Even if you don’t use the term “showrooming” to describe your shopping behavior, chances are you have engaged in the act of browsing in-store while using a mobile device to find the best available price online. And if you’re like most of us — 80 percent of smartphone owners now use their handhelds while shopping — you’re probably showrooming more and more often. Though the jury is still out on the precise financial impact of showrooming, the effect is likely significant, as many big box retailers like Best Buy, Target and Walmart have reacted to the threat with a variety of beat-their-best-price offers.
Common as shopping while surfing is, our research suggests that showrooming is more nuanced than you might think. Just 20 percent of consumers regularly engage in showrooming, only one-third of whom actually act their price comparisons to buy products elsewhere. An offshoot of traditional showrooming, the act of going into a brick and mortar store with the sole intention of trying on or testing products before purchasing them online, is far more common–58 percent of smartphone owners do this. Collectively, all showrooming behaviors are estimated to drive approximately half of today’s online sales.
In reaction to these shopping trends, a handful of innovative brands have implemented tools into their mobile apps that work to assist showrooming shoppers. One such example is Clarins’ “My Personal Red Line” iOS app (currently, 16 months without an update and only available in the UK and France), which allows users to scan products, revealing more in-depth information, with the goal of determining whether the item in question fits into their personalized skincare regimens. Another unique app is Kiehl’s “Snap & Shop” iPhone app, launched in late January, that encourages customers to interact with new “Shopping Wall” exhibits that ultimately lead them to order directly from Kiehl’s.com.