When Showrooming Increases Retailer Profit
Journal of Marketing Research: August 2018, Vol. 55, No. 4, pp. 459-473. DOI: 10.1509/jmr.17.0059
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 Last revised: 26 Jan 2019
Date Written: February 5, 2018
Showrooming, the phenomenon of consumers visiting a brick-and-mortar (B&M) store to learn about products but then buying online to obtain lower prices, is attracting increased attention both in business practice and in academic literature. It is considered a major threat to the B&M retailers, and determining “how to fight it” seems to be the only consideration. However, the manufacturer’s need for retail informational services has always been one of the essential reasons for retailers to exist and is a means for retailers to achieve profitability. The popular arguments about the threat of showrooming ignore the strategic role of the manufacturer in the distribution channel. This article analytically shows that when the manufacturer’s decisions are considered (i.e., when the manufacturer–retailer contract is endogenous), consumers’ ability to engage in showrooming may lead to increased, rather than decreased, profitability for B&M retailer(s). Thus, retail efforts to restrict showrooming behavior may be misguided. This result holds even if the manufacturer is restricted to wholesale-only contracts and is not allowed to price discriminate between channels.
Keywords: Showrooming, Free Riding, Service, Retail Competition, Channel Coordination, Game Theory
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation