September 16, 2013, 2:54 PM

Study debunks commonly held beliefs about showrooming

They’re not all young, and many will buy in the store, a survey says.

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It’s not just young people using mobile devices in stores to access product information and compare prices; nearly half of those who shop that way are over 40, according to new research from Columbia Business School and loyalty program management company Aimia Inc.

The study aimed to understand how consumers “showroom,” which the authors defined as using a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) in a store to compare prices and find out more about products. 74% of mobile shoppers who showroom in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada are more than 29 years old, with 48% older than 40, the study finds.

Harris Interactive conducted the online survey for Columbia and Aimia. The polling firm surveyed 3,004 U.S., U.K. and Canadian adults who own a mobile device and say they’ve used it to showroom within the last year.

“Our findings debunk many of the common assumptions about the threat of showrooming and who is doing it,” says Matthew Quint, co-author of the study and director of Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership. “Many shoppers with smartphones care about more than just the lowest price on every item.” 

For example, the survey reveals that more than half of mobile shoppers are likely to make an in-store purchase after finding helpful information from their smartphones or tablets in the aisle. The top reasons those shoppers say they’ve bought items in-store after showrooming are: they needed the product right away (59%), they didn’t want to wait for online shipping (53%) or it was more convenient than buying online (51%). Additionally, 48% of survey respondents say they are more likely to buy items in a store if they are a member of the store’s loyalty program, even if the prices are the same or less online.

Columbia Business School identifies five types of showrooming shoppers based on the survey results:

  • “Exploiters” research products in stores but ultimately buy online after finding deals like free shipping. They comprise 6.1% of the survey respondents.
  • “Savvys” use their mobile devices in more ways than every other type of mobile shopper, including to compare prices, scan bar codes and pay from their smartphones at checkout. They comprise 12.6% of the survey respondents.
  • “Price-sensitives” respond to deals in stores that persuade them to buy, for instance, a mobile coupon for an extended warranty or loyalty points with a purchase. They comprise 19.4% of the survey respondents.
  • “Experience seekers” go to stores specifically for a retail event like a sale or celebrity appearance and tend to purchase from their mobile devices only if buying in the store is inconvenient. They comprise 31.7% of the survey respondents.
  • “Traditionalists” prefer to shop in stores more than online and use their devices in stores mostly to text or call a friend or family member for advice on what they’re buying. They comprise 30.2% of the survey respondents.
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