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UK retailers hit by 'showrooming'

Research by experience design agency Foolproof reveals the increasing impact of so-called 'showrooming' in UK stores, whereby people use mobile devices to compare prices elsewhere – either in rival shops or online. The company's research differed from similar studies, in also gathering data on how consumers acted after comparing prices.

Foolproof said its findings were "hugely significant for UK retailers", with an estimated £500million in sales switching between retailers during the final weekend before Christmas 2012. The research also highlighted a generation gap, with those under 40 significantly more likely to use a physical store as a glorified shop window before subsequently buying an item online.

In terms of raw figures, Foolproof found 24 per cent of UK shoppers 'showroomed' in the lead-up to Christmas 2012, and 40 per cent of those (one in 10 of all shoppers) then bought items from a competitor. However, in the 18-to-39-year-old age group, those engaging in 'showrooming' leapt to 39 per cent, and a fifth of all shoppers said they went into a store specifically to check something they planned to buy online.

"Our research uncovers the true impact of showrooming on the UK high street," said Peter Ballard, Managing Partner of Foolproof. "Half a billion pounds of business walked out of the door to a competitor." He noted that the age profile data was particularly interesting, with "younger, more smartphone-savvy shoppers being far more active showroomers than the older generation". Because of this, Ballard reasoned that 'showrooming' is here to stay – and set to grow. Therefore, he recommended the high street "find ways of accommodating and embracing showrooming as part of the modern-day shopping process", through slicker checkout/delivery experiences and price-matching. He added that "better integration of online and offline customer experiences" could also retain more customers. Naturally, those working on any commerce-oriented websites should additionally take advantage by making efforts to be visible and discoverable when people are checking prices online while standing in bricks-and-mortar stores.