You don’t have to be in the retail business to have heard of “showrooming,” the practice of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store without purchasing an item while searching online to find it at a lower price. It’s been in the news for several years, and most of us have done it at one time or another. It’s a serious threat for all physical retailers, but at the same time can be a serious opportunity.
Much lesser known is “webrooming.” Oh yeah, that’s a thing—a shopping behavior that two recent studies have identified as one growing rapidly more pervasive. Webrooming is the polar opposite of showrooming; it’s the practice of researching items online and then purchasing them in store. Quoted in Fox Business, Chris Wuhrer, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and product marketing for merchant services provider Merchant Warehouse, said “while 60 percent of webroomers have showroomed, nearly 90 percent of showroomers have webroomed. This means that people often prefer making purchases in-store.”
Another study, from Interactions, showed 88 percent of shoppers regularly webroom, while only 76 percent showroom. Most webroomers (75 percent) engaged in webrooming because they believed the lowest prices would be found in store. Furthermore, the shoppers surveyed reported preferring the online experience for product comparisions (72 percent) and research (71 percent).
Of course, none of this is to say that showrooming is going away. Shoppers in the Interactions survey who showroom reported they preferred to experience the product in person (68 percent) and to seek help from trained sales associates during their research phase (41 percent). Forty-eight percent of showroomers reported believing they’d find the lowest price online. But, maybe most interestingly for brick-and-mortar retailers, 18.5 percent said they showroomed to avoid waiting in a checkout line.
Other findings from the Interactions study:
- Eighty-eight percent of shoppers have an online spending limit, one that dictates when they go to a physical store; men average a $250 limit, while women average a $25 limit
- Top categories purchased online are computers (49 percent), electronics (47 percent), and mobile phones (41 percent)
- Top categories purchased in-store were groceries (89 percent), appliances (75 percent), and apparel (70 percent)
- Eighty-four percent of respondents prefer to return products to a physical store, regardless of where they bought it
With the growth of online e-commerce in the last 15 years, the attention of retailers and consultants has been drawn first to “multichannels” of customer experience, and now, trending, an all-inclusive “omnichannel” experience. But, as the industry is increasingly acknowledging, customers don’t think in terms of channels at all. For them, shopping is simply shopping, and it now frequently entails both online and offline experiences, where retailers no longer control what shoppers see or even know about the products being shopped for.
In an article in AdWeek, Michael Dill, managing direction of Match Marketing Group, may have said it best. “It’s not showrooming or webrooming,” Dill said. “It’s both. It is really a reference to the shift in power. It’s the consumer who is deciding how they want to shop. It’s ‘my way’ commerce.”
In their hyper-competitive industry, retailers are fighting to become shoppers’ stores of choice, and the comprehensive shopper experience—including pricing—is at the front. Retailers who recognize today’s webrooming and showrooming realities will carve for themselves the most competitive advantage.
Let us know what you think about webrooming and showrooming, either in the Comments section below, or @RetailNext and @RayHartjen.