Purdue expert: Retailers dealing with 'showrooming'

October 21, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As the holiday buying season progresses, one trend retailers will have to deal with is "showrooming," says Richard Feinberg, a Purdue University professor of consumer sciences and retailing.

Showrooming describes shoppers who go into a store to look at a product, then use a smartphone to search for the item at a cheaper price, often buying on the Internet.

Feinberg says that the amount of showrooming being done is a small part of buying. But because most retailers operate at the margin of profitability, if even as few as 1 percent of customers are showrooming, it can make a difference in whether sales increase over the year before.

He also notes that the use of showrooming is likely to grow: "The easier using a smart device becomes for searching and ordering, the more likely showrooming will become a major problem for retailers."

Most showroomers are under 35, Feinberg says, so if a retailer's target market is the under-35 buyer, showrooming is more of a concern.

Feinberg says one way retailers are fighting showrooming is through price matching, which can keep the sale in the store at the price the consumer wants to pay.

 Purdue research has shown that price matching isn't used a lot because consumers are unaware or they don't like the possibility of confrontation and because sales associates often don't like dealing with it.

Feinberg says one of the best ways retailers can combat showrooming is with strong private brands that can't be purchased anywhere else.

But the bottom line, he says, is the relationship the retailer has with the consumer. "Have a great product at a great price and a strong loyalty program, and consumers won't showroom," he says. 

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Source: Richard Feinberg, xdj1@purdue.edu

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