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It’s official: ‘showrooming’ has entered the language. But what exactly does it mean to us?

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showrooming, noun:
the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from SHOWROOM ‘a room used to display goods for sale’.

Showrooming was pipped to the post as the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year this week, losing out to selfie – the self-taken photograph.

But the fact that the word showrooming – defined by the OED as “the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price” – was even in contention reflects the way ecommerce, and our responses to it, are becoming part of the language.

Apparently, the OED says, showrooming has come to particular prominence this year. “Before 2013, there were just a handful of examples of this on our corpus,” it says. “We’ve seen this figure increase significantly along with use of the related verb ‘to showroom’ and the noun ‘showroomer’.”

What the OED doesn’t address, of course, are the connotations of the word. Over 2013, it seems to me, the word has started to shift in tone. Showrooming started out as a negative, underhand type of activity, with cheeky shoppers using . Showroomers, some will recall, were being charged to enter one Australian shop this year. At the time there were questions about whether this would become par for the course. That’s not proved to be the case. Rather, retailers are now talking about making it easier for showroomers to check the prices and stock levels that other retailers have in their own stores.

At the recent Internet Retailing Conference 2013, for example, Jeremy Fennell, ecommerce director of Dixons Retail , said the retailer was working on introducing QR codes into stores that would make it easier for shoppers to do just that. Meanwhile, Sean McKee of Schuh , speaking to Internet Retailing ahead of the event described showrooming as something retailers must work around, rather than concentrating on frustrating.

In the course of a year, it seems that showrooming has not only passed into the language, but that the act of showrooming is becoming an accepted, even if still not welcomed, part of omnichannel retail.

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