Showrooming probably isn't going to make it onto a list of retail executives' favorite words any time soon. After all, the notion that the significant amounts of money required to operate physical stores is increasingly going to waste as consumers use stores to check out products they'll buy cheaper online isn't a pleasant one.
But is all of the fear around the showrooming really justified? According to a study published by Ipsos MediaCT and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the answer may be no.
In polling nearly 500 consumer about their consumer electronics shopping habits, Ipsos MediaCT and the IAB confirmed what we already know: the showrooming phenomenon is real. But they also discovered that the assumption showrooming hurts brick-and-mortar retail sales may not be accurate.
While 42% of those surveyed who used a mobile device in-store indicated that they completed their purchases online, not offline, some 30% said they went on to complete their purchase in the store. What's more: 42% of those shoppers who used a mobile device spent over $1,000; just 21% of non-showroomers did the same. All told, "65 percent of shoppers who use their mobile device in-store said it made them more likely to buy the product."
Does showrooming even matter?
Consumer electronics is a highly competitive space, and the showrooming stakes are high for consumer electronics retailers. Not surprisingly, the Ipsos MediaCT and IAB study demonstrates that consumers are generally motivated to educate themselves when purchasing these types of products, many of which aren't cheap. Case in point: even for consumers who didn't use a mobile device in-store, 75% of those polled said they did research online before going to a store.
This has a potentially significant implication: showrooming may not really matter because even those who aren't online while in the store have probably made it a point to look at what's online before they enter the store in the first place.
So how can retailers increase the odds that those shoppers purchase from them? Of those in the study who completed a purchase offline, convenience, ability to try the product and price were the top considerations, in that order. Price, not surprisingly, was the top consideration for those who bought online, followed by convenience and selection.
With this in mind, retailers might want to focus less on showrooming itself and consider that they're dealing with two general customer segments: the price sensitive and not so price sensitive. Price matching initiatives like the one Best Buy just made permanent should, in theory, help with the former, but struggling retailers shouldn't assume that showrooming is responsible for most or all of their woes.
There are customers ready to buy in-store, and spend healthy amounts, but only if they're met by a great customer experience and attractive selection when they walk through the doors.