If shoppers are lurking in your aisles but leaving empty-handed, chances are they’re exponents of a trend known as ‘showrooming’.
‘Showrooming’ — the act of checking out a product in a physical store, only to then go online and snare that very same item for a cheaper price — is on the rise, with research from comparison site finder.com.au suggesting at least a third of shoppers have done it.
A survey of more than 2000 respondents shows nearly one in three Aussie shoppers admit to showrooming, while a further 14% say they would have done it in the past had they thought of it.
This is despite 16% of respondents admitting they feel ‘showrooming’ is unfair to bricks-and-mortar stores.
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New South Wales and Western Australia were found to be most prone to the trend, with 34% of respondents in each of the two states admitting to it.
Vera Yan, co-founder of clothing retailer Nimble Activewear, says it’s a trend she’s seen with her own eyes.
“I think it’s definitely on the rise. Consumers are increasingly savvy at shopping online,” Yan says.
But she hastens to add it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, she says, it’s a reminder of the importance of complementing one’s own bricks-and-mortar stores with an online retail channel.
She points to her own brand as a case in point, with Nimble boasting physical stores in Bondi Beach and Armadale in addition to a strong online presence.
“We encourage our customers to come into our stores and interact with the team and the products. Whether they purchase from us online or in-store, at the end of the day they’re still getting the product that’s right for them,” she explains.
“For some people going directly online is the way to go, but others prefer to go in-store first, then online – it’s about being adaptable to what your customer wants. The bricks-and-mortar and the online business go hand-in-hand and they’re both important as each other.”
Showrooming an opportunity
Swinburne Business School associate professor Sean Sands agrees that ‘showrooming’ presents an opportunity for retailers to distinguish themselves.
“It’s becoming something that retailers are more fearful of than is reality,” he observes.
Sands says the trend is a chance for retailers to improve their in-store customer service.
“The reality is that most ‘showrooming’ is unintentional – that is, customers reverting to shopping online because a product was either out of stock or not in store,” he says.
“So it’s about training staff to be able to offer different products in the event the right size is not in stock. Or giving them an alternative home delivery option at a convenient time.
“There seems to be a service culture in Australia where if something’s not in stock, a store might tell the shopper ‘sorry, have a nice day’ – as opposed to saying ‘it’s not in stock, [but] how can we help you find a solution?'”
Sands says cases of intentional ‘showrooming’ – or price comparison shops – are less common and mainly affect bulk item retailers.
“That’s why retailers like JB Hi-Fi or the Good Guys generally offer price matching strategies,” he says.