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How to Pick a "Showroomer" Out of the Crowd

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Do you know who "showrooms?" Tall people. Yes, tall people. Someone who says they are taller than their peers is 48 percent more likely to walk into a store to see a product, only to then leave and buy that product somewhere else online.

The actions of showroomers will undoubtedly get a bit more attention this week as the U.S. Senate passed the Internet Sales Tax bill currently making its way through Congress. There is no shortage of commentary on this long-debated issue, so we'll save you from more of the same. What interested us here at CivicScience are showroomers themselves.

So, how do we know that showroomers are tall?

Since early January 2013, we surveyed 5,117 adult U.S. consumers to find the people who are most likely to showroom. Overall, we identified 1,088 people, or 21 percent of the adult population, who regularly engage in the behavior that has brick-and-mortar retailers shaking in their concrete shoes.

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We then compared those 1,088 people with non-showroomers across thousands of different attributes in our survey database, including their lifestyle, demographics, brand preferences, media habits, and, yes, even their height, weight, and eye color. What we discovered is that showroomers are a fairly predictable and identifiable bunch. With this insight, perhaps panicking retailers can figure out how to better spot likely showroomers, accommodate them, or just accept it and move on.

Back to the tall people. Do you know why showroomers are taller? It's because height is a common proxy for income and education. Tall people, sociologists will tell you, are better at physical activities as children, which helps build confidence in the classroom. They are more appealing to members of the opposite sex as they get older, which also builds confidence and increases their chances of catching a break from college admissions officers and, eventually, workplace superiors. All of this leads to better academic performance, advanced degrees, better job titles, and higher-than-average income.

These income and education advantages naturally manifest themselves in how people shop. Showroomers are 78 percent more likely than non-showroomers to have an income of over $100,000. Similarly, 68 percent of showroomers have at least a college degree, versus only 46 percent of non-showroomers.

As a wealthy and educated consumer, a showroomer is tech-savvy and knows her way around the Internet. But he is also more likely to be highly brand-conscious. Indeed, showroomers are NOT the bargain-hunting misers you'd think they are. In fact, showroomers are 2X more likely to value the importance of "brand" over "price" than are their non-showrooming counterparts. They want that designer crib in the worst way and they're willing to go to great lengths to afford it.

An interesting, related marker is physical fitness and health. The most likely showroomer is 60 percent more likely than her non-showrooming neighbor to exercise regularly. She is 41 percent more likely to shop and eat organic. Yes, she does this because she is better educated about the importance of diet and exercise. But, she is also concerned with outward appearances, hence, the brand consciousness. A showroomer is 2X more likely to say she is more physically attractive than her peers, which doesn't necessarily mean she is. It just means that she thinks she is. We also found that showroomers have a much stronger affinity for athletic apparel brands than non-showroomers. They are 2X more likely to love Nike and 6X more likely to love Adidas, than non-showroomers.

We all know the likely age of showroomers. It's those pesky, device-addicted millennials, right? Wrong. The most likely showroomers are GenXers and it's not even close. In fact, people aged 30-34 are the most likely to showroom, at a rate 2X more likely than other age groups, on average, and a full 53 percent more likely than younger consumers. If you've read the generational cohort research of Neil Howe and William Strauss, this shouldn't surprise you. GenXers are a conniving, resourceful bunch, compared to those conformist bleeding-heart millennials or gluttonous, over-spending Baby Boomers.

This combination of age, income, education, self-consciousness, and brand-consciousness creates a perfect storm for physical retailers. The most likely showroomer is at that precise age when they're buying larger, big-ticket products like couches, 3D televisions, and strollers. They want to show off their purchases to friends on Facebook or Pinterest, which means brand and model are really important. To afford it, while house-poor and paying down mountains of student debt, they need the best possible price, which, more often than not, can be found in the virtual bargain basement of online retail.

To really get at the essence of the showroomer, we ran the likely-culprit population through our fancy machines again but this time we compared them only to non-showroomers who fit the same age and income profile ("The Proxy Population"). Otherwise, all our data mining would turn up is a bunch of obvious traits of 30-something sophisticants, reassuring us that they love Vera Bradley and Modern Family. Here were the highest-correlating and most interesting things we uncovered:

  • Showroomers are 87 percent more likely than similar non-showroomers to love shopping on Amazon.com.
  • They are more than 4X more likely to love Mini Cars.
  • They are 35 percent more likely to take vitamins or nutritional supplements every day
  • They are 36 percent more likely to prefer fiction over non-fiction reading
  • They are 26 percent LESS likely to say their religious beliefs are very important to them
  • They are 59 percent more likely to go to the movies regularly
  • They are 38 percent more likely to always seek online review for items they want to purchase
  • And they are 30 percent more likely to describe themselves as a Democrat

So, Mr. Big Box Retailer, what can you do to win over serial showroomers, now that you're armed with all of this deep insight? We have no idea. We're just a bunch of geeks with tons of good data and a penchant for crunching numbers. All we can say is that if a tall dude in a Rusted Root T-Shirt pulls up to your store in a Cooper Mini, then strolls in wearing Nike Shox, drinking a bottle of Naked Juice, and holding a copy of the Kite Runner, don't hold your breath waiting for him at the cash register. Just make sure he knows the URL of your website so you have a fighting chance.