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Webrooming: The New Trend in Retail?

Friday, 21 March 2014 22:34

It’s a digital age we live in. There’s no denying that. Smart devices along with the increasing presence of online retailers have been the plight of many brick-and-mortar retailers. The word we’ve all heard is ‘showrooming’. It’s the common trend by many consumers of browsing in physical stores for certain items and then opening up an internet browser to eventually make that final purchase from an online retailer.    

In the last couple of years ‘showrooming’ has led to research that helps fuel the fire for brick-and-mortars. According to research done by Google and MARC, 84% of shoppers engaged in ‘showrooming’ practices while in stores. These in-store smart phone activities include price comparisons, finding offers and promotions, finding locations of other stores, and finding hours.

However, those mobile shoppers may not necessarily mean doom and gloom for brick-and-mortars. Recent research from global consulting firm Accenture is indicating that many customers are actually researching retailer purchases online first, before heading into a store to buy. This is where they have coined the phrase ‘webrooming’. The study found that 78% of US shoppers are engaging in ‘webrooming’, compared to 72% who admitted to ‘showrooming’ within the last year.

In addition to those surprising numbers presented by Accenture, they also reported that 21% of those shoppers surveyed planned to increase their in-store purchasing over the coming year. This number was up 9% from one year ago. Marketing analysts at Accenture even believe this number could be higher if brick-and-mortars continue to support technology to make the consumer’s shopping experience more consistent across all platforms.

While many in the retail industry might worry that online shopping is increasing at a rapid rate, the truth is that 80 to 90% of shopping is still occurring in stores. In fact, according to the Google and MARC study, moderate and frequent in-store smartphone users purchased 25 to 50% more than those who didn’t use smart phones while in stores. This seems to be encouraging news for retailers who fear the loss of customers due to online retailers. The truth of the matter is smart phones are simply changing the in-store experience. Consumers want as much information as possible, and they want a great purchasing experience. Perhaps ‘webrooming’ is exactly what many brick-and-mortars were looking for.

As the ‘webrooming’ trend continues to gain steam, the question becomes, how will brick-and-mortar stores respond? How will they use the mobile shopper’s need for constant information and feedback to their advantage? Retailers will have to work to turn shopping into more than just a scenario of online vs. in-store – they’ll have to engage all channels and platforms to create a unified, superior customer experience. Now how will they do that…

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