The experts call it “showrooming” — price shopping an item you’re considering buying in-store against online prices at competing retailers. And boy is it popular this holiday season.
Research conducted in mid-September by Harris Interactive confirmed that 43% of us smartphone-toting shoppers are showrooming — a figured that rattled the retail industry this fall. A number of retailers reacted with price-match guarantees and other efforts to combat showrooming heading into the holiday season, but the phenomenon doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
A similar study conducted in mid-October by Forrester Research paints a picture of the increasing popularity of this phenomenon, verifying that now over 50% of smartphone owners are price shopping in-store.
The same report also says a whopping 96% of us now know about the practice of showrooming and intend to do it in the near future. If you have a smartphone and haven’t showroomed yet, chances are you’re hot on the trail of better prices. So how can you be sure you find them?
How to Save Money by Showrooming
Showrooming is not a practice for the lazy — it requires quick thinking and even quicker fingers — but chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you aren’t afraid to go the extra mile to save some serious money. By the way, the savings can be serious. Sit tight; we’ll get there.
Two key ways to save a lot of money by showrooming have now emerged:
- Price-Shopping Before You Buy
- Re-Analyzing for Better Prices After
These two efforts can fit neatly into a single process this Christmas season.
A Showrooming Hypothetical: TV Shopping
Let’s say you’re looking to buy a new TV.
Modern shopping cycle knowledge might point you to the after-Christmas sales that inevitably hit the TV market right before the Super Bowl, but I don’t want to discourage you and your quest for a dream TV for Christmas; let’s ignore that fact.
So when should you buy your TV between now and Christmas, and how can you use showrooming to make sure you’re getting a good price? Follow these steps:
1) Check Out TVs In-Store
Head to your nearest big box electronics retailer — say Best Buy — and check out all the TVs on the floor. Do you want a plasma display or LCD? Is the 50-inch big enough or are you going to need the 73-inch? What features do you need? What brand would you like? Whittle it down to a handful of models and write them all down.
2) Let the Comparisons Begin
While you’re there, grab the Amazon.com Price Check mobile app, which allows you to search Amazon prices quickly by entering the product name or scanning the bar code. (Best Buy has been re-configuring its barcodes to prevent this, but not all of them.) See any savings? Chances are, you will. Recent research shows that 75% of the things you can buy at BestBuy can be had an average of 17 percent cheaper at Amazon.com.
3) Compare a Little Longer
If you can’t find a lower price at Amazon, try TigerDirect.com, NewEgg.com, Walmart.com and Target.com. These are among the 20 online retailers that BestBuy is offering an extended version of its Price Match Guarantee against this holiday season. Until recently, Best Buy was really only offering price matching against local in-store retailers. If you can’t find a cheaper price from your smartphone at one of these sites, you might have found one of the lowest. You could always try hunting for a better price at a smaller online retailer, but BestBuy will not honor those prices, so you may as well head home if you’re not feeling good about the prices on your phone.
4) Flash the Price and Buy
Chances are you will find something lower than the in-store price at Best Buy, but don’t worry. They’ll likely match it. Just flash the big-store price you’ve found online for the same item at the register, prove that it’s the same size, style and model, and you’ll be good to go at the better price you found from your phone. But don’t stop there if you’re looking for real savings.
5) Keep Comparing for the Next 30 Days
According to a representative I spoke with at Best Buy, the company’s Price Match Guarantee lasts for 30 days after you purchase your item. The company wisely excluded prices found during Thanksgiving week from it’s special online-competitor guarantee this year, but it did count out the four days leading up to Free Shipping Day, which our advent calendar of holiday deals suggests will be among the best days of the season for buying electronics. Did I mention that last year, Free Shipping Day witnessed more sales than Black Friday and Small Business Saturday combined? These sales are going to be good.
When Showrooming is a Bad Idea
There are a few scenarios where showrooming might not be a great call:
For example, if you are able to find a better price on the big-ticket item you’re looking at, but it’s at a website you’ve never heard of, you should certainly check into the credibility of the retailer before shifting; there’s more to a great deal than price. Reputation is just as important.
Also, if the salesperson at the store you’re visiting to showroom is particularly helpful in assisting you to find the perfect product, it may be worth the $15 you’re going to save by going online to just buy it from that person. Again, in this circumstance, saving money might not be your only priority.
If you’re really cutting your shopping close in terms of timing, you may not have time for showrooming, which always comes with shipping lag. Many online retailers are offering deals on shipping, but having something sent overnight on Christmas Eve is stressful and almost always expensive.
Finally, if you have a store discount or coupon in-hand, that may just trump the savings you’ll find online; many price-matching guarantees cannot be combined with discounts in-store. If you’re a PerkStreet customer, for example, the chances are pretty good that you’ve received custom PowerPerks discounts at a trusted retailer you might be able to purchase your item from. Log in and check it out first.
Are you showrooming your way to deals this holiday season? What’s your strategy? Share below.