Ray Allegrezza

Show Rooming: In store/online comparison shopping booming

June 20, 2012

The other day, while shopping in Costco, I watched a young couple check out the selection of 3D televisions. After much deliberation, I heard them say, "Yep, this is the one."

But instead of loading the TV on a cart and heading toward the checkout, the woman pulled out her smart phone and began to type and stare... type and stare.

Then it hit me... she was show rooming!

In the event you are unfamiliar with the newest retail twist, show rooming is a term used to describe a shopping tactic that involves a shopper, while in a brick and mortar store, using his or her smart phone to comparison shop that item online.

Before you dismiss this concept as a non-event, consider this: Target, a retailer that has always successfully stood toe-to-toe with all competitors, recently sent a letter to vendors asking those suppliers to help put a lid on show rooming.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is hoping to minimize the damage from show rooming by stressing in-store pickup for purchases made online.

And for those of who you like numbers to back things up, how about these? Earlier this year a new survey from Pew Research (Pew Internet and American Life Project) concluded that show rooming is zooming.

The market research firm conducted a telephone survey with 1,000 U.S. adults and found that in a 30-day period around the holidays, more than half (52%) of shoppers with cell phones shopped brick-and-mortar stores, found an item they liked, then researched that product using their phone.

Just under 20% admitted that as a result, they ended up buying the item online.

The study also confirmed that 24% used their phone to look up reviews of a product online while they were in a store, while an additional 25% used their phones to look up the price of the item while in the store to see of there was a better deal out there.

Clearly, while show rooming needs to be on your radar, the obvious question is what can be done to combat it?
Target spelled out part of the answer in that letter it sent to vendors. The retailer asked suppliers to amp up the number of exclusive products they offer as one way to minimize show rooming.

But there are other strategies that you should be thinking about-things like delivering an exceptional customer experience.

You can also win by exceeding the customer's expectations with things such as value-added services that could include electronically sending coupons to her on that very smart phone that she's using to comparison shop with.

Comparison pricing is anything but new. But now, rather than having to drive or walk from store to store, armed with that innocent looking smart phone, she is tuned in, plugged in, online and on a mission.

Are you?

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