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[27 comments]

Does Webrooming Offset Showrooming?

December 12, 2013

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.

Discussion Questions:

How would you compare showrooming's effect on stores to webrooming's on e-commerce sites? Should retailers try to discourage or support webrooming by their customers?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How do you see showrooming's effect on brick & mortar stores versus webrooming's impact on e-commerce sites?

Comments:

Webrooming is a catchy new title for a behavior that has gone on since the earliest days of e-commerce. Stores are poor suppliers of product info and, to this day, mostly offer nothing in the way of peer reviews and user feedback. So shoppers that may (for whatever reason) prefer to shop locally, logically can find the best pre-sale product info on web sites.

Trying to encourage or discourage the behavior is folly. Consumers simply want the best information and experience around any given product or shopping endeavor — online or off. The brands/stores that deliver on that promise will always win — brands that stick with their plan and don't get swayed by the newest big industry concern that comes along. This has been proven by the most successful retail brands, which by their culture are different from the norm in their respective categories, e.g. Apple, Trader Joe's, Nordstrom and Nike.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

The Internet brings transparency to retail, so the need to compete across all sales channels is necessary. In-store retailers are limited on the amount of rich product information they can provide, but that's not the case online. No surprise that Amazon is the most widely webroomed site given the depth of product content they offer.

Retailers need to provide a rich customer experience across all sales channels so offering detailed product content via their website to enable webrooming should be a goal from my perspective.

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Bill Davis, Director, MB&G Consulting

This study reinforces common sense. Consumers look online for information and then visit stores to see the products. If the price is right in-store the purchase is completed there. If not, the purchase is made online.

It's not surprising that the top online (Amazon) and offline (Walmart) retailers get the most traffic and sales.

There is little retailers can do to discourage or support this trend. Consumers will do what they want. Retailers can ensure a seamless customer experience through price matching, free shipping and returns, and great, easily accessed customer service.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Gary Edwards is right on the money. Dr. John Demartini, a fellow speaker at a recent conference, made the point that we need to realize that circumstances we think are "in the way" are actually "part of the way."

While I wish I'd said that, I'll put it another way. Almost always the problem is the answer. It is much wiser and more profitable to embrace 'webrooming' and/or 'showrooming' rather than fight them.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

The answer to this question is really, really simple: YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TRY TO HELP YOUR CUSTOMERS TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT TO DO - presuming it is legitimate. It is YOUR job to figure out how you can benefit from whatever that is.

To be honest, it is a bit shocking to think retailers today are still locked behind the door, with NO conception of the thinking of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. It is no wonder that Amazon is eating whoever's lunch, whenever and wherever they choose. (Apple has simply stayed out of most of the bricks and mortar retail business - groceries.)

Get over it! Your self-service mini-warehouse store that was conceptually created 100 years ago still has tremendous value, but it is NOT going to survive forever in the new world that is breaking in upon us, without some bed-rock rethinking. Sorry for the hard news!

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor TNS Global Retail & Shopper, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

Considered purchases are a big part of webrooming, which is essentially a research activity that includes detailed product descriptions, images, customer reviews, alternative choices, etc. That's much more information than is available in a traditional brick and mortar store. And it's more comfortable and easier to sit in front of a PC or use a tablet at home or in the office to research a product than in the store aisle.

Webrooming has become a key part of the path to purchase for many items and should be embraced by retailers as a significant opportunity to influence the shopper.

As a proof point, Amazon has created a $70B SELF-SERVICE retail business, based in large part on their skillful presenting of product information that shoppers want/need to make purchase decisions. (Of course, Amazon then follows up with amazing service and fast delivery - if wanted.)

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Todd Sherman, CMO, Point Inside

Consumers are smarter and smarter. Jumping on the web is an easy and simple way to learn about a product and compare prices. In the end, webrooming is no different than going through the Sunday circulars prior to heading out to the shopping mall.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

I predict that the word "webrooming" won't make it into the dictionary....

That said, customers are going to use any tool at their disposal to locate merchandise and great deals. We've trained them to do this, after all. Retailers will be smart to recognize this and beef up their online presence.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Support: 70% of retailer's data suggest cross-channel shoppers are more profitable. How would you stop this???

'Lipscombs'

I cannot handle more catchy terms...showrooming, webrooming, what-the-rooming is next? Shopping is shopping - whether you research online first or in the store first and then buy at one or the other. How were the ratings on this before someone tacked on a new term for press and noise?

Retail selling is a simple process of trading items or services for cash. The key part to this simple process is service. Serve the shopper the way they want to be served. Blend the web research into the store selling process - or the other way around. Overall, the shopper comes back for service, stock, and a fair price.

Serve the best experience and that is the "room" people will return to.

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Tom Redd, Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

Webrooming is not new. For years car sales people have been saying the customer may know more about the product than they do. Initially, webrooming was being performed on the manufacturer's web site. This made it difficult and time consuming to compare products. Some web sites do comparisons, but only on products you identify. These are mostly for price information. The retailer weakness seems to be more in the depth of information and presenting in a consistent format for easy evaluation.

Consumers seem to be having a trust issue that includes retailers. With money tight in the majority of households (lack of employment or raises), consumers are more careful how they spend. Webrooming is accepted and will only grow in use. Retailers should embrace and use a selling tool to bring customers into the store and/or close the sales online.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

"Webrooming"? Really? Did we REALLY need another word in our lives? As has been said so far, the whole idea of shopping on the Web is to surf from site to site. I think this only enhances the awareness and demand generation of all merchants' products and that's a good thing. To answer the second question, merchants should NEVER discourage the shoppers to do ANYTHING. That will only backfire. Let the shoppers shop, online and offline. The best values will get the sale.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive, IBM

Webrooming is basically a fancy word for pre-purchase research. With all the research around omnichannel, I think we need to stop thinking that the channels are siloed and a zero sum game when you move from one channel to the next. Showrooming and webrooming is basically "research" in the omnichannel world.

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Kenneth Leung, Director of Enterprise Industry Marketing, Avaya

"Webrooming." "Showrooming." Didn't we used to simply call this "shopping" (or maybe, "browsing")?

It is all about who is most effective at getting consumers to trade cash for goods.

We can think of that transaction in four parts:

1) Availability - online wins this one under most circumstances unless it is a convenience purchase associated with something else that takes me out of my home, or unless it is something I can't view and order online.

2) Price - again, typically advantage to online.

3) Delivery - online's rapidly disappearing Achilles heel. The dissipation directly tied to free/overnight shipping. (This is where an Amazon warehouse in every state is going to make traditional retailers wish they had never thought of that internet sales tax law.)

4) Risk - My risk of getting a spoiled orange or shoes that don't fit is greatly mitigated by a no-cost return/satisfaction guaranteed policy. There is still the issue of immediacy (if I need the orange for a recipe right now, I can't risk having to wait three days for you to exchange it) and that is why perishables will be the last and hardest nut for online ordering/home delivery to crack.

Other than that, the rest is all just "shopping."

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Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

Webrooming is a tool to locate price and availability for an otherwise drive-by consumer. Generally, these consumers strongly desire to satiate a need for something right away or to simply reduce time in locating a planned purchase.

Show-rooming is a means of guaranteeing the customer's first priority what ever that may be as in price, availability and most of all "need to see it before I buy it someplace else." These are both e-commerce purchases and one should be very careful not to take them out of context and content for any reason.

'gjarnoldjr'

We all know that webrooming and showrooming and any other other kind of rooming are here to stay. The consumer is in control and yes, "they'll have it their way"!

My question when this topic comes up is: Don't you think it's time to look at a new model between retailers and suppliers? I don't mean turn the model on its ear, just look at the picture a little differently.

The suppliers just want to sell their products and they really don't care which channel or brand it sells through. (Okay, I know they care, but you know what I mean.) The thing is, some products need to be touched, some are more emotional and the consumer wants to see them and feel them before buying. Others, not so much.

The bottom line is, many suppliers need a showroom. So, how do we look at compensating the retailer for being that showroom regardless of where the sale takes place? A bit radical, I agree, but somebody had to say it! Just sayin'....

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

We cannot forget (which the article does not mention) the key factor of the internet in also informing consumers. Perhaps the real question in this scenario which did not appear to be asked is how many of the webroomers went to the Internet primarily to get information?

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

No need to waste energy attempting to discourage consumers from making use of the internet to shop, compare, or buy on the internet. Retailers should focus on designing, building, and maintaining their own healthy sites.

Consumers have been adept at "going to the market" for centuries. The market, in today's world, includes a growing online element. Smart retailers are dealing with it, as opposed to resisting it.

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Roger Saunders, Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

Time to invent a new word for people who visit multiple stores along their path to purchase, use their mobile phones to check pricing, and sometimes look at the web for product/price research." Hmmmm, how about omniroomers?...

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Peter J. Charness, SVP America, Global CMO, TXT Group

It may be true that Amazon.com and Walmart.com are vulnerable as the price-check tools of choice for many higher consideration purchases.

A case in point: We just purchased a refrigerator on a hot Black Weekend deal. Four big box chains and a local dealer all had the same advertised price, with slight variations in delivery charges. Amazon.com, however, asked $450 more for the identical model.

As a shopper, I was glad to take advantage of this transparency. Amazon could have elected to match the price for the weekend, using one of its automated web-scraping technologies, but it did not.

We were entirely pre-sold before we went to our local retailer to place the order. Maybe this was a sale that Amazon was just as happy to miss.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

"Webrooming is just the reverse. A consumer will use a desktop or mobile device at home to check out deals, then head for the store to make the purchase." - CA

So (soon-to-be) consumers are actually reading the info provided for them - kinda like they used to read newspaper ads - and making use of it? Oh..the horror!

I have to agree with everyone else here that (1) there's not much new here (it's called "shopping"); (2) we don't need a term for this (and if we're to be stuck with one, why not just "webbing"? There's no "room" involved (3) how would retailers "discourage" this, and why would they want to?

'notcom'

Have I lost my mind or did retailers at one time run ads in the huge Sunday newspaper?

These are simply consumers new forms of media allowing the consumer to have more information at their fingertips from even a larger spectrum of choices.

As it has been said, it is called "Shopping." Yes, it may be a little different than it was just a short while ago, but it is "Shopping."

I've said for a very long time that the successful retailer will be the one that transitions their customer's visit to the web to either an order their or an in-store purchase.

It is no different than a customer laying out every ad from Sunday, making their choices and carrying the ad into the store with them. Because the choices are so much more vast for nearly every consumer good than ever, the retailer has to be compelling.

Out with the old form. In with the new form. Nevertheless, it is still the same thing - using that form to give the customer a compelling reason to make the purchase at your store. They made those decisions before, they still make them. They just have many more options. Thus, the need to be even more compelling than ever.

'Scanner'

In the world of design, workarounds are key nuggets that inform what to build.

From Wikipedia - "A workaround is a bypass of a recognized problem in a system. A workaround is typically a temporary fix that implies that a genuine solution to the problem is needed. But workarounds are frequently as creative as true solutions, involving outside the box thinking in their creation."

What might we find if we study the webroom instead of blowing it off as another buzzword? No doubt consumer early adopters have come up with interesting twists on how they use this stop along the journey to their full advantage.

The obvious is always overlooked, until Amazon goes live.

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

This further proves the importance of managing multi-channel retailing. Whether showrooming or webrooming, customers simply want more information before a purchase (reviews and product specs online; the tactile experience in-store). You can think of either as an assisted conversion if you can keep the consumer from going to a competitor. For retailers in both spaces, there's an opportunity to create value by integrating the two experiences. Online retailers are creating their own showrooms. Brick-and-mortar retailers are beefing up their online presence.

Arie Shpanya, CEO, WisePricer

The next buzz phrase will be stockrooming - retailers looking up multiple distributors on the Internet to compare wholesale prices....

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

I find it odd that the discussion continues to be around whether these activities are "harming" physical stores and/or sites. It is simply the "new normal." This is how the majority of consumers shop. The point is to embrace these activities as part of the shopper's journey and determine how we can best serve them at each touch point.

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Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

Is "webrooming" really comparable to showrooming? We know that most customers go online for product information even if they eventually buy in physical stores. We also know that most shopping is still done in physical stores. It doesn't really look as though this is even new information, let alone a new shopping phenomenon.

Rebecca Haden, Creative Director, Haden Interactive

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