Showrooming When Buying

Shopping online can be a great way to save money, as you can comparison shop.  With multiple options for buying certain products, we have a number of places we can look in order to see prices.  We can look for the place that offers our product for the best price, and then make the purchase.

Now, buying online might have some distinct shortcomings, and one that jumps to mind right away is the ability to actually see something.  Not everything is a commodity where we know exactly what we’re getting, and whether or not it’s a good fit for us.  Clothes come to mind as an immediate example.  But even beyond that, we might have a number of other things we would like to buy, such as electronics for example.

Whatever the case is, there is one way to avoid this issue: Showrooming when buying.

It’s simple, really.  Go to a retail store, and take a look at the product.  If you like it, you might consider buying it there.  Instead, you can go online or use price comprison apps to check competitor prices.  If you can get it cheaper elsewhere, just buy it elsewhere.  Use your smartphone immediately to decide, after seeing the product in person, if it’s worth your time to buy right there on the spot. Or not.

I just went through this practice, this week.  I was thinking of buying an iPod touch for someone as a gift, and thought I would check it out in person while I was out at a local store.  After liking what I saw, I determined that it would make a good – albeit expensive – gift.   A quick check of prices determined that I could get it for $7 less by simply ordering online, including shipping.  So, I walked out of the store without it.

Not that $7 is an astronomical amount to save, and one could certainly argue with real validity that the time I would spend later to buy it, along with the risks of shipping around the holidays, might not make that small amount of savings worth it.  Fair enough, in this specific case.

However, in other cases, where timing isn’t of the essence and the products are perhaps different, the value proposition could be much more clear.  You could simply look in person, then order later - all the while saving more money while waiting a short while for your item to arrive.

I do feel a tiny bit guilty, but rationally I know that it’s not warranted. Business is business, and you have to save when you can.  Showrooming can be a good way to get the best of both worlds, seeing the product in person and getting the best online price.

Readers, have you ever showroomed? What do you think are times when it can be worth it?

14 thoughts on “Showrooming When Buying

  1. Savvy Scot

    I pretty much do it all the time – unless there is an urgent requirement for the item. Shops are going to have to be careful or change their strategy; as mobile technologies become better, things are only going to become harder!!

  2. Edward Antrobus

    There isn’t much I’ve ever purchased online that I didn’t look at in a store first. That said, I don’t buy a lot online. The last non-food, non-clothing items I’ve bought were all large, bulky items (like a tv), that shipping costs would outweigh and savings.

    1. Post author

      Edward – well actually, you’re on to something there. If you’re not buying such items like I mentioned, you’re making a great decision: spending less. That’s better than comparison shopping…well done!

  3. Pauline

    I usually see something I like in a shop and if the price seems ok, get it there. If I think I can get a better deal (I don’t have a smartphone to check right away) I go home and look it up online. Showrooms are made for that so no bad feelings here.

  4. The First Million is the Hardest

    This is how I’ve exclusively shopped since I first got a smartphone. If I’m in a store and find something I like, I’ll do a quick online search to see if it’s cheaper on Amazon or somewhere. If I know what I want online, I’ll often go to the store for the sole purpose of seeing the item in person and making sure it’s what I really want and then purchase it online if cheaper.

    1. Post author

      First Million – that’s interesting, you’re going for the pure purpose of checking things out. Brick and mortar retailers January want to take note! Stores just might be awareness builders in this sense, set up for the purpose of driving people online.

  5. Jason @ WSL

    We don’t really buy things very often so I don’t run into this opportunity too much. Saying that, even when I’ve had the chances to do it, I haven’t done it much. I guess my problem was that I didn’t have a smart phone at the time and couldn’t easily do a price comparison while in the store.

    1. Post author

      Jason – I think its something that isn’t a habit for most people these days, but is probably headed in that direction. If you’re not spending much anyway, that’s a good thing!

  6. eemusings

    Ha, I like how you phrased that – “showrooming” sounds so legit!

    Price is paramount for me (I wrote a little about my online shopping philosophy here). Agree that in some cases physical shops are probably going to be less about driving sales in the future and more about brand building and demonstration.

    1. Post author

      eemusings – good point, in that case the store just might be more of a showroom than anything else. Or a way to drive people online. Perhaps this can lower the real estate requirements from some entities.

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