It was in 2012 when showrooming — using a mobile device to do comparison shopping while in-store — became all the rage. It seemed that no price-sensitive retailer was immune to losing sales to Amazon and other online discounters in this way, but Best Buy in particular was called out by the media as an easy target.
The consumer electronics chain seemed to be on the defensive when, in August of that year, the newly appointed CEO, Hubert Joly boldly declared showrooming to be an asset rather than the enemy. Once customers enter the store, "they are ours to lose," he said.
Results of a just-released IBM study indicate that Best Buy and others may in fact be learning to turn showrooming to their advantage. While the number of showrooming shoppers rose in 2013 to 8 percent from 6 percent the prior year, the amount spent due to the practice dropped drastically. In 2012, nearly half of online purchases were attributed to the practice; that figure fell to 30 percent in 2013, according to IBM.
Best Buy is a formidable online retailer in its own right, but management seems keen to the fact that most purchasing decisions — around 80 percent, according to studies — are still made in-store. Under Mr. Joly's direction, the retailer firmly embraced the showrooming trend by reallocating floor space to create "mini-stores" — first with Apple, then with Samsung and Microsoft — to drive in-store sales. Each effort features high-impact branding and signage, as well as dedicated sales associates. These mini-stores add energy to the store, creating a differentiated and more vibrant shopping experience.
Best Buy publicly jumped into the showrooming game with both feet for the 2013 holidays with the campaign, "Your Ultimate Holiday Showroom." Its TV spots featuring comedians Maya Rudoff and Will Arnett made a big splash.
"The thing about showrooming is that it's not the ideal experience to do research at home, go to the store, do more research, then hit pause, go home and order and hope it arrives on time," Scott Moore, Best Buy's senior vice president of marketing, told AdAge. "It’s our job to convince people [the store] is the place to come, with a tremendous assortment, informed and well-trained sales associates and our low price guarantee."
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