The Beginner's Guide To Showrooming

The Beginner’s Guide to Showrooming

Photos courtesy of Betsy Weber via Flickr, John Karakatsanis via Flickr, with edits by Curiousmatic.

Bad for some businesses, helpful for shoppers – here’s everything you need to know about the increasingly common practice of showrooming.

Showrooming, to those unfamiliar with the term, is the act of going into a store to see, test, and try out something – only to buy it online or elsewhere.

Smartphones make all of this possible, as shoppers can use their devices to either research and compare prices with retail competitors online, or direct themselves to another store nearby. Because who needs Best Buy when you have the internet?

Showrooming Statistics

According to a survey by Harris Interactive, 40% of Americans have showroomed. The poll indicates that Best Buy, Walmart, and Target proved the most common brick-and-mortar stores for showrooming, at 23%, 21%, and 12%, respectively.

The Aprimo Showrooming Survey of 2012 found that one in five shoppers currently showroom, and that  a striking 96% of those polled planned to use their smartphones for price-matching in the future.

Overwhelmingly, Amazon proved the most common destination for those polled by Harris, with 57% of showroomers turning to the online giant with their business after testing items firsthand.

Showrooming Apps

One reason Amazon does great business off showrooming customers is their app Amazon Price Check. Price Check allows shoppers to scan barcodes to compare with their prices, or, as in the case of Amazon’s Flow, take a picture of the cover of a book, CD, or game to compare costs.

Amazon might not always have the best deals, though – in contrast,  Red Laser is a bit more objective. A free app made by Ebay, Red Laser allows you to “scan” (take a picture of) bar codes, bringing up a comprehensive list of both online and local prices of the product.

Google Shopper also uses photographing of either the product’s cover or its barcode to find competitive prices. The downside here is that this app actively excludes Amazon’s prices from their listings.

Retailers Combatting Showrooming

While online shoppers like you and I benefit much from showrooming, the brick-and-mortar retailers, obviously, have little to gain when people test their stuff and make no sale. (Let us all shed many tears for Best Buy.)

A survey detailed by Forbes indicates that customers would buy from retailers instead of showrooming if they were offered:

  • Price-matching – 57 %

  • Loyalty points – 30 %

  • Better in-store customer service – 29 %

  • Item shipped directly to home – 23 %

Still, Forbes attests that price-matching, though effective, is not sustainable long-term, and ignores vital variables of customer engagement.

Stores.org suggests that retailers focus on staff expertise in order to add value that the customer might not get from a URL, as well as offer unique products that can’t be bought elsewhere.

Other options include The Outdoor Industry Association’s idea that retail stores cater to their best customers, and  turn their stores into an experience users can’t get online. There is also TechJournal’s suggestion that companies create their own in-store apps for customers to use instead, create their own online shopping space for virtual shoppers. Customer service isn’t for everyone.

What is your take? Do you prefer to showroom, or shop in brick-and-mortar stores? Tweet us @curiousmatic.

Jennifer Markert