The Myth Of Showrooming Takes Another Hit

The myth of showrooming—the suggestion that tons of shoppers are flooding stores to only use them as a physical showroom as they had always intended to purchase the product at Amazon—lives on. But a survey conducted in late April by Bizrate Insights is helping to add a little clarity. First, showrooming really doesn't happen very often. But more interestingly, when it does, it's more likely to be within the same chain. That's a problem all right, but the name of that problem isn't showrooming. It's internal politics.

Bizrate surveyed more than 9,000 shoppers (between April 24-30) who had just completed an online purchase at one of their e-tailers. The first—and arguably most meaningful—stat is an overwhelming 78.15 percent of those online purchasers had not looked at those products in any physical store. No surprise there, but it's a key number to remember the next time someone shouts about how showrooming is gutting brick-and-mortars.

When they zeroed in on that remaining 21.85 percent of shoppers who had looked instore before buying online, most of them (54 percent) ended up buying from the same chain. In other words, they were in a Target or a Best Buy and then purchased from or

Granted, that's a slim margin (in the survey, it's the difference between 11.8 percent and 10.05 percent—and it's not clear what the survey's margin of error was), but it's still interesting.

Not only does that suggest something that is not showrooming, it's probably good news for that chain. The problem is with the way that most incentives (commissions, bonuses, etc.) of in-store managers work today, those store managers hate losing a sale to their own online arm just as much as if it went to a brick-and-mortar of the most direct rival. To them, losing a sale is losing a sale.

If merged channel/omnichannel strategies are to work, financial incentives must be radically reworked.

If not showrooming, then what is likely going on here? If the shopper ends up purchasing from the same chain's online arm, it's not likely about money. (Pricing is no longer that big a difference and most chains will now price-match their online arm anyway.) When factoring in the shipping charges, it's clear that it's really not about saving money. Add the multi-day delivery delay—versus the multi-minute delay of purchasing it right there in the store—and the endless forms for an online site and it's also not about convenience.

With most of those sales, the customer wanted the product, was satisfied with the physical inspection and either wanted it shipper rather than carried (especially for a large bulky purchase). Or they could be traveling and wanted it sent home. Perhaps it's a gift for an out-of-state friend, in which case online purchasing really is a lot more convenient.