Why Retailers Are No Longer Freaked Out About “Showrooming”

Retailers aren’t as scared of online shoppers as they were a year ago, thanks to revamped price-match policies and other improvements.

Not so long ago, the sight of a customer scanning a barcode with his phone might have spooked retail executives. Now? Not so much.

“A year ago, people said that showrooming would kill Best Buy,” CEO Hubert Joly told The Wall Street Journal. “I think that Best Buy has killed showrooming.”

Nobody’s killed anybody, but there has been an interesting reversal. Showrooming is when people browse a brick-and-mortar store for stuff they want, then go buy it online — from somebody else — for less. As the practice became more common, analysts and investors worried that online shopping was killing retail. It was certainly killing Best Buy’s stock, the WSJ says.

Last year, before Joly took over as CEO, “its shares [were] plunging toward single digits,” the paper says. But at the start of this month, the stock was trading near $43. And now Best Buy is running ads celebrating its showroom status.

“Best Buy executives are embracing the term with swagger, saying they have put in place strategies from price matching to customer-service improvements that will convert more shoppers into buyers,” the WSJ says.

Maybe we’re reaching an equilibrium between the brick-and-mortar and digital stores. Walmart and Target both claim to benefit from showrooming, too — that customers browse around online and then buy in-store from them.

Still, the WSJ says, the long-term trend is shifting toward online shopping. And when we get to where there are drive-through grocery stores and we can feel products through a touchscreen, retailers will probably need to do more than price match with a smile.

Do you prefer shopping online or in stores? Why? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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