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What is Showrooming?

Showrooming
Showrooming is comparison shopping taken to new heights, as shoppers browse products at a store and then make their purchases online.
Credit: gpointstudio | Shutterstock

One of the biggest challenges facing brick-and-mortar retailers in recent years has been the proliferation of "showrooming." Spurred by the desire to get the best prices, many shoppers are now visiting brick-and-mortar stores to personally investigate products that interest them, only to leave and then buy the items online. The new trend is forcing retailers to devise new ways to keep consumers from bolting their store for cheaper prices online.

Recent research from Harris Interactive found that 40 percent of U.S. shoppers have showroomed previously, with big-box retailers suffering the most. Specifically, the Harris study shows that Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target are the most likely brick-and-mortar stores to have shoppers test out a product in-store and then purchase it online later.  On the flip side, Amazon is benefiting most from the practice, with nearly 60 percent of shoppers using the online retail giant most often to make their showrooming purchases.

Mobile devices

The abundance of smartphones has pushed showrooming into the forefront. Tech-savvy shoppers no longer have to wait until they get home to see if they can find a cheaper price for the products they're considering buying. With smartphones, consumers can now compare virtual prices, at both other brick and mortar stores and online outlets while still inside a retail outlet. If they can find what they're seeking for less online, the majority will be seeking the first exit. A recent study from GroupM Next revealed that 45 percent of customers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores walk out and buy their purchase online for a discount of as little as 2.5 percent. For a 5 percent savings, 60 percent leave to shop online. Overall, 44 percent of the shoppers surveyed use a mobile device to help influence their purchasing decisions.

This puts pressure on retailers to provide both an in-store experience worth staying for and an online presence that can attract shoppers who are showrooming in other businesses.

Discouraging showrooming

To cut down on showrooming, many retailers are implementing new strategies to keep shoppers in their stores. Among the steps they're taking: instituting price-matching guarantees that allow shoppers to pay a discounted price if they find it cheaper online. This ensures that even a showrooming shopper can make the purchase onsite — regardless of whether they find the cheaper price tag online.

Another popular method to combat showrooming is to give shoppers the ability to buy something online and pick it up at the store. This eliminates shipping costs and gets customers in the store, where they may be encouraged to make an additional purchase. The research from Harris Interactive revealed that half of showroomers have placed orders online that they were then able to pick up in an actual store.

Retailers can employ other strategies, including customizing the in-store experience, offering different products in-store than online and providing top-notch customer service.

It also is important for businesses to take into consideration what makes shoppers purchase something in-store rather than online, and cater to those needs. Research has found that more than 8 in 10 Americans consider being able to take an item home immediately, the ability to touch and feel an item and the elimination of online return hassles — such as paying for return shipping and/or having to pack the item — the most important factors when deciding to purchase in a store rather than online.

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