Should Brick and Mortars Really Be Afraid of Showrooming?


A few years ago, local retailers were up in arms about “showrooming,” the practice of using a local brick and mortar store to better inform your inevitable online purchase.

Not sure about that book you want on Amazon? Head up to the local bookstore, flip through the pages, and discreetly purchase it from Amazon on your phone. But as our relationship technology evolves, it may be the brick and mortars that are the ultimate beneficiaries of the smartphone revolution.

Google’s Sameer Samat over at Think with Google explored some fascinating data that seems to prove just that.

“On-the-go consumers now spend more than 15 hours per week researching on their smartphones. They gather information and “snack shop” at the pace and place that suits them best—not just on their smartphone, but at the office desktop and at home on the couch with a tablet…Holiday store visits dropped 55% from 38 billion in 2010 to 17 billion in 2013, according to Shoppertrak. Yet during that same period, same store sales rose, according to MasterCard’s SpendPulse report, which means that the value of each store visit actually doubled. How? Consumers visited less, but they were better informed about what they wanted when entering the store. Each trip was more purposeful and they bought more. “

But how can marketers take advantage of this? As Samat points out, Macy’s, REI and Sephora realized that consumers who were researching online for an in-store purchase wanted to know if an item was in stock before heading over to purchase it.

But do people still showroom? Absolutely – but that’s a challenge that some willingly take on. “We love being used as the internet’s showroom,” Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly once said. They actively embraced that image in 2013’s holiday season, realizing that once a customer is inside your walls they can develop a meaningful, ongoing relationship. With great prices and a great experience (not to mention online price matching), Best Buy was one of the first to realize that showrooming could be an invaluable opportunity.

As the holiday seasons looms over us, many local marketers need to start asking smart questions about how their digital strategy interacts with their in-store experience.