Social Commerce

How to Profit from New ‘Showrooming’ Shopper Trend

Are you into ‘showrooming’?  Well, your customers probably are.

‘To showroom’ means to visit a store – online or offline – for research purposes only, and then purchase elsewhere, wherever the best value can be found – increasingly via shopping apps such as Ebay’s RedLaser and Price Check by Amazon.  It’s a trend we think you’ll see a whole lot more of in 2012.

‘Showrooming’ is the latest addition to the most excellent wordspy site tracking the rise of hot neologisms (entry included below) – and is an alternative label for the ‘scan and scram’ trend that is transforming the role of stores from retail outlets into product showrooms for prodding and poking purchase options.  Think about Apple Stores – both retail stores and app stores – they’re designed as showrooms to showcase first, and then to sell.

The showrooming trend might sound like a retailer’s worst nightmare, requiring not only that the retailer offers the best showroom experience, but also offers the best value (price, conditions and service).  Decoupling shopping research from buying certainly raises challenges, but there are also a number of opportunities:

  • Brands could offer online (and offline) showrooms for their products (with social features) – the renaissance of the microsite?
  • Retailers and brands could set up affiliate links from their showroom to purchase points, so you monetize showroomers even if they go elsewhere
  • Making the showrooming experience social, so even if showroomers go elsewhere, you benefit from the referral effect (think likes, comments, check-ins)
  • Improving store stickiness by rethinking store design as a showroom (think demos/unboxing/hauls), and redesigning it to optimise the experience for product research
  • Using showrooming as insight for innovation – actively encouraging showrooming with apps to help people showroom together, and using insights to improve your offer

What do you think? Any other commercial opportunities in showrooming?

showroom v. To use a retail store to view and research a product and then purchase the product for less money online.

showrooming pp.

Example Citations:

According to Codex Group, a book audience research firm in New York, people use their neighborhood stores as a form of literary dressing room: Try it on for size, but buy it elsewhere. It’s a trend that shows no sign of abating, said Peter Hildick-Smith, president of Codex.Earlier this year, his firm surveyed 5,067 book buyers from around the country about their buying habits and 28 percent said they “showroomed.”
—Rosalind Bentley, “Bookstores losing browsers to Web,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 17, 2011

As the last of what were once more than 500 Borders bookstores disappeared, along with hundreds of independents, Amazon helped to add a new word — “showrooming” — to the fast-evolving digital lexicon.
—John Barber, “Amazon’s ‘showrooming‘ tactic the latest to enrage booksellers,” The Globe and Mail, December 23, 2011

Earliest Citation:

Bookstore owners everywhere have a lurking suspicion: that the customers who type into their smartphones while browsing in the store, and then leave, are planning to buy the books online later — probably at a steep discount from the bookstores’ archrival,

Now a survey has confirmed that the practice, known among booksellers asshowrooming, is not a figment of their imaginations.
—Julie Bosman, “Book Shopping in Stores, Then Buying Online,” The New York Times, December 4, 2011


Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

5 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Excellent thought provoking post, Paul. I’ve thought about this a lot in the context of the publishing industry and I think we could definitely see a world where customers browse brick and mortar bookstores armed with just a couple copies of each print book. On each cover will be a code you can scan to pay for and download the book immediately to your reader. Somewhat like an app store (or affiliate as you put it) the brick and mortar shop would get a percentage sales. In another arrangement, publishers could simply pay for store inclusion, better store displays, etc.

    Retailers wouldn’t need as much space because they wouldn’t need to carry as much inventory, and the opportunities for social shopping integration with smartphones would be significant. Consequentially, I imagine we would see an even bigger new crop of startups developed around the concept of social shopping, product queues, mobile payments, and the Internet of objects.

    I’ve thought the book industry could lead the transition you speak of because we’re talking about 1. an industry in flux and 2. a potentially digitized product that we’re accustomed to browsing in-store, but I suppose this model could work with anything. eCommerce sales will have to move heftily above their current share of 5% of all retail sales first though.

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