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Reverse Showrooming is Just Retailing

by Robert Hetu  |  June 5, 2014  |  6 Comments

In a continuing trend of renaming things that already exist so they can be called new, there has been a lot of hype around something called “reverse showrooming”. This ground-breaking discovery is proclaimed the savior of brick and mortar retailing. To take advantage of this a retailer must encourage the customer to come into the store, encourage them to shop as they would like and to use their mobile device over their in store Wi-Fi. Key elements of this technique are provision of informed staff with inventory that is accurate and available. And let’s not forget the pièce de résistance; a competitively fair price. You know, the more I think about, this sounds familiar.

customer is always right

Gartner 2014

Multichannel retailers are just now waking up to the fact that if they think like their customers (remember “the customer is always right”) they can use their tremendous advantages to compete effectively with the likes of Amazon. Over the past 50 years retailers found opportunity in massiveness. Incredible numbers of stores, efficient supply chains, wringing every dime of cost out by cutting back staffing and increasing self-service. The problem is they forgot the customer along the way. As I say frequently, retailers actually know very little about their customers. As consumerization of retail has been enabled by the use of technology this inherent weakness in the marketplace inflicted a significant but not fatal wound.

In 2012 and 2013 I produced a series of research notes around the impacts of showrooming and how to combat it. The research entitled “Survey Analysis: Focus on Customer Basics to Challenge Amazon, as ‘Showrooming’ Is Universal but Not Unbeatable” included some startling facts:

  • 60% of consumers reported deliberately visiting a retailer to showroom while expecting to make the purchase elsewhere
  • Less than 10% of consumers reported making a purchase from the same retailer they had showroomed
  • Less than 5% of younger consumers reported making the purchase from the same retailer
  • 94% of consumers want a pricing policy that doesn’t require research

In fact we found that consumers were not responding well to price matching polices, even traveling to a competitor’s store to make a purchase, regardless of the existence of a price matching policy. Moreover, what’s required is a seismic shift from product- to customer-centric activities. Changing trends in the way in which consumers are using technology require multichannel retailers to adopt trust-building business models to combat showrooming. This includes a focus not just on pricing, but also on excellent execution of the multichannel customer basics:

  • The product I was searching for is in stock.
  • When I require help, informed staff is available to assist me.
  • The check-out process is fast, convenient, and secure.
  • Regardless of the method of fulfillment, I can easily return the product to any touchpoint.
  • The product I was searching for was easy to locate.
  • Good product information is available, with reviews (where applicable).
  • I can get the product in the most convenient way for me.
  • The product selection is broad with accessories and/or alternative suggestions offered.

Tier 1 multichannel retailers can combat “showrooming” by moving to more aggressive pricing strategies. Stop thinking about this as a race to the bottom but instead a leveling of the playing field.  This aggressiveness must be supported by a renewed focus on excellent execution of the customer basics in the store.


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Category: pricing-policy  retail-trends  

Tags: amazon  analytics  assortment  bi  competition  consumers  customer-analytics  customer-centricity  ecommerce  merchandising  multichannel  omni-channel  price-transparency  pricing  retail  satisfaction  showrooming  trends  

Robert Hetu
VP, Analyst Retail
7 years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Bob Hetu is a Research Director with the Gartner Retail Industry Services team. His responsibilities involve tracking the technology markets and trends impacting the broad-based retail merchandising and planning areas. Mr. Hetu is an expert in the areas of brand, vendor and assortment management, merchandise planning, allocation, and replenishment. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Reverse Showrooming is Just Retailing

  1. @greeneyesclaire says:

    Great article Robert. It is amazing how many businesses forget about the importance and power that their customers have over the firm’s continued existence and growth. Its good to remind retailers that the customer has to be the main focus, and future-proofing via transforming customer touch points and processes with digital elements will help here. In order to meet more and more real time demands technology is going to aid your business to respond quickly and retain relevancy. Your list of multichannel customer basics are spot on!

  2. […] Source: Reverse Showrooming is Just Retailing […]

  3. […] In a continuing trend of renaming things that already exist so they can be called new, there has been a lot of hype around something called “reverse showrooming”. This ground-breaking discovery is proclaimed the savior of brick and mortar retailing.  […]

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