Webrooming presents a challenge to online retailers
For many brick-and-mortar retailers, the looming prospect of showrooming is worrisome. Brick-and-mortar retailers are concerned that more customers will use their retail stores to test products before buying them online at a less expensive price. In contrast, online retailers perceive showrooming as a godsend – retail stores engage the customer while the online store receives the sale at the end of the day.
However, the pendulum now seems to be swinging the other way. Brick-and-mortar retailers have deployed new strategies against showrooming, designed to help them retain sales, such as matching online competitors’ prices. This may cause a significant amount of concern among online retailers, as people are turning to webrooming, which is essentially the opposite of showrooming – they are doing all of their research on the Web before visiting a retail store to finalize the purchase, AdWeek reported.
A recent report from Merchant Warehouse suggested that approximately 69 percent of people with smartphones have participated in webrooming, while only 50 percent have participated in showrooming. According to Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, webrooming may cost online retailers upward of $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017 – a significant growth from the $1.2 trillion observed in 2012. Although eCommerce sales are still projected to grow over this time span, Mulpuru was quick to note that webrooming does pose a major flight risk to eCommerce sales.
Responding to webrooming
With more customers turning to webrooming to optimize the shopping experience, it’s crucial that retailers respond in kind. Depending on whether merchants employ omni channel retail strategies or if they exist only digitally, the response will likely be different.
Merchants possessing retail stores should create a seamless shopping experience that allows people to transition from online to retail stores with ease. Customers should be able to research a product online and go to retail stores and find the same item for the same price. Additionally, customer interactions should be recorded across sales channels as well – if a shopper makes a purchase offline, online retailers need to be able to attribute that sale to the online visitor.
By crafting a seamless online-offline relationship retailers can keep customers within their ecosystem, even if shoppers prefer making a purchase on one channel over the other.
Retailers that only have an online store must be able to identify what makes people leave an online store for a brick-and-mortar location. One of the drawbacks of shopping at an online store is the inconvenience of having to pay shipping and waiting days at a time for an item to arrive. Merchants may want to consider improving eCommerce operations – specifically, order fulfillment – to minimize the delay between finalizing a purchase and receiving the item in question.
Other allures of brick-and-mortar retailers include the ability to actually interact with a product before purchasing it. Although an online store will never be able to fully match retail stores in that regard, they can close the gap by creating more interactive and detailed content on their websites. For example, multiple product photos, a 3-D model of the item that people can manipulate in real time, customer reviews and specific descriptions can all go a long way to help immerse prospects in a seamless shopping experience while shopping at retail stores.
Webrooming is a growing trend and it’s something brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers must be aware of. However, through new strategies, merchants can ensure their eCommerce sales aren’t negatively effected by offline competitors.