I don’t have much to add to the ongoing debate retailers have about showrooming. In case the use of “showroom” as a verb is unfamiliar to you, it refers to a shopper going to a physical store to look at a product, then shopping for that product online (and, typically, hoping to beat the brick-and-mortar retailer’s price). Is showrooming good or bad for retailers? Even the Harvard Business Review wants to know. JCPenney just turned off in-store Wi-Fi for customers, probably in part because fast Internet access encouraged showrooming. (Or maybe the Wi-Fi was there so one partner could enjoy YouTube while the other shopped.)
I confess that I showroom occasionally. But I realized last week that, with one specific product, I do the exact opposite of showrooming: I look online to see what I should consume, then proceed to the physical place to partake of the product. I do that with the Sunday New York Times.
Angela and I get the Sunday Times delivered at home because it’s the most economical way to get full access to the online edition. But the physical Sunday paper has charms of its own, of course — perhaps the most important being that you can enjoy it almost anywhere, without power or connectivity.
But the Sunday paper is a behemoth, even in this era when newspapers are struggling, so deciding how to attack it is a challenge. Some people have finely honed strategies, but for me deciding what to read first is where the opposite of showrooming comes in: I like to check the online edition to see what other people are reading and emailing, and use that as a roadmap to the physical newspaper. I still get the serendipity of seeing what’s adjacent and near to the things I read — this is one of the most touted benefits of reading a physical newspaper — but I also get to tap into the wisdom and guidance of the crowd of online Times readers.
Two questions come to mind: First, what word or phrase best fits this practice? Ideally, the term would convey the digital-to-analog flow of information, as well as the crowd-sourcing power. And second, what are other fields of activity or commerce where online activity informs and guides physical, offline actions?