Brittany Mahboobani and Alexander Hanson-Smith
Retail / Ecommerce
Showrooming Fears And Webrooming Cheers

There are two kinds of shoppers.

Kiana scours the web frantically in hope of finding a gorgeous (preferably blue) knee-length dress for Friday night.  She wants to find the best deal possible, and as luck would have it, H&M is offering a 20% sale. She makes a quick trip down to the closest store, tries on several items to make sure it is the perfect fit, and is simply radiating from all the compliments she receives for her ‘steal’ that night.

Then, there is Sara. Sara runs from shop to shop, trying to find a backpack for hiking that is light, comfortable and most importantly, affordable. She tries one on and it feels great! But the price just will not do. She pulls out her iPhone, and notes that Best Buy sells a similar backpack at almost half the price! Could she afford to wait for the shipping period of three days? Yes she could. Sold. 

Are you more like Kiana, who utilizes the mass of information made available online but prefers the final point of sale to be in store? Or, perhaps you are just like Sara, whom after testing out a product personally in store, is determined to purchase it online, at the best deal possible. Ask yourself, are you guilty of webrooming, or showrooming?

Last year, you would have admitted to being guilty of showrooming. Tablets and smartphones have facilitated a seamless transcendence of the online/offline divide. Consequently, many brands lost customers to online competitor retailers, prompting marked decline in number of in-store visits, and a drop in sales and crucially curbing ROI. The ease at which the consumer can access information has posed a problem for brands: How can they create brand loyalty in an environment that seems to assist low-loyalty? The solution – seamless omni-channel retailing, and extraordinary shopper in-store experience.

Consumer’s unprecedented access to information cannot be avoided. However, by expediting the interchangeable process of online and offline shopping, as well as offering great in-store service and better deals brands can influence a change in shopper behaviour and curb the showrooming. It is because of seamless omni-channel retailing that consumers are starting to go back in-store. In fact, brands are now familiarizing themselves with showrooming’s naughty little sister – webrooming.

According to a recent survey conducted by Accenture, 78% of digital shoppers are guilty of webrooming, with a close 72% continuing to practice showrooming (eMarketer). Today, companies are striving to find creative and effective ways to merge the online and offline experiences in a bid to convert research into purchase. In an era where you can self-checkout at a grocery store, where virtual tellers assist you at your Bank, and there is an app for every curve ball life might throw your way, many shoppers value and crave face-to-face interactions. Retailers have become even better at creating touch points, and offering quality customer service and experience, which encourages consumers to purchase products offline.

In China, brands have been drawing their customers back in-store by offering opportunities for customers to not only own the brand, but also to live it. It is the experience of living the brand promise and lifestyle through seasonal events, product launches, VIP recognition expeditions etc. that has stimulated in-store spend. This approach has been implemented by such global brands as Burberry, Warby Parker and Apple to name but a few, demonstrating that while customers do value the convenience of an online purchase, a greater in store experience and ability to live the brand has a stronger pull and greater impact. Everyday, consumers become more adept at researching products before they purchase them. While improving the offline experience has helped, brands have also had to counteract the online competition and attractiveness. Retailers are now using this avenue to their advantage, by creating a proposition that equals, and in some cases surpasses, consumer expectations in both a financial and experiential way.

Consequently, brand transparency through information readability is no longer a sales destroyer but a sales generator. While showrooming caused a wave of panic, some retailers have cracked the code by offering a smoother, more seamless process of shopping, with omni-channel retailing.

Showrooming fears have officially been displaced by webrooming cheers.

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