Guest Column: Reverse Showrooming:
Much has been made of the phenomenon known as showrooming. Showrooming is the consumer act of examining merchandise in a brick-and-mortar retail store without the intent of purchasing it, and then surfing the Internet to find a lower price and buying the item online. This trend has wrecked considerable havoc among the retail community as CE dealers combat skinny margins and increasingly commoditized product categories.
On July 1, 2012, the great state of Texas instituted Internet sales tax. California followed suit on September 15, 2012. Roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population is now being charged Internet sales tax for online purchases, with more states coming onboard in 2013.
I was chatting with a friend who lives in Texas; he needed a printer for his computer. He did what we all do: He went online to research his purchase and read reviews. He checked price points, and decided on a printer with a feature set that met his needs. He then decided that he wanted to see the printer in person before hitting the “buy” button.
He went to his local computer store, and lo and behold, the printer was in stock at the same price as the online provider. Sales tax being the same, and the prospect of immediate gratification making the purchase even more attractive, my friend bought the printer then and there from the local retailer. This is a new phenomenon I am dubbing “reverse showrooming.” Consumers will continue to research their purchases online, but we now have a greater opportunity to complete the sale on a local level.
What does reverse showrooming mean for the local brick-and-mortar dealer? It means a rock solid website is absolutely necessary for your business. Without a compelling website, your company loses the ability to “showroom” products at all. If you aren’t in the game for the research component of the purchase, you simply won’t be considered a serious player by the consumer.