The Greatest Showroom On Earth


The lines between digital and brick-and-mortar commerce are blurring in new and unexpected ways, including a phenomenon that might well be called “reverse showrooming.” The findings, which comScore previewed earlier this week as part of the forthcoming release of its “2018 State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy Report,” show that while conventional “showrooming” has grown significantly since the last time it researched the phenomenon, many consumers are now also comparison shopping at one notable online destination -- Amazon -- before making their purchase at another online retailer.

According to the findings, two-thirds of online buyers now visit Amazon in the week leading up to their purchase, and a significant percentage of them don’t end up buying it via Amazon. Nearly a third visited Amazon in the same online session before purchasing the product elsewhere.

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While comScore analyst Ryan Williams did not actually describe this new form of reverse showrooming -- or say whether comScore has observed instances where people research on Amazon and make their purchase at a brick-and-mortar store -- the insight was certainly implied.

In terms of conventional showrooming -- which Williams described as “visiting a store in order to examine a product before buying it online, typically for a lower price” -- comScore says the behavior has grown 16% since it last researched the phenomenon in the fourth quarter of 2013.

“What we have now is 36% of consumers today saying they have showroomed prior to buying online, vs. 31% three years ago,” Williams says, noting, “So people are in stores, using their devices for price comparisons, often times maybe doing research on their mobile devices on their phones, and just going into the store to make sure it is what they think it is, before going back home and buying it either on mobile or desktop.”

Williams added that showrooming sometimes occurs by accident, because the store doesn’t have the product in stock, but he also pointed out that one third of people who say they showroom never intended to purchase the product in the store in the first place.

The report also hints at other significant changes in consumer purchasing behavior online -- especially the rapid rise of online commerce in categories that previously were thought to require a physical retail presence, especially big items such as appliances and furniture. He said online retail now accounts for 28% of purchases in those categories, and a big factor driving it -- as well as all physical goods -- is the increasing use of “free shipping” promotions.

He said comScore’s research indicates that free shipping is now the No. 1 reason people cite for making a decision to purchase a product online, removing a major point of physical friction in the commerce process.

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