“ Showrooming ”: A Growing Retail Trend

showrooming“ Showrooming ” is a growing trend among consumers that exploits the benefits—to the shopper—of both physical and virtual retail. Specifically, it’s what happens when customers go to a physical store location to browse the products in person, but then order the actual product online. In the best-case scenario, the customer orders from the physical retailer’s website, but unfortunately, shoppers often instead go to Amazon or another competitors website to make their purchase.

In this article we talk about how showrooming works, and how you can counteract it. In general, this advice is used in the context of a brick-and-mortar store, however the lessons are equally valuable for an online retailer. As you likely already know, it’s not uncommon for a consumer to discover a product on one website, and then go buy it for less on Amazon or another e-retail giant.

Why Do Consumers Engage in Showrooming?

From a shopper’s perspective, showrooming makes sense. Online stores have lower overhead than brick-and-mortal stores, so consumers can often find a better price online. Going to a physical store location can allow the consumer to examine products. For example, they can try out a laptop or tablet to get a feel for its features, or try on garments to figure out which size fits before ordering it. Shoppers also use showrooming for comparison shopping, in an effort to find the best possible price on the product they want. If they can find a better price somewhere else, they’ll order it from them instead.

How Should You Deal with Showrooming?

This all sounds like bad news for brick and mortar retailers. Even if the customer, for example, visits a Best Buy to “showroom” and then orders from Best Buy’s website, the store location they visited will experience a lost sale even if the corporation as a whole still benefits. Naturally, stores have attempted to counteract this. In an extreme case, one store even began charging a $5 fee for shoppers who were “just looking”. A move like that is more likely to irritate your customers than to increase the likelihood that they’ll buy from you. However, there are some steps that brick-and-mortar stores can take to mitigate the risks of showrooming.

  • Selling certain products exclusively in stores. Some retailers, notably Target and Wal-Mart, have countered the showrooming trend by offering some items only in stores, but not online.
  • Price matching. Best Buy has introduced an offer to match other retailers’ prices if someone else has the same product on sale for less. This can help reduce the likelihood that your would-be customers will buy from another outlet like Amazon instead.
  • Keeping prices equivalent to Amazon or other online competitors. Studies have shown that a price difference of as little as $5 can make a potential customer buy online from Amazon instead of a physical store. However, one study found that 67% of consumers would buy from the brick-and-mortar store if the price was the same as Amazon. In the same study, 47% of respondents cited price as their primary motivation for showrooming.
  • Offering coupons to local consumers. Everyone likes coupons, and many people use Google to look for them online. A brick-and-mortar store can attract customers by making coupons available online that can be redeemed in person at the store.

The showrooming trend probably isn’t going away any time soon. For better or worse, the retail landscape is constantly being changed by technology. That’s not to say that brick-and-mortar stores are going to be phased out in the near future – shopping in-person is an experience that many consumers enjoy, and which shopping online cannot replicate. But being aware of the showrooming phenomenon, and taking action to make customers less likely to buy the products you offer from someone else online, you can help prevent your store location from losing sales to Amazon.