Thoughts, Insights and Inspiration

Showrooming: Threat or Opportunity?

In a recent article we talked about discount fatigue, and how shoppers have become so accustomed to finding the best available price, that spending some time on the internet searching to find that product you’re interested in at a lower price has become second nature. So it should really be no surprise that consumers are also doing this while in a physical store, looking at the product itself in person, while searching online to find out if they can get a better price for it anywhere else, or reading up on product reviews from relevant websites. This is showrooming, and it’s nothing new as consumers have been showrooming ever since online shopping became an easy option.

When mobile showrooming first appeared on the map, retailers struggled to see the opportunity and instead saw this as a major threat. Some shops went as far as to ban mobile phones in their stores, while others blamed showrooming for their eventual demise. An Australian food shop went as far as to introduce a  $5 charge for using wi-fi in store, while some stores in the US introduced ‘fitting fees’ with the fee then taken off the final purchase bill if the customer bought from the store. At the other end of the spectrum, other retailers embraced showrooming for the opportunity it could provide in bridging the gap between the online and the offline. The challenge lay in making sure that when customers did showroom, they ended up on that retailer’s site and purchased their products instead of competitors’.

It’s all in the App

Walmart understands the importance of providing an enjoyable online experience when customers are in the physical store, hence why it has put so much effort into its branded app and mobile site, by integrating customisable shopping lists, location-relevant promotions, and product and inventory information all available in-app. And to top it off, all Walmart stores offer free wi-fi, making the experience enjoyable for customers while ensuring that those that are mobile showrooming are still purchasing from Walmart and not its competitors. And the strategy seems to have worked as the company claims that it now achieves 12% of its online sales through its mobile website from consumers who are already in a Walmart store.

If a retailer can’t compete purely on price with online-only stores, it has to offer value through the same device that the shopper is using to check out that competitor. Having a strong mobile presence is imperative for brands, whether that be a website or an app. And ensuring that point of sale signs take shoppers to your online presence while in store is a strong tactic.

In-Store Technology

Using creative and engaging in-store technology can also help shoppers connect with the store online, while in the physical store itself. The space between the aisle and the checkout is where the ‘online competition’ is waiting, and it’s the retailer’s job to ensure they make that space an enjoyable enough experience for showroomers that they don’t feel the need to look elsewhere.

Improving the shopping experience with in-store technology is a viable solution to capture this opportunity. Free wi-fi in store is almost an expectation these days, and offering this ensures that you can control the landing page your customers see first, making sure it’s your branded page with offers, promotions or other marketing messages you want to get in front of your customers.


iBeacons can help provide an enjoyable shopper experience, enabling retailers to push location-based offers to specific product ranges directly to customers’ phones either while they walk past the store, or when they’re already inside. US retail giants Macy’s and Safeway have both had tremendous success with iBeacons and finding new ways to connect with shoppers while in store. Better yet, iBeacons can enable retailers to drive shoppers into the store, and towards a specific product, and allow them to purchase the product via their mobile without the need to checkout. The potential of iBeacons doesn’t just stop at sending push notifications with offers and discounts; the technology can enhance the shopping experience by providing in-store navigation, payment solutions and the ability to search for additional information. It also delivers a vast amount of data for retailers, allowing them to perfect this process over time to continuously improve the experience and make the most of the technology. Using iBeacons, retailers can harness the data they hold on their online customers and combine it efficiently with offline data, enabling them to offer more personalised messages, deals and promotions tailored to individual consumers. In turn, the consumer benefits from relevant deals and information, and the retailer increases footfall, sales and loyalty.

Given that going shopping to the high street is a social experience as much as a shopping one, retailers who understand how to tie that in with the online shopping experience are going to be in a very strong position.

iBeacons and NFC are a great start to implementing engaging in-store technology, but it doesn’t need to stop there. Burberry, for example, fully embraced in-store technology at its flagship store using screens that convert into mirrors and show catwalk videos when triggered by an item of clothing, and equipped sales advisors with tablets so they can show matching accessories and order items that aren’t currently available in the shop in order to boost in-store sales and provide a more efficient experience. Equipping sales advisors with tablets that can finalise the checkout process without requiring the customer to head over to the till or queue will also provide that extra special in-store experience that will keep customers coming back to the store.

There are so many other ways that brick and mortar stores can bring the digital world into their stores and over time, we are seeing more and more interesting use cases pop up including virtual mannequins, augmented reality, scan as you shop, browse and order hubs, digital signage.

In essence, the use of in-store technology should make the shopping experience a pleasurable one that will keep customers coming back. It should also provide the same level of convenience experienced online, therefore offering various payment or delivery options can go a long way to making shoppers feel they are getting a good experience that they may not get online.


The gap between the online and offline retail experience is still too large, and retailers who take steps to bridge this gap and provide one excellent experience, regardless of whether it be online or offline, will reap the rewards and be in a much stronger position than those who don’t. Retail showrooming is not going anywhere, and it’ll only become more common as consumers continue to get savvier in their purchases and strive to find the best deal available, so seeing showrooming as a threat will get retailers nowhere. The opportunities are clear, and those retailers who have grasped them so far have benefitted from doing so, and we look forward to witnessing how retailers in 2016 will continue to embrace showrooming.

What do you think about showrooming and in-store technology? Let us know in the comments below or via social media, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to receive new articles straight to your inbox.

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