Back to the bazaar: the rise of showrooming

Customers used to visit a retailer to view products and special offers – the prime opportunity to make a sale. Today, shoppers go to a store to look at products, but then source them, often cheaper, online. It’s called showrooming, and retailers and manufacturers from all categories increasingly see this trend as one of their biggest strategic challenges. However by being more digital themselves, retailers can embrace the opportunity and keep the sale, says Caroline Gorski, O2’s managing partner for retail and leisure. 

I recently read a Gartner report that says 60% of shoppers are so accustomed to showrooming, they may not even be aware they’re doing it. It’s a side-effect of the increasingly hyper-connected and demanding consumer. We shop across devices, comparing retailers at any time, at home or on the move. Showroomers can trial products in-store then use smartphones to immediately compare prices with competitors’. And we can conduct extensive research before purchasing, which means customers are often more informed than the sales assistants themselves.

 Making showrooming an opportunity

 But, all is not lost. We know that showrooming extends the consideration cycle, giving retailers more time to engage with the customers. And excellent customer service can generate considerable loyalty from customers, even when they’re faced with cheaper alternatives.

From my discussions with retail CEOs at our recent Retail Week Forum, it’s clear even price-sensitive, tech-savvy millennials will sometimes pay more for a product from a high street retailer than from an online competitor because of the security and trust they have invested in the high street brand. This invaluable sense of loyalty is built on past experiences and recommendations from friends and family.

But retailers also need to engage and motivate their staff. Customers will no longer tolerate a sales assistant just being a sales assistant – they expect them to be service assistants, knowledgeable advisors and brand ambassadors. It’s the retailers who understand all of this that are succeeding – creating an impressive and informative experience in their stores that makes them stand out from online retailers.

 Helping retailers engage with customers

 At O2, we understand how customers use digital technology to interact and transact. We create opportunities for retailers to explore trends in the marketplace and identify the digital tools they need to embrace in order to succeed. We help develop retailers’ digital engagement strategies using O2 Wifi, Priority Moments, Weve and 4G. Combining the right technology with the right devices creates a seamless experience for the customer and makes employees more passionate about products. It’s all about encouraging more customers to venture into stores and make the transaction there and then.

 I can see a future in which retail stores feature purpose-built showrooms, displaying products in an immersive and exciting way, with no inventory and completely digitally-fulfilled purchases. All of this will be combined with the use of transient pop-up stores which develop the brand experience without the overheads of a bricks-and-mortar store. And at O2 we’re helping retailers prepare for this future.

It’s not enough to react to changes. It is the retailers that engage proactively with digital consumers who will thrive.

 Coming soon: an insight into the showrooming trend and how to tackle it, from another O2 expert. For more information about the ideas in this blog, visit You can also follow Caroline on twitter: @CarolineGorski