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. Nick Earle, 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. And he had had the idea of showrooming, over a decade before the word was coined.
So I asked Nick (via Twitter) whether HP had ever made such a device.
No they didn’t!
— Nick Earle (@nearle) August 2, 2017
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)
Updated 2 August 2017