Why Retailers Are No Longer Freaked Out About “Showrooming”

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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.

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Comments & discussion

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  • bonehead

    I prefer to shop online. Saves time, hassle, avoidance of rude & incompetent employees, long lines all of which I have encountered.

  • ModernMode

    I would never buy something like a TV online. I want to see it with my own eyes and compare it to others.

  • ManoaHi

    This is a difficult situation as I live in Hawaii. We do have Best Buys and Walmarts. High shipping rates kill us. Nearly all “free shipping” sites exclude Hawaii and Alaska. Basically the only other option is Amazon (if ordering $35 or more or Amazon Prime – but for either, you have to wait for your order). Thus, my first preference is to order on-line and ship to store, where the shipping charges are waived. For sometihing like a TV, I would go in store but I still might order on line and have delivered to the store (like if a have my small car but need my wife’s minivan to get the item home. Or I could pay for it and pick up later. If a store doesn’t support that, the big boxes usually do, then it’s off to Amazon Prime.