Showrooming (or The Price Comparison Dilemma)

money-saving-moralsAt Money Saver Spain we always advocate comparing prices before buying, especially for high-value items. However, the rise of smartphone apps for price comparisons has led to a rapid rise in what is termed “showrooming”: people checking out goods in physical stores and whilst they’re still there searching online to see if they can find them cheaper elsewhere. Is this savvy shopping or morally not quite right?

Bricks and mortar stores are obviously in direct competition with online businesses, but traditional stores have to support additional overheads such as rent. Many recent closures (eg Comet and Jessops in the UK) have been linked to the inability to compete with lower online prices. But customers also still value the human intervention during the shopping experience, with detailed explanations by experienced staff which often go above and beyond the strictly necessary. Traditional stores are hoping that by ensuring their staff can answer any question a prospective customer could ask them can also go a long way to embarrass these customers out of buying elsewhere, even if they have to pay a slightly higher price for the same product.

On this website we’ve advocated showrooming with some brands, for example with Clark’s shoes you can try on first in store and then sign up for their newsletter online to get a 10€ discount with your first order (and free delivery). In this case as we’re talking about the same company, many consumers would probably find it easier to justify their store visit even though they never intend to buy there.

It’s interesting to note that some 100% online businesses are contemplating opening up showrooms, in larger city shopping malls, just to encourage people to then buy online.

Traditional stores have retaliated in some cases by charging a fee to enter or to try items on (which is then discounted against purchases). It’s still early to know whether this could catch on in the future in all countries.

It’s curious to note that in Spain El Corte Ingles still has a major portion of the market, even though people know it’s not the cheapest place to buy. We’d suppose that this is more due to tradition than to their sales staff going “above and beyond” (based on our experience!) and as Spain’s online commerce increases year upon year El Corte Ingles will have to adapt to the new times too.

If you’ve ever “showroomed” we’d be interested to hear from you and whether you think this is the future for shopping.


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