Big brick-and-mortar retailers know that everybody
is using smartphones when shopping in their stores.
They’re (mostly) cool with it. For one thing,
they don’t have much choice in the matter. For another, they’re embracing
the idea that the smartphone-enabled shopper can be converted to an
on-the-spot buyer. Five or so years ago, when smartphones were new and
few truly understood their potential, retailers barely acknowledged that
consumers could browse in stores while using their phones to look up prices
and reviews from multiple competitors—before ultimately making the purchase
online, likely from Amazon.com. The practice didn’t even have a name at the
time, but we now know it as “showrooming.”
By the 2011 holiday shopping season,
brick-and-mortar retailers had no choice but to acknowledge that showrooming
existed, and that it appeared to be a threat. That’s the year that retailers
were up in arms when Amazon unleashed an “evil” promotion that enticed
consumers to visit physical stores and zap the barcodes of items using
Amazon’s Price Check app. Anyone who purchased the item via Amazon was given
a bonus discount of 5% off. It was around this time that several well-known
retail chains were struggling mightily or had recently gone out of business.
Many wondered if we were witnessing the end of big box store model.
From that point on, brick-and-mortar-based stores began regularly launching
strategies to counter showrooming, including pushing vendors for products
that retailers can sell exclusively (so there’s no direct competition on
price), ramping up one’s own online sales channels, and matching prices from
Amazon and other competitors.
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