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[21 comments]

Study: 88 percent of shoppers webroom

June 16, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

The act of webrooming, or the process of researching products online then buying them in store, has become the new norm for today's connected consumers. In fact, 88 percent of shoppers regularly webroom while only 76 percent showroom, according to a recent study from Interactions. Most consumers (75 percent) engaged in webrooming, the study reports, because they believed they could find the lowest prices in-store. But ranking nearly as high as a reason was that they prefer the online process for product comparisons (72 percent) and they prefer the experience of researching online (71 percent.)

The report also highlights why people research in-store before buying online (showrooming): 68 percent like to experience the product in person first; 48 percent believe they can find the lowest price online; and 41 percent prefer to seek help from in-store associates during their research process. Interestingly, 18.5 percent showroom to avoid waiting in a checkout line. Overall, 76 percent of survey respondents showroomed.

Other findings from the study:

  • Nearly all shoppers (88 percent) have an online spending limit, meaning for items over a certain price they prefer to go into a physical store for a transaction. While the most popular spending limit for men is $250, women spend an average of $25 online before they decide to visit a store;
  • The top three product categories purchased online are computers (49 percent), electronics (47 percent) and mobile phones (41 percent). Shoppers preferred to purchase groceries (89 percent), appliances (75 percent) and apparel (70 percent) in-store.
  • About a third (34 percent) do not feel safe providing payment information to retailers online. By gender: 41 percent of women said they do not feel comfortable sharing payment information online, while only 30 percent of men felt the same way.
  • About a quarter (23 percent) consider same-day delivery as a motivator to shop online.
  • A wide majority (84.5 percent) say, regardless of where they buy the product, if they have to return it, they would rather go to a physical store.

The study listed the growing popularity of both webrooming and showrooming as another reason consumers expect retailers to be accessible "everywhere they are."

Discussion Questions:

If shoppers are webrooming for product comparisons and research, are retailers' online tools up to the task? How should retailers be adapting to the growing popularity of both webrooming and showrooming?

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:

What grade would you give most retail sites for their online research and product comparison tools?

Comments:

Articles like this befuddle me because it feels like they are stating the obvious.

Back in the day, when we entered our 30s and started buying "real stuff" many of my friends and I subscribed to Consumer Reports. It was the best way to compare products side-by-side, and even see the MSRP. Consumers have so many more choices today, and can do it so much more quickly, but the task is the same: find the specific item that satisfies your needs, at a quality you can accept for a price you can afford. I guess that's now webrooming.

And for big ticket purchases, we'd drive around from store to store in our cars with gas costing $1.25 per gallon, and find the lowest price.

Now, I'm not an old coot describing how we used to do things a lifetime ago— just 20 years ago, before the ubiquity of the web. I've got to believe retailers are used to this. Maybe I'm naive, though.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

The not-so-simple answer is probably a focus on customer/shopper experience as opposed to assortment and price. That seems to be a really challenging shift for retailers to make when their operations are not already very consumer and shopper focused. You can't go from zero to "Apple Store" excellence, but you can look to map how you serve shoppers today to a more ideal state and prioritize a shift to a more competitive model.

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Gib Bassett, Global Program Director for Consumer Goods, Teradata Corp.

Webrooming is not new, so the survey results are not surprising. In the early days of the web, only early adopters were willing to make online purchases while the rest of the population slowly warmed to the web by using it as a research and comparison tool. As long as there are still physical retailers, that habit will never go away.

Retailers are largely "me-too" folks. Most only embrace whatever the latest trend is once it's so obvious that it can't be ignored. As a whole they are not doing much that's innovative. All retailers have search capabilities on their sites and many allow in-site product comparisons, but none that I'm aware of are deploying technologies that leverage webrooming in their favor, or fight showrooming (unless price matching is a technology).

There's a vast white space to explore at the intersection of customer experience, engagement, and product. Executed in a multichannel manner with a touch of appropriate personalization, merchants can influence shoppers to give them the sale rather than let research degrade into nothing more than price shopping.

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

This study seems to consistently contradict itself. 75 percent of people feel that prices are lower in store, while 48 percent feel they are lower online. 34 percent overall do not feel comfortable providing payment information to online retailers (41 percent of women and 30 percent of men), meaning that the survey heavily oversampled men. Something seems statistically amiss here.

The one takeaway is that consumers will price compare, either online or in-store, and want the lowest prices, and this is not news; it's been the trend since the recession started in 2008.

Retailers should make their websites easier to use: simple and accurate search, clear pricing and S&H information, easy returns and great customer service. That's the only way to win online.

In-store: reduce out of stocks, knowledgeable salespeople, easy return policies and free Wi-Fi are the order of the day.

By giving consumers what they want retailers can make them feel valued and comfortable, which leads to sales.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Retailers need to acknowledge and embrace the new shopper reality. The use of the internet has become an integral part of the shopping experience and process. Whether it's before, during or after the purchase, the internet is involved in the 'new' shopping process. Retailers need to understand this and embrace it. Despite the recommendation, a former retail client refused to implement any technology that would help or even allow their shoppers to access the internet while in their stores for fear that shoppers would compare their 'everyday low prices'.

Retailers need to face facts and leverage today's shopper realities and design innovative ways to bring added value to the shopping experience knowing webrooming, showrooming, check-out lines (my personal pet peeve!) and hassle-free shopping are all part of the new reality and expectation.

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

Until recently, retailers have viewed their business as "multichannel", with purchases happening in-store or online (perhaps mobile). The data from the Interactions study clearly indicates that today's omnichannel consumers don't recognize discreet "channels", or prefer even one over the other.

Increasing consumer activity in both webrooming and showrooming indicates that consumer behavior is now a contiguous, interactive journey across experience touch points— the ones that they find most valuable in making a purchase decision.

For retailers today, it is not a question of either/or— or even which/when. It is all about how to engage consumers where they are in their purchase experience, which now occurs any time and everywhere.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

Let me see if I got this; webrooming is popular with nearly 9 out of 10 shoppers, and almost 8 out of 10 showroom. So nearly everyone does both and price is important all around. Is anyone surprised here?

The story is getting old, but retailers have to deal with both physical store and digital shopping and figure out how to deliver a consistent experience across both realms.

Are retailers' online tools up to the task? It's a moving target. We aren't smart enough to anticipate what tomorrow will bring, but we know we'll be surprised. The technology tools are getting 'smarter' and should adapt— retailers can't afford to be doing throwaway investments.

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Mohamed Amer, Vice President, Global Integrated Retail Unit, SAP

First and foremost, retailers need to stop complaining about showrooming and webrooming—and embrace it! It's here. It's not going away. If anything, it's going to become even more mainstream—although 88 percent is pretty darn mainstream.

Remember when Walmart would move into a new town and local/small/independent retailers would worry about going out of business? Sure, some of them did, but others learned to compete and even flourish in the shadows of these large, low-priced stores. Look at how Ace Hardware has competed against big box store competition. Well, the internet and the online retailers are no different. It's time for retailers to pay attention to what successful retailers are doing to compete against losing business to the internet. Follow their lead if you're struggling, and figure out how to do it. Just stop complaining. There's plenty of information out there, specific to your industry or segment, that will help you start to add the value that your customers expect and want.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Paula's comments triggered this thought; modern technology and evolution have given us webrooming, but showrooming has been around for years.

Remember when retailers used to showcase their products—prices too—in the front window areas of their stores? Many people would go from store to store just to do "window shopping". This was particularly popular when a family's money was very low, stores were smaller and consumers were not as sophisticated, diverse or as entitled as they are today.

Good retailers today know (or sense) this, and they go with the flow in trying to cope with today's popularity of both webrooming and showrooming. Some are doing a better job than others.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Retailers should make the transition from shopping online to buying in-store seamless.

Christina Ellwood, Vice president, Marketing, Brickstream

All of these shopping trends are major opportunities for merchants and CPG brands. They can be threats, however, they are potential vehicles to optimize omnichannel commerce. I'm a bit surprised at the finding in the study that men are comfortable spending ten times as much online than women are.

I believe tools available today can leverage both online and offline shopping insights. Seamlessly connecting these channels will help build true and eventual loyalty in the shoppers' minds.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive, IBM

Paula made me think about my "20 years ago" purchasing. Yes, store to store depending on how serious I was as either a buyer or a shopper. I happen to be one who is a poor shopper, but a fast buyer. I make up my mind now more through webrooming than ever before, and then make the purchase. The ease of smart devices has made shopping faster and certainly more convenient. But has this created more of a lazy, sedentary environment? Yes.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

A lot of the product information on websites comes from data exactly as supplied by the manufacturer. So for the retailer, they are really just an aggregator and display center for that information. How hard is that? Add in customer reviews, and maybe a link or two to YouTube and the customer has all they need to research their purchase along the path to buying. If on the other hand the customer has to leave the retailers web site to learn more, they will probably press the buy it button elsewhere. So the retailer should best preserve the customer's shopping experience without making it easy for the shopper to go elsewhere.

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

I agree with Paula. Webrooming is the new name for comparison shopping done on the internet. Consumers will continue to try to lessen the pain points associated with shopping any way they can.

This research gives a realistic picture of how and why people are utilizing both online and offline stores. Consumer desire for an efficient shopping experience hasn't changed, but the tools have. Consumers want good, fast, safe shopping and will find the most direct route to accomplish those goals.

If retailers would pay attention to how their customers want to shop for the goods they offer and adapt the experience to meet that expectation, they would save a ton of time and money pursuing technology bling that provides marginal results.

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Marge Laney, President, Alert Technologies, Inc.

It's a safe assumption that motivated shoppers will use all the options available to help with purchase decisions (but only when it suits them). In general, the effort expended is likely to be proportional to the importance of the decision. That means, high-ticket, high-consideration products will merit more pre-research, more searching across multiple stores and channels, or both.

From this perspective, contrasting webrooming with showrooming seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. Far more interesting to look at the behavioral variation of shoppers based on the type of purchase (FMCG versus apparel versus appliance versus consumer electronics), which this study does address to a degree.

Retailers who carefully monitor and understand how shoppers make decisions for the types of products they sell are more likely to compete well for their fair share of sales.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

People have been doing pre-shopping research before the internet, and they will continue to do so, it is just that now there are more channels where the information comes from. Previously it was the Sunday special, Consumer Report, local papers, radio, TV, now it is retail web sites, social media, review sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Retailers need to invest in an integrated communications and response strategy for their online presence just like they would their stores, with all the monitor and response needed to support traffic to the store. Easier said than done, I have to admit and very few retailers managed to do it all well yet.

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Kenneth Leung, Director of Enterprise Industry Marketing, Avaya

This question is very broad and refers to the sea change in consumer behavior that retailers are struggling with currently. In general, retailer web sites only show products that are carried online—if a product is in-store only, it is usually not included. In addition, products that the retailer does not carry are not included, which is the "face in the sand" approach to online marketing—hide info from consumers (BTW, you can't) and they won't pay any attention (BTW, they will and will go to other sites in search of that info. After that, they might not come back!)

Retailers need to integrate channels—combine online and retail business units and make an experience that crosses both channels as seamlessly as possible. Until the two groups are merged and metrics consolidated, you will not see the kind of change necessary for retailers to take share from ecommerce companies, except by extreme discounting.

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Mark Price, Managing Partner, M Squared Group, Inc.

Welcome to the future.

At a recent dinner with retail and CPG leaders, participants talked about the challenges of posting current photographs and listing current metadata on products. At the last 10 dinners I've managed, participants have predicted that in three years, we'll have many fewer stores than we do now. Retailers who cannot anticipate customer need, and who don't have access to current information, will be irrelevant.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Shoppers are using online information to make purchase decisions. Retailers who understand that shoppers look across channel for information and products will leverage this behavior to drive business to their stores.

In the moment, shoppers are looking for information, comparing features, availability, reviews, and price to make their decision. Ensuring that the necessary information is easily available online and in store will connect with shoppers who want to purchase while in your store.

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Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

Webrooming just sounds like another term for online research. Any just about everyone who has access to a computer does online research prior to the purchase. Tools galore but a good customer experience online for consumer web researchers is a necessity.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

Online retailers have to incentivize shoppers in order to adequately combat webrooming. Going in store is the best way to be instantly gratified, but retailers are catching on (think Google Express) to the ways they can make it worth the wait.

One such way is to offer free or cheap shipping. Online shopping is convenient, aside from the fact that you have to wait for your items to arrive. By making shipping free, shoppers have less of a reason to go to a store nearby to pick up the products. This is also important for returns: clear, efficient, and free returns are a must, as long as they make sense for the product types and company.

Another way is to use psychological pricing. A small discount that pops up while shopping or at check out can make a big difference in conversion rates. What this research proves to me is that there is significant room for improvement for online retailers and I am confident that they are up to the challenge

Arie Shpanya, CEO, Wiser

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