [rated] ‘best’ by a consumer review, your sales will blow up on that SKU. They definitely have an impact.”

That’s why it’s such an issue when those reviews are scathing and done by people who are not experts, said Jerry Greenspan, president of the Exercise Equipment Experts. Greenspan offers his tips on how to battle negative, non-expert reviews and showrooming.

Greenspan likens listening to consumer reviews to taking your sick cat to a neighbor, who also has a cat, for veterinary care — just because your neighbor has a cat does not make him or her a veterinarian.

Greenspan recently launched to educate consumers about which reviews to trust. On his site, Greenspan launched the $25,000 challenge: If folks can find a review done by somebody whose credentials can match Greenspan’s, he’ll give them $25,000. Greenspan has a degree in biomechanical engineering and another in physical therapy.

Reviews posted by non-experts are, “Not fair to the dealers,” Greenspan said. “They’re not fair to the manufacturers. Everyone is getting hurt.”

There’s showrooming going on in many industries, and especially in the fitness business. Customers go into a store, get your expert help choosing a product, walk out and buy it online from someone else for a lower price.

It’s not ethical, Greenspan said, but customers don’t seem to have a problem doing it. So charge them for using your knowledge and expertise. Part of Greenspan’s business is as a consultant who helps customers buy the right piece of equipment for them.

Recently a treadmill desk store called WalkWhileWorking opened in Washington state. Instead of letting customers come in and try the desks for free, they have to purchase testing time.

Customers can purchase blocks of time to try out the desks — anywhere from four to eight hours — and that charge goes toward any subsequent purchase.

Though that exact model might not work with exercise equipment, it could behoove specialty retailers to charge for their specialty knowledge and to test the equipment in a workout setting. For example, you can’t go to a fitness center for free these days, you always have to pay at least $15 to get in a workout, so why should specialty retailers let folks test equipment for free?

There are many facets of his business to Greenspan’s, including personal training, through the Columbus Fitness Consultants arm. Another is charging customers to teach them about what equipment would be best for them based on their goals.