Showrooming to Be Hot in 2013


Showrooming is where someone visits a retail store, not to purchase a product but instead to see it in real life, and perhaps try it out or on, before going back home or onto their mobile phone and ordering it from somewhere cheaper.

Most stores frown on the practice — even though they have no numbers on how many people practice it — and some have even gone so far as to hide barcodes and use different brand designations and packaging to throw off the retail customer. Wal-Mart, on the other hand and realized that instead of fighting the trend, they should, if not embrace it, then at least compete with it. Wired has more:

But the world’s largest retailer hasn’t tried to build a fence to block showrooming. Instead, in an act of digital judo, Walmart is urging shoppers to get out their smartphones when they come into a store.

“You’ve got to go where the customer wants you to go. We live in the age of the customer,” President and CEO Joel Anderson told Wired in an interview this week. “We’re embracing showrooming.”

This doesn’t mean Anderson would be happy if you bought from Amazon or eBay instead. And that’s always an option. But Anderson and Walmart have recognized the reality that no one leaves their smartphones in the car when they come in to shop. Since that’s the case, Walmart has decided not to fight the phone, but to leverage it as one more way to make a sale.

The key to Walmart’s strategy is to give you reasons to use Walmart’s app while you’re in a physical store. Walmart’s stores are “geo-fenced,” which means the location-aware app enters “store mode” when you walk through the door. Once in store mode, you have access to an interactive version of the weekly on-sale circular for that store. You can see what’s new in the store. You can scan bar codes with the phone’s camera for prices and keep a running list of everything you’re buying so you’ll know the total cost when you get to the register.

Photo by Walmart Corporate.

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