November 22, 2012

Showrooming – Good News Or Bad News For Retailers?

With more and more people carrying around various gizmos, such as smartphones or tablets, showrooming – the practice of scoping merchandise in person, while in a brick-and-mortar store, and then going online to find and purchase the same item at a lower price, has become quite a frequent phenomenon.

And while more and more stores spend lots of time and money developing appealing online displays and smart apps, nobody wants customers to end up treating their shop as a three-dimensional catalogue.

According to a study conducted by comScore, currently about 35% consumers confess to showrooming, but even so, given that 82% shoppers have a smartphone and/or tablet on hand when they shop, things could be much worse.

However, though, research has shown that the practice of showrooming could not be as bad as it sounds for retailers. A study carried out by mobile marketing firm “Vibes” shows that not only is showrooming not that big of a threat for retailers but it could even help actually boost sales for brick-and-mortar stores.

According to Vibes findings, the percentage of shoppers who are likely to abandon an in-store purchase just to look for a better deal elsewhere is quite small, with only 6% of customers actually doing so.

Moreover, nearly 3 in 10 shoppers (29%), admit to having succumbed to the practice of showrooming, but only to eventually buy the item from the same store’s website. And although this type of showrooming might indeed be negative for retailers that have different staff when it comes to physical and online stores, as well as staff who work on commissions, such a situation is clearly prefferable to losing customers altogether in favour of a competitor that might retail the same products. Such a problem can easily be avoided if stores would make no distinction between online and in-store sales, so that the customer can enjoy the same experience, no matter how the transaction end up happening.

Another reason for retailers to stop fearing the showrooming effect, according to Vibes research, is the fact that only 15% of shoppers admit to having changed their mind about making an in-store purchase after finding a better alternative with the help of their phones, which just so happens to be close to the proportion of customers (14%) who admit to have made unplanned purchases after doing research on their smartphones, while in a store. Moreover, shoppers have indicated that after researching items online and reading a few reviews, they feel a lot more confident in buying them from a physical store.

Thus, if the future of shopping relies on customers snapping photos with their phones and eagerly researching every item before a purchase, retailers needn’t worry, showrooming might just turn out to be a way to boost sales.

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