According to Wikipedia, the word “showrooming” was coined in the 2010s. The earliest reference I can find is in a Wall Street Journal article dated April 2012, which opens as follows:
“Shoppers who scope out merchandise in stores but buy on rivals’ websites, usually at a lower price, have become the bête noire of many big-box retailers.”
By September 2012, showrooming is being described as a “commonly held belief”, and being dismissed as a falsehood by the CEO of Best Buy.
But the idea of showrooming was mooted many years previously, in discussions between Jeff Bezos and HP. @nearle, then an executive with HP, mentioned this in a keynote speech in June 2000.
During his speech, Earle recalled a conversation he had with Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., an HP client. When Earle asked Bezos to describe a “killer application” from Amazon.com’s perspective, he described a handheld device with a wireless link and a bar-code reader that would enable customers to scan in a book from another retailer, find out how much cheaper it is sold at Amazon.com, and then order it online for next-day delivery. “We will make one,” Earle promised.
I cited this conversation in 2004, as evidence that Bezos got ecosystem thinking. What I hadn’t realised at the time was that he had basically invented the iPhone. (I don’t recall HP ever making such a device.) And he had had the idea of showrooming, over a decade before the word was coined.
David Jastrow, HP Keynote embraces ecosystem thinking (CRN, 15 June 2000). I have corrected the misspelling of Earle’s surname.
Thomas Lee, Best Buy’s new chief is selling from Day 1 (Star Tribune, 8 September 2012)
Ann Zimmerman, Can Retailers Halt ‘Showrooming’? (Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2012) (paywall)