Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Showrooming: Is it wrong to view in store then buy online?

Last week I wrote about ways that shops trick people into spending more than they planned, but are the tides turning as people use showrooming to trick them out of a sale?

When was the last time you went "showrooming"?

Showrooming is where you walk into a shop, check out the product that you're planning on buying, then walk out and buy it cheaper online. It was probably responsible for the demise of companies like Jessops and HMV, which sell goods at a higher price than their online competitor Amazon.

So is showrooming immoral?

In my opinion, showrooming is just another form of shopping around. People used to do it before the internet became popular, back when places like Argos were a cheaper rival to many other businesses. I would however say that you're taking the mick when you take up half an hour of an employee's time picking their brain about the product, before picking up your smartphone and ordering online!

People say that showrooming hurts a lot of small businesses. I can see how that might be the case, but small shops are more likely to have interesting little things that you can't find elsewhere (which is how they compete with bigger brands in the first place!). Small companies should use their unique angle to keep customers coming back.

Larger shops will be happy to have more customers coming through their doors. They know that the longer they can keep you in there, the more likely you are to spend. Best Buy, a shop in the US that was floundering because of showrooming, has now introduced a price match guarantee with Amazon.com. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the impression of being a good value company has led to a increase in sales.

What does the future hold?

In Australia a celiac food shop has decided to charge $5 for looking at their merchandise, which is refunded if you buy something. How on Earth does this company expect to encourage people in with that attitude? The future depends on shops accepting that people have access to price comparison data and finding new ways to do business.

Even if a small shop cannot compete with Best Buy's price match guarantees, they can excel at things like customer service. If a shop assistant has been helpful in making a decision, people are more likely to buy from them. Introducing a loyalty card with rewards would be another way to keep people coming back. Sales allow shops to rival online prices, keeping customers in the store longer to entice them with the higher priced stock.

The future of large electrical items is online. The amount you can save is phenomenal, plus you don't have to try and cart a huge television home in the back of a Mini. We might even see real showrooms of electrical goods on the high street, with QR codes allowing you to purchase them online.

Like it or not, showrooming is here to stay. Businesses need to evolve.

Do you think showrooming is acceptable? What sorts of items would you scope out in store then buy online?


Frugal Living UK said...

I have to admit that I did just that with my purchase of a freezer recently. I went along to Curry's to check out the fridge that I wanted, but you know, it wasn't the difference in price that was my reason for walking away, after all, there was only about a tenner in it. It was there delivery, which was long winded. I could buy online for £10 cheaper and have it delivered for free, any day of my choosing, including Saturday or Sunday! It was with me a day later. Shops like Curry's need to improve their customer service and delivery policies if they want to compete in my opinion, this is where the online shops have it, great customer service.

Wean said...

People today just have to look around for the best deal - money is so tight. I agree it may seem 'immoral' but that's the way things are going, and the high street have had it their way long enough !
I recently 'picked someones brains' when I bought a mobile phone 'cos I'd lost my other one, and a satnav - and then bought them off Ebay - does that mean I'm taking the mick ? I dont think so, Im a pensioner and have to make my money stretch as far as possible.
As for charging to look around, is that a joke ?
I also object to paying to park at a shopping centre, same sort of thing, you spend when you get in dont you but don't get your parking money back.
Also paying for entrance to boot sales is wrong in my opinion, the organizers get enough from the fees they get off the car booters.
Well be charged for going in a pub next !
I need a new vacuum, so I'm checking out Tesco and Asda today, then will look online !

Shovellicious said...

I just came to say "hello" :) I found your blog thanks to Saving For Travel and I'm sure I'll spend some more time here. When it comes to showrooming, I don't buy too much online but what I did in the past was mostly sport equipment. But I guess it's not something we do on a regular basis ;)

Robyn said...

I'm afraid I've always done this with cameras. There is no way I'm going to buy a high-value item of that type without being sure it suits me, fits my hand, and is comfortable to hold, first! The flip-side of this is that my chosen retailer for photographic items has a reasonably sized online concern AND a couple of shops, including one relatively locally to me, and yes, they price match instore to their online arm. That way they get the benefit of being able to keep prices keener due to additional traffic, and I get the benefit of "try before you buy" and the ability to purchase from an independant retailer, which I always prefer where possible.

Frugal Down Under said...

I'm on the fence with this one.

Due to the recent job loss of my partner and the trickle on affect all the job cuts have had on small business my eyes have been opened wider. So I am trying to shop frugally but also with more conscience for the small businesses.

I know they can't afford more staff, or more trucks for deliveries, or space for bulk storage which helps to get the stock for cheaper. Where the price is not too much of a difference I'm making a choice to purchase from small local shops. But I'm also careful and buying less.

Sometimes I tell them I saw the product for such and such price on such and such website and give them the opportunity to offer something similar deal if I'm edging towards online.

Yesterday at a hardware shop I saw a teen staff member out in the hot sun, knees on the hot cement changing a car tyre for an elderly couple that had a flat. I was impressed and realised want to keep my community employed because this also has an effect on my quality of life in my city.

eemusings said...

I do this, and have been slammed on my blog for admitting to it.

I say it's fair play (but I don't work in retail, so...)