Shoppers are bringing their smartphones with them as they shop for big ticket items. Often these consumers are showrooming, or intending to wait to buy these products online. Retailers should strategize to adapt to this new practice, and encourage consumers to still come into physical stores.

In order to tackle "showrooming", retailers need to make in-person shopping compelling

Smartphones are common and many owners use them while they are shopping, and this device is having a profound influence on how consumers make purchasing choices. They get additional information, check prices and read reviews, all while in the store, and often go home to make the purchase online. This practice, called showrooming, has become disruptive for storefronts, and has prodded big box retailers to offer price-matching to curb the phenomenon. According to a Perception Research Service study, this practice is here to stay and retailers must find ways to embrace it in some way. “Retailers know that they will continue to lose a certain amount of sales to online purchases, and they must accept that some showrooming will occur,” says PRS Executive Vice President Jonathan Asher.

Consumers like to save money, but also interacting with products

Over half of shoppers were found to own a smartphone - 54 percent, compared to only 45 percent of shoppers who own a feature phone. Consumers can save an appreciable amount of money if they put in the time to comparing prices and shops, but they often need to see or experience the product in person to make the decision, which still drives foot traffic in physical stores. According to data from the shopper and packaging research company, smartphone owners most often use their mobile device when they shop for electronics, consumer packaged goods and apparel. While some showrooming consumers use their smartphone to shop and buy in store, most often they make purchases online at home. The practice is more common for big ticket items, such as appliances or baby products.

Merchants have to engage shoppers to make in-person purchases

Merchant reactions to showrooming have ranged from discouraging the practice to price-matching, as mentioned above. But more considered strategizing is called for in order to keep as much business as possible. They must make in-person purchases compelling, Asher continues. “Manufacturers must (...) find ways to more fully engage shoppers by creating communities in which shoppers feel cared about and spoken to – via the various communication channels that are now part of their lives.” Hopefully brands will incorporate mobile into such a strategy, since smartphones are the reason that they find themselves needing to shift their attention in the first place.


Clémence Coursimault