Showrooming: The Grinch That Could Steal Christmas

By Greg Girard – December 7, 2012
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The 2013 holiday shopping season has seen the emergence of showrooming as a new and consequential dimension of omnichannel retailing. I'd like to spend a few minutes on that topic—something we've covered for two years.

We've recently published a report presenting our analysis of a survey of 1000 consumers who will have showroomed by the end of this shopping season. Based on that research there are 48 million showroomers prowling stores this year. That's 20% of US adults and represents a 134% increase over last year when 20.5 million showroomers shopped. The cadre of showroomers will grow to about 60 million next year and close to 80 million by 2015.

79% of showroomers-some 16% of all shoppers-say they will check prices on their phones in stores, but showrooming is more than a game of "is the price right"? About 13% of all shoppers will use their phones to compare features, read ratings and reviews, look for more options, and seek information they can't get from product labels, signage, or an associate in the store.

So, where will showrooming have its largest impact? Everyone points to consumer electronics as the focus of showrooming. That's only part of the story.

  • Broadly speaking, big ticket items, in particular those that consumers can easily evaluate by reading descriptions, specifications, ratings, and reviews will be the most showroomed items this year.
  • 7 to 13% of consumer electronics shoppers will use their smartphones often or very often in stores this season; showrooming activities will touch 1.4% of these sales.
  • Contrary to what we expected, apparel and footwear is the second most heavily showroomed category. Between 4 and 8% of shoppers will showroom this category often or very often this year affecting about 1% of its sales. 
  • Other categories most exposed to showrooming include books, CD, and DVDs; children's toys and games; appliances of any type; and sporting goods.

The Black Friday to Cyber Week period saw retailers reporting the effects of showrooming. Kohl's same-store sales dropped 5.6% after analysts expected a 1.9% gain. Foot traffic wasn't a problem, but showrooming was. The discount chain saw a "significant shift in Black Friday-related sales into our e-commerce channel" -that's a quote-by people checking out products in-store and getting them cheaper online.

It's only going to get worse. Nearly two-thirds of the showroomers we surveyed expect to use their phones more frequently as the holidays approach-to stretch that holiday budget. Retailers playing the showroom version of the old "Meet or Beat This Price" game are riding a slippery slope. 70% of showroomers least inclined to ask the retailer to meet a price the first time they found one on their phones will be likely or very likely to make the same demand the next time they find a better deal if they got a better price the first time they asked.

The showrooming shopper has emerged from a shopping persona we found in our 2010 mobile-social holiday shopping survey --- the mobile shopping warrior and her kin, the mobile shopping wannabe. Consumers fitting the warrior profile then accounted for about 10% of shoppers, with 15% more shoppers being wannabes. At that time, two years ago, only about 6% of all shoppers were showroomers. Now with 20% of US adults showrooming as they shop, it's clear that many of our 2010 warriors and wannabes - and likely others -- have morphed into full blow showroomers.

So, what's a showrooming shopper look like? Showroomers are characterized by five I's. They are instrumented with mobile devices, they are informed with access to the Internet on their devices, they are interconnected in social communities, they are always in-place in stores or wherever else they might be, and finally they are immediate in their ability to take action.

The showrooming shopper wants to be equally at ease, confident, and assured of getting value shopping in stores AS she is when she's shopping online.  Showrooming shoppers expect to be ably assisted by a knowledgeable, trustworthy associate just as much as they expect to self-direct their shopping journeys in stores as an extension of their online relationship with a retailer.

That's just a few of our findings about showrooming we're seeing this holiday season. Thanks very much for reading. Please comment about your thoughts below!


About the author

Greg Girard

Program Director, Merchandise StrategiesIDC Retail Insights



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