Esther Burke - MSFT
Posted on 11/26/13

It’s almost time to kick-off ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ and all it takes is one quick glance at your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone to remind you that the holidays are upon us. . . and you’re already behind on your shopping. Holiday ads have been steadily creeping onto the airwaves, Christmas music is already playing in stores, and Santas everywhere are girding themselves for battle. Black Friday is coming. . .

It calls up images of shoppers stampeding into big box retailers across the U.S. to hunt for deals mere hours after finishing their Thanksgiving celebrations. But according to our Consumer Decision Journey: Retail study, released at Ad Week this year, consumers increasingly want a seamless, self-driven, and relaxing shopping experience, which they don’t often get in physical stores. As a result, more and more people are turning to online shopping as a solution.  

As the prevalence of online shopping has grown, so have traditional retailer's concerns about show-rooming, the practice of previewing products in a physical store and then purchasing later online (27% of consumers show-room consumer electronics). Doomsday sayers are predicting that ecommerce will fully replace brick and mortar shopping as consumers flock to the internet for the lowest possible price. But Microsoft Advertising dug deeper into consumer’s motivations behind show-rooming and saw a very different story emerge.

We asked consumers what feelings motivated them to ‘show-room’ consumer electronics and they told us that it’s about feeling in control of the purchase decision (60% of show-roomers say they want to feel in control). One of the consumers we spoke with explained that the stress of the physical store environment is a major reason why she shops online: “I prefer to purchase electronic goods via the Internet . . . there is no pressure to buy.” Another voiced the need for better comparison tools in brick and mortar stores: “there [should] be a tablet or other device where I could access the internet to research the product right then and there.”

It turns out that consumers show-room consumer electronics because they don’t get enough added value from shopping in physical stores. Not only is the brick and mortar shopping experience full of pressure, it’s also blinding to consumers' desire for the online information that helps them feel in control and confident in their decisions (41% of online shoppers say product information is a key influencer while shopping and 37% say online consumer reviews are important).  

Retailers who can connect the best of the online world to the shopping experience in their physical stores will have a leg up on those who view it as a completely separate channel. Many of our consumers told us that they wouldn’t buy an electronic product without first getting some hands-on time with it in a store. Brick and mortars should embrace ‘show-rooming’ as a practice that gets consumers in the door and focus on providing them with the online tools they need to build enough confidence to buy right then and there. The success of future retailers depends on their willingness to bridge the physical-digital divide; but the good news is that they're uniquely positioned to do so.

We welcome you to pose questions or comment below. Happy holidays & happy show-rooming!

Tags: consumer decision journey, insights, research, research and insight
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