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Much Ado About Showrooming

‘Showrooming’, or checking out products in physical stores before buying online for less, is getting a lot of bad press. Why not use the opportunity to proactively engage with customers in-store?

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom in the press recently about showrooming, the phenomenon of shoppers visiting brick-and-mortar stores just to do their research before ordering online at better prices. Retailers are quaking in their boots, the articles say. There’s a showdown, says The Wall Street Journal. Big Box stores are fighting back with price matching year round, says The New York Times. A recent study from Placed lists the retailers most at risk of lost sales. Here in the UK, we’ve lost a series of high profile chains from the High Street in the last few years, HMV only just escaping being the most recent. Some are asking the question, ‘Was showrooming a contributing factor?’

However, it all may be much ado about nothing, according to another report. The ForSee Mobile Satisfaction Index: Holiday Retail Edition (PDF) found that yes, people are using their mobiles in-store. But the majority, 62 percent, are going to that store’s web site (i.e. Target shoppers going to the Target web site.) for more information or better selection, rather than to competitors’ sites for price comparison.

Here’s the breakdown from the report. Of people who used their mobiles in-store during the 2012 holiday season,

  • 62% accessed the store’s website

  • 37% accessed a competitor’s website
  • 21% accessed a shopping comparison site
  • 20% accessed the store’s mobile app 

  • 11% accessed a competitor’s mobile app.

Further, the report found that those checking competitors’ web sites are shoppers with lower overall satisfaction scores. Meaning, if consumers aren’t happy with their experience, they’ll look elsewhere.

So really, is showrooming so scary? The important takeaway here, retailers, is to factor in that consumers are going to the store with mobile devices. So, work with it. How can you use the mobile channel to engage with customers—offer discounts or promotions based on past purchases, or where customers are i nside your store ? How can you enhance the shopping experience and improve satisfaction? How can you empower your salespeople to provide a personal touch that online retailers can’t? Not only will you sell consumers this time, you’ll keep us coming back.