Showrooming, sometimes called showcasing, is the practice of checking out a product at a physical store but buying it online, usually for a cheaper price. This practice is criticized ethically, primarily because brick-and-mortar retailers are providing a free service — allowing the online store's consumer to physically inspect the product — that the online store will profit from by ultimately selling the product to the consumer. Estimates suggest that, in the US, about 40% of consumers have showroomed.
More about looking now and buying later:
- The top two reasons showroomers say they showroom: price (cheaper online), and customer service (worse at physical stores).
- Reverse showrooming — when consumers research products online and then ultimately purchase them at a brick-and-mortar store — is less common generally, but relatively common with electronics or other higher-priced products that consumers don’t want shipped.
- Some companies are fighting back by setting up more robust online services to supplement their retail locations. Target® has arguably been successful at this.
- US e-commerce sales increased in 2012 by 10 - 15%.