Show Rooming

Show rooming at Best Buy
During this past weekend, I got to observe the marketing phenomenon known as show rooming. I was in two different retail stores and observed consumers using their smart phone to check competitive prices on the item they were looking at in store. Here is what I observed:

Best Buy – I had to return a power strip at Best Buy. This was another disappointing experience waiting for help when several “associates” stood around doing things like taking register tapes out of a box. More on this in another blog post. 

After I returned the goods, I walked over to the computer section of the store. Two men who were in their early 30’s and were checking the price of a similar computer on Amazon after they found the make and model of interest. They told me that they were using the store to see and feel the product but that Amazon had a better price online. They weren’t sure what they would do but they were looking for the best deal.

So what is this show rooming about? It shows the incredible disadvantage that brick and mortar stores can have when consumers shop around. Amazon has an incredible model that in the near term may be turning up the heat on retailers. They may move distribution centers into more states allowing deliver of products in hours or a day at most without a high fee. Things change and retailers need to figure this out quickly or Best Buy will become a memory like Circuit City and other less nimble stores. I think Jeff Bezos from Amazon is a very under appreciated CEO.

Inside Amazon

Whole Foods Wine Shop
Whole Foods in a bag

Whole Foods- While shopping for various groceries, I spent some time watching and observing consumers in the wine aisle. Stalking (make that observing) consumer behavior is a favorite hobby of mine. Why do consumers pick this wine up or that wine? What motivates the purchase and is this same kind of behavior of show rooming happening in this store too? I walked over to a woman- about 40, who was scanning the UPC code on her cell phone to check the price on a wine. I asked her about it and she told me she was checking to see if she could get a wine at a better price online since she wanted to buy a case. In this instance, the Whole Foods case price was cheaper. But this woman was shopping with iPhone in hand and a scanner app to check prices.

I too recently loaded a scanner onto my phone called Quick Scan. It allows me to scan a UPC and see competitive pricing on products online. It has become a useful tool for shopping for wine since I can enjoy a wine at a restaurant, scan the code and make a note about the wine. Then I can buy it from various sources afterward. 

Wine App for identifying wine tasting notes and prices

My problem is I often find it hard to remember the exact brand, year or varietal of what I enjoyed. This app allows me to scan and record what I drank and to see competitive pricing. I tried it with retail food products too and am experimenting with how “brick and mortar” shopping with Internet in hand will change the way we shop. Just like how watching the Olympics on TV while reading (and writing) on my Twitter feed changed that experience. 

Retail marketing is a very different landscape today and it is changing quickly. The times they are a changing. 

It must be true, I read about it online.

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