KEY POINTS

  • Showrooming was once seen as an existential threat to bricks-and-mortar retailers, but it turns out the reverse dynamic is more popularReverse showrooming, where people browse online but buy in stores, is actually more common than showrooming. In the U.S., 69% of people have reverse showroomed, while 46% have showroomed, according to a Harris poll.
  • Another myth around showrooming is that young people love to do it. In fact, the data shows that millennials prefer to reverse showroom. For electronics, shoes, sports equipment, and cosmetics, more millennials say they prefer to reverse showroom, rather than research in store and then buy online. 
  • Traditional retailers can do more to ride the "reverse showrooming" trend. Offline retailers have realized they have a lot to offer, as long as they can integrate offline and digital, and beat e-commerce competitors on convenience: knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pickup of online orders, hands-on service, in-store Wi-Fi, and smartphone discounts that nudge showroomers to buy in-store.
  • Amazon remains the No. 1 place where showroomers end up making their purchases, but it's an even more popular destination for reverse showroomers who ultimately buy elsewhere. Social media has also become a major referral source for bricks-and-mortar chains, not just e-commerce sites.
  • New initiatives for the connected in-store experience keep popping up, which are meant to help dissolve the line and level the playing field between e-commerce and offline retail: tablets and mobile phones used as register systems, robotic arms that deliver clothing into dressing rooms, and beacon hardware, which powers in-store maps and automatic hands-free payments.
  • The key rationale behind all these changes: retailers are beginning to think of themselves less as purveyors of goods, and more as all-around consumer resources. 

Introduction 

In the past few years, as online shopping exploded and smartphones became the norm, the showrooming phenomenon seemed poised to gut the revenue of offline retailers.

Consumers headed into their local stores, got an up close look at products, then did a quick search or scanned barcodes to see where the items could be purchased for less money — most often on Amazon.

But now retailers have discovered "reverse showrooming," or "webrooming," which is when consumers go online to research a product or figure out what they might want to buy, but then head to a bricks-and-mortar store to complete their shopping. They do this on [...]