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One Site Fits All: How Retailers can Reduce Showrooming and Webrooming

By Ed Higdon. Posted in Action

August 27, 2014

Retailers today face added challenges, what with the rise of online shopping, that can be detrimental to their businesses. “Showrooming” and the new phenomena known as “webrooming” refer to customers’ virtually limitless ability to research products online, price compare, and use the information they’ve gleaned in one place (virtual or physical) to make purchase decisions in another. So why are consumers showrooming or webrooming, and what can retailers do about it?

What is it and why do customers do it?

Showrooming refers to a customer’s act of examining a product in-store before opting to purchase the product online; either from the retailers website or from a competitor. Some customers are motivated to buy online because of long lineups at the cash register, or other inconveniences at the store; others are hesitant to make a purchase decisions and want to price-shop thoroughly by seeking out other options, especially online discounts from other vendors.

“Webrooming” refers to the opposite: consumers will thoroughly research a product ahead of time online to find the best-in-price store, and will opt to purchase it in-person at the physical location. Customers choose this option when they find that the online prices aren’t competitive or when shipping costs are too high. Customers also webroom when they need a product quickly and the shipping time is too long – when it’s simply faster or more convenient to go to a store, they’ll look for the products they researched online at physical locations close to them. They will also webroom when they don’t trust the website; it’s easier to ascertain quality and trustworthiness at a real location.

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Retailers’ rooming ramifications

Both showrooming and webrooming have hit retailers hard. It’s given consumers unprecedented real-time access to every other option available. Webrooming invites anyone interested in purchasing a new SLR camera, for example, to read reviews online in lieu of asking a salesperson face-to-face, whereas showrooming can potentially waste salespeople’s time when they spend hours with a customer who has no intention of making a purchase in the store.

This is not uncommon. Research has shown that up to 60 percent of shoppers showroom regularly, while 90 percent webroom— it’s a logical process for any shopper checking out prices online before wasting time walking from store to store. For unprepared retailers, this can create a dysfunctional retail experience that leads customers right out the door.

The answer? Keep your rooms tidy

Retailers can’t stop browsers from price-shopping ahead of time, but they can draw them in once anyone enters their online or offline store.

The key lies in what’s called “omnichannel retail”: the combination of every type of retail outlet into a single, unified experience. Your website and store should never clash—they should work in tandem. For example, if a product isn’t available in a physical store, it should be easy to find it online, or in another store or warehouse.

By keeping your store consistent across every physical and virtual platform, you can stay competitive by offering customer rewards, discounts, coupons, warranties and free shipping. Personalize this experience by meeting them online: incentivize your social media presence to learn more about their individual shopping habits, and use this Big Data collection to your advantage. Once they’re engaged personally, assuming they’re satisfied with the whole experience, it’s much more likely that they’ll come back next time they need a similar product.

In short: webrooming and showrooming are customer behaviors that the modern retailer must learn to work around; smartphones and laptops aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so in order to remain viable, retailers must streamline their in-person and online presences to create a unified, pleasurable shopping experience for their customers. Whether they want to purchase from an online store or a brick and mortar store, or a combination of the two, retailers win when the consumer finds a seamless experience from start to finish.