Amazon's anti-showrooming showrooming strategy

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By: Mike Giambattista, CLMP |

Posted on June 20, 2017

There’s an old Las Vegas maxim that says “Get ‘em coming and get ‘em going” meaning, the house will figure out how to make money on both sides of the transaction – irrespective of the players’ win or loss.  As business maxims go, that’s not a bad one.
With the recent announcement of their anti-showrooming patent, Amazon has apparently decided they like that maxim as well.

By Mike Giambattista

Before getting into the specifics of how such a gizmo might work, it bears taking a moment to explore why Amazon, arguably the biggest beneficiary of the showrooming phenomena, would want to invest in technology that effectively blocks that very process.

Possible Strategy #1
Amazon is growing its bricks & mortar portfolio and wants to ensure they don’t become a victim of their own showrooming success.

Possible Strategy #2
Amazon wants to own the technology in order to keep it under lock and key – effectively keeping it off the market for other bricks and mortar retailers to use against them.

Possible Strategy #3
Amazon wants to develop the technology so it can license it out to other retailers who can then use it under a more controlled set of parameters.

Possible Strategy #4
Amazon will analyze the collected data through this WIFI channel to optimize its product merchandising and pricing strategies.

There are likely more possible reasons that have not yet come to light but it seems clear that Amazon recognizes it has a strong stake in managing the showrooming game for its own benefit.

According to the patent language, the technology, called “Physical Store Online Shopping Control” can intercept search queries that “appear to be requests related to price comparisons, then take any one of a number of actions in response.”

Think for a moment about what kinds of responses could be put forth in this scenario.  If a customer is searching in-store and the search contains any showrooming or product-related query language, Amazon’s system could return messages or offers designed to either direct the customer back to the store or outward to the retailer’s website.  Product offers, time-sensitive promotions – the possibilities here are almost endless.  Indeed, Amazon’s system could even just block the query altogether.

There is one fairly significant hitch in the system though.  For this technology to work, customers need to be logged on to the retailers’ WiFi network.  And, anecdotally, I can tell you that I don’t know anyone in my entire (admittedly small) circle of friends who goes into a store and logs on to that store’s WiFi network.  If I’m shopping and want a quick price comparison or consumer review on an item, I’m going to do it from my phone because it’s quick and convenient from my carrier’s cell network.  I can’t think of a scenario that would make me want to stop, find the retailer’s network, log on to it, and then commence my query.  I just want to be on my merry showrooming way.

So, although Amazon appears to have developed (or purchased) some very cool technology, it will be interesting to see what they ultimately do with it – and how well we, the shopping public, take to it.

Mike Giambattista is Managing Editor at The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).