How you can cash in on the ‘showrooming’ effect!

So, last week I suggested that as an online seller you should always consider that some products are better being sold on Amazon rather than eBay – from a profitability point of view.

But now let me ask you to put your ‘buyer’ head on for a moment rather than your ‘seller’ head and consider this:

Which are the best places to buy the things that you want – in other words I’m simply asking, where do YOU shop?

eBay? Amazon? General online retailers? High Street stores?

I ask because certain ‘generic’ platforms – such as eBay, Amazon or Etsy – are more suited to certain niches or certain products. And so it’s very likely that in answer to my earlier question, you’ve already thought – ‘Well it depends what I’m looking for!’

And that’s exactly right.

You may even be one of the growing number of shoppers who indulges in ‘showrooming’. This is the practice of visiting a shop, viewing, examining or trying on a product and then later purchasing the same product online – perhaps on eBay or Amazon – for a lower price. So basically, bricks and mortar stores work as showrooms for online shoppers.

Hands up – I’m guilty of this and I’m guessing you are too.

So, first let me tell you why I was thinking about this. To cut a long story short, I required a fancy dress outfit and I knew that there was a store in town so I decided to take a trip over and do a spot of ‘showrooming’ to get some ideas and then follow that up with a scout around online for a cheaper version of anything suitable.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, the store appeared to be, not a fancy dress shop as expected, but a tattooist. The assistant duly advised us that whilst they did have a few pieces in stock, their main fancy dress inventory was only available online – on eBay!

What is interesting is firstly that if I had indulged in some ‘showrooming’ at the store, I probably would have ended up purchasing online from the same business I actually visited (which is in fact the perfect showrooming strategy) but more importantly, this business had worked out that selling their fancy dress stock online allowed them to reach a wider audience and keeping the tattooing in store, for quite obvious reasons, was more lucrative than combining with the fancy dress costumes and so they had split the business accordingly.

This business had realised that fancy dress does not necessarily need to be sold from a physical store because it’s a kind of throw-away thing. I don’t mean that you wear it once then throw it in the bin, but it doesn’t matter too much if the quality isn’t great, or it’s a size to big or small or if the colour doesn’t suit you.

You wear it to look stupid for a couple of hours and then stuff it in a drawer or resell it. And for this reason, it’s a fairly easy sale for the seller as long as the prices are competitive.

So, in this case, as venues go, the fancy dress niche may suit online platforms.

What about other niches though?
  • As a buyer, would you prefer to test electronics items before you purchase them or are you happy with online reviews?
  • Do you want to check the comfort of a piece of furniture before you part with your cash?
  • Do you want to see a product in its proper environment to check colour and exact size?

Well it appears we want to be able to do all these things – but also purchase online and this is potentially the reason that in the past few years, more and more buyers are utilizing the idea that they can go ‘showrooming’ before choosing to spend their money online, therefore saving money.

Latest figures from PwC and The Local Data Company reveals a net loss of some 1,772 shops in 2017 on the High Street as more closed then new stores opened. In particular clothing and shoe shops saw the fastest rate of closure. My money is definitely on this showrooming effect!

So which platform should you choose to list your products on?

Well, eBay remains one of the best platforms to sell products like vintage items and fancy dress, Amazon doesn’t fare so well with vintage, but does well with fancy dress. Another venue, Etsy.com, is great for vintage stuff and a good alternative selling venue if that’s your niche of choice.

As another example, with electronics and accessories, eBay and Amazon are both good choices. It’s a competitive market but there are buyers in abundance who don’t feel the need to see and touch a product in the flesh before buying and many will already have been showrooming before making the purchase anyway!

So, my point here is this. There is never really a ‘best platform’ and it does depend on the product and the price that you can command. You don’t always have to sell your products on eBay. Or Amazon. Or Etsy. Pick the venue that suits your product and will make you a profit. Pick the venue where your hungry market is waiting.  In a perfect world you would combine all of these along with your own website to ensure you reach ALL markets.

Remember; some products will sell better on eBay, some on Amazon and only a very few aren’t suited to online sales at all. Whatever you’re selling, the opportunity to reach those who have been ‘showrooming’ is possible, with competitive pricing and the right venue.

This article first appeared on Blog | eTail Hub. Read more and comment here