What is showrooming? Showrooming is when shoppers view a product inside a brick-and-mortar store, then use a mobile device to check the price of that product across online marketplaces in search of the best deal.
Should these shoppers find a cheaper price online, they’ll leave the store without buying the product. Should they see a comparable or higher price, they’ll buy from the store. Naturally, this creates headaches for retailers who have brought those shoppers into their stores, only to see them leave for cheaper pastures.
Why Showrooming is Popular
Showrooming is driven by the desire to get the best deal possible. This is not a new concept, but what’s changed over the past decade is the prevalence of mobile devices and access to competing prices.
Today, consumers have immediate, easy access to countless retailers selling the same or similar products online. It takes a few seconds to search the product on their phones and quickly see who has the cheapest price. Now, they can buy directly from their phones while in the store, able to see, feel, or test the product in person and still get the best deal.
Beyond that, retailers are making it easier to showroom with the development of mobile applications. Amazon’s app, for example, allows shoppers to check prices. This removes the hurdle of searching a product on Google, by allowing consumers to use their preferred online retail app to check a price in seconds. Other online perks like same-day or two-day delivery and free shipping also make it more beneficial to showroom. Instant gratification is now the realm of both online and brick-and-mortar shopping channels.
To recap, shoppers are showrooming by:
- Visiting brick-and-mortar stores
- Testing a product in person
- Using a mobile device while in the store to compare prices either via a search engine or retailer app
- Buying the lowest-priced offering on the spot
How to Stop Showrooming
For brick-and-mortar retailers, showrooming is problematic because it takes sales away from their in-store channels. In rare cases, the cheaper price could be the online webstore of the same retailer. Most of the time shoppers who buy elsewhere are buying from a competitor.
As a result, retailers should look for ways to discourage or outright prevent showrooming. Here is how:
1. Price-Match Guarantees
Price-match guarantees set by the retailer allow sales associates to match any online price found by a consumer if that online price is lower than what is advertised in the store. This strategy is a great customer service tool and shifts the focus back to instant gratification. Customers can take that product home, right now, for the same price.
2. Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store
A buy online, pick up in-store policy, or BOPIS, is another strategy to decrease showrooming. BOPIS lets shoppers order a product from a retailer’s webstore and pick up that order at a brick-and-mortar location. BOPIS is beneficial for retailers because shoppers are likely to buy more once inside a store. Retailers can then design their store layouts to position best-selling items near customer service, further increasing the odds of more purchases when customers get their orders.
Checkout should be quick and painless, so shoppers have less time waiting to pay (otherwise known as more time showrooming).
3. Optimized In-Store Experience
On a related note, a stronger in-store shopping experience is another tool to combat showrooming. For instance, retailers can offer a unique assortment in stores so the products on the shelves are harder to find online. In-store promotions and sales can help reduce showrooming as well. Furthermore, ensure associates are well-trained and provide value to customers. They can conduct product demos and provide recommendations not available online. Finally, make checkout quick and painless, so consumers have less time waiting to pay (otherwise known as more time showrooming).
4. Optimized Online Experience
An optimized online experience can be a deterrent to showrooming as well. How? Webstores that contain high-quality product reviews, including video product demos, can mimic the in-store value of seeing a product in person. Online shoppers then have as good of an understanding of the products as they would if they could see them in person. Beyond that, webstores that are easy to use and have a simple checkout process reduce the chances that consumers get distracted and visit a competitor.
5. Pricing Intelligence and Automated Repricing
Importantly, pricing intelligence and automated repricing are retailers’ allies in the fight against showrooming. While “just have the lowest price” isn’t the answer to showrooming—dropping prices often leads to price wars and competitors just following suit—it is beneficial to know what competitors are doing and be able to strategically reprice. Retailers should monitor their competitors’ prices and identify opportunities to win on price or shift the focus to other shopping value-adds.
Win the Sale with a Better Offer
Showrooming won’t go away, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing for retailers. Above all, the sale can be won with a better offer, more value, and a unique experience. That doesn’t always mean the lowest price.
Retailers can defeat showrooming by creating a brick-and-mortar experience that is enjoyable, educational, and stress-free. Any retailer that operates online and in-store should focus on a holistic experience that partners the strengths of each channel. Show shoppers the value, and they’re more likely to buy.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has since been updated and refreshed for readability and accuracy.