Embrace Showrooming

Showrooming doesn’t sound like an eCommerce term.
I’m fascinated by the concept of showrooming, because it blends traditional retail with eCommerce and mobile commerce. I’ll be honest though, I’m not a big retail shopper. I fit in that category of men that make a list before I enter the store. With a list, my shopping experience becomes like an exercise in pick-and-pack. Easy is as easy does.

Wikipedia defines showrooming as “the act of examining merchandise in a brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it there, then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item.“ While I’m well versed at online shopping, I thought it would be best if I turned to my wife for a more educated opinion on showrooming.

A research group of one turned into a smaller group.
The great thing about interviewing my wife, is that I immediately gained access to the thought patterns and behaviours of her friends (Because women talk about shopping). That’s good, because it helped to give a more rounded opinion on this subject. I captured a few key thoughts from her:

1. “When I’m in a store I need the object right then.” – My wife doesn’t really get the showrooming mentality. She’s in a store to make a purchase at that moment. She generally shops a store based on past association with the brand, convenience of location, and pricing.

2. “I don’t have time to go and research all of the prices and make purchases at different retailers.” – Similar to her first thought, she said that her schedule with multiple kids at home just doesn’t allow the luxury of this level of research. To me, seeing all competing prices for a product in one place is the beauty of a price grabber program. But in her mind, she allocates time to shop and then moves on to the next commitment of the week. She doesn’t want to repeat shop.

3. “Some people will do anything to get the lowest price they can find, regardless of the time and steps to get it.” – She’s right about this. It describes the price conscious customer segment that will work a little harder to find the lowest price when price is the biggest factor in the decision purchase. Coupons and Showrooming are great examples of this.

4. “People take pictures of products for different reasons. I have friends that pictures for patterns and then will make it at home. One time I took a picture of three dresses and sent them to our daughter to see which one she liked best.” – In other words, not everyone takes pictures of items to then go home and try to find the product online.

My take-away from the interview was that showrooming isn’t used by everyone and isn’t always used to purchase a product elsewhere. But it is a consumer behavior that is enabled by technology and will get the attention of retailers.

Retailers need to embrace the practice, not trick consumers.
A behavior I found disturbing was in the report from Samuel Greengard, of CMO.com which discusses the threats that retailers feel from the practice.  Greengard writes about some of the techniques retailers have used to combat issue such as trying to get unique UPC codes and blocking access programs from within their store space.  Come-on, really?

Just like Brands can’t control the conversation about their products and services on social sites, retailers won’t be able to control consumer behavior like showrooming, nor should they. That’s a point that Greengard makes as well. My thought is why can’t retailers spend all of that intellectual and project time time creating ways to embrace the consumer behavior?

One idea is to show competitive pricing on some common products right in the store. I’ve seen this at Grocery stores and automobile service shops.  They’ll save you the time and it’s good for the store owner because they know where they stand in market pricing.

Another idea is to promote the benefits of buying in the store. I’m thinking of things like no hassle returns, take it home today, shopping rewards cards, etc. Alternatively promote an online sale from the online store of the retailer.

Consumers will only get more versed in using technology to help them with everyday tasks. Retailers should embrace showrooming and find ways to benefit themselves and the customer.