“Showrooming” spreads to more categories

Consumers who use brick-and-mortar stores to research possible purchases -- and then buy the product on the Internet -- tend to gravitate toward certain housewares, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm.  But even more alarming to physical store owners is the practice of “showrooming,” which is growing to include more categories, the research firm said.

In 2011, 15% to 20% of consumers were “showrooming” categories such as stand mixers, electric knives, sewing machines and some floor cleaners. But the NPD is now seeing the practice n purchases of power tools, hairsetters and robotic vacuums.

The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service shows that in total small kitchen electrics, 7% of consumers who researched their product in a brick-and-mortar store made their purchase online. Within personal care, that number is 4%, and in home improvement, 2%. On the flip side, two in three consumers that researched a home-related product online, ended up purchasing it in the brick-and-mortar store, a practice that has been the norm.

“We are a long way off from a world of online-only shopping,” said Perry James, president of Home and Office Supplies, The NPD Group. “The majority of consumers buy their kitchen appliances, personal care and home environment products in a brick-and-mortar store.”  He added, however, that the prevalence of smartphones provides consumers with the ability to do price comparisons in real time, while still in the store. “This [is] increasing the challenge retailers are faced with to offer the best price,” James observed.

“The need to touch and feel a product before making the purchase is still very compelling for most customers, and that is what initially gets them in the door,” he continued. “Once they have the items in their hands and have decided they want it, the need for immediate gratification can be too strong to go home and wait for an item to be shipped to their home, even if it is the less expensive option.”