While showrooming gets all the attention, webrooming — the act of browsing online before going to a store to buy — is apparently occurring more. But it appears inconclusive how much the practice hurts online stores or helps physical ones.
According to a new Harris Interactive poll, roughly seven in ten Americans (69 percent) indicate they have webroomed, easily above the 46 percent who have showroomed.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, the survey found parallels between the practices. Six in ten webroomers have showroomed and nearly nine in ten showroomers have webroomed.
For in-store research, showroomers' top destination is Walmart (24 percent), followed by Best Buy (21 percent) and Target (nine percent). When purchasing, roughly six in ten showroomers (59 percent) identified Amazon as the website they eventually buy from — about ten times as many as select Walmart (six percent), the next highest response.
By contrast, webroomers named Amazon (48 percent) as by far their top destination to examine product before purchasing in-store. When shopping physical stores, the top spot for webroomers is Walmart (26 percent), followed by Best Buy (11 percent) and Target (11 percent).
A poll that came out in October by Accenture likewise found that 65 percent of consumers webroom, although close behind was the 63 percent who showroom.
In differentiating the two, showrooming appears much more driven by price although price-matching policies from Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, Target and others are said to be reducing this incentive.
Primary motivations for webrooming include avoiding shipping costs (47 percent) and being able to touch and feel a product before purchase (46 percent), according to Accenture's survey.
Mark Huffman, a consumer news reporter for ConsumerAffairs.com, said the webrooming trend underscores the internet's increasing use as a shopping tool, and retailers' websites should be ready to offer functional browsing and competitive prices.
Others saw webrooming reinforcing the call for a seamless shopping experience across channels. Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer at Empathica, wrote in a Retail TouchPoints column, "To take advantage of the webrooming trend, leading retail brands are launching initiatives that expand consumers' access to information online, while retaining control over the customer journey by emphasizing brick-and-mortar as the customer's final destination."
In the Harris Interactive survey, Walmart seemed most successful at transitioning online visitors into in-store purchasers, as two-thirds of webroomers who typically do their investigating at Walmart online say they usually go on to make their in-store purchases at a Walmart brick and mortar store.
How do you see showrooming's effect on brick & mortar stores versus webrooming's impact on e-commerce sites?