Showrooming Meets WiFi

Remember Circuit City? Remember HiFiBuys? Maybe you do or maybe you don’t, but either way, we only ask “remember?” because those retail outlets for electronics are gone. Only a few electronics retailers remain, and you can probably only name one or maybe two. When was the last time you were at Best Buy or Radioshack? Exactly our point.

The trend in purchasing electronics is to purchase them on the internet because electronics – even a $1500 personal computer – have become commoditized. The only reason anyone needs to go to an electronics store is to touch and feel the bright shiny object that they will later purchase at Amazon or any number of other internet retailers.


This is a very common practice known as “showrooming”, and it’s moving past consumer electronics into many other areas of our purchasing lives. Here’s why.

Smartphone penetration is 83% in US. That means just about everyone has a computer more powerful than Apollo 11 in their pocket with access to the entirety of the world’s information. In other words, you can search up and see and read about anything you intend to buy. 63% of smartphone users use mobile to shop. Because the phones that 83% of us now have are much larger than they used to be even 2 years ago, we don’t need to “get home and look it up” so we can see it better. We’re used to zooming in on our 5-inch screen to get all the details we need.

Engagement leads to clicks, which lead to sales. Only a few brick & mortar establishments get this formula. Circuit City and HiFIBuys clearly did not, or at least not in time. When a seller engages its audience, the audience is drawn nearer to the seller, and a percentage of those drawn nearer make purchases.

The question is, how does a “seller” engage an audience while the audience is in the store? For that answer, let’s go back to two of those previous points above. Everyone’s got a smartphone, every smartphone has Wi-Fi, and every brick and mortar retailer offers Wi-Fi to their customers and visitors.

What every retailer does not do (yet) is engage their audience via that very personal and direct Wi-Fi connection. But they can! The visitors and customer are on their Wi-Fi network for free. What might the outcome be if a retailer engaged with a visitor via Wi-Fi with a contextually relevant message, like “Welcome to the sporting goods section. All camping gear is 20% off when you make your purchase in-store today.”

We know that visitors to retail stores are “in the market” and we know that they are showrooming. That means a high percentage of them are going to buy. So engage them with a relevant message based on where they are and what they are doing, and turn showrooming into purchasing.