Webrooming vs. Showrooming: How Consumers are Pre-Shopping

As more shoppers embrace the idea of pre-shopping, retailers must adapt to keep business from leaving their stores.
showrooming
Showrooming is a phenomenon where customers window shop at brick-and-mortar stores but then wait to make purchases online. (Photo: Baconstudiony/Shutterstock)

The retail experience has evolved for shoppers, changing the ways consumers make purchases – both online and in physical stores. For a small business to thrive in a changing retail environment, it’s important for owners to identify these shifting trends and adapt their strategies accordingly.

In recent years, many retailers have seen two particular phenomena emerge: “webrooming” and “showrooming.” When shoppers “webroom,” they go online to research products, but actually make their purchase at a physical store. “Showrooming” is just the opposite; consumers use brick-and-mortar shops to browse products, then go home and buy online.

These buying behaviors can have a big impact on your small business. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of information on consumer behavior you can use to keep business from leaving your store — in person or online.

Webrooming

According to a 2016 survey by Accenture, four out of five consumers participate in webrooming before heading into a store.

There are a number of reasons consumers pre-shop on the web. They may not want to wait on (or pay for) shipping, or perhaps they want to see a product in person before committing to a purchase. Some consumers also prefer to do some research in advance, then go into a shop for live, expert advice from a salesperson, who can let them know if a garment fits right or clashes with another current fashion trend.

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“Most of the clients I work with have shipping policies that are very lenient, so they allow people to return things to them with no restocking fee.” -Naomi Coleman (Photo: Naomi Coleman)

If you own an e-commerce business, you can minimize webrooming by offering online exclusives and easy returns, said Naomi Coleman, creative director at branding and marketing firm Access by NKC, which caters to small retail boutiques. “Most of the clients I work with have shipping policies that are very lenient, so they allow people to return things to them with no restocking fee,” she said.

Related: 10 Tips for Crafting an Effective Return Policy (and Enforcing It)

To avoid the return in the first place, include as much product detail on your site as you can. And if you want to cater to consumers who don’t want to wait, consider offering free shipping or partnering with an on-demand delivery service.

If you have both a physical and online store and want to discourage webrooming, Coleman recommended sending out marketing campaigns that only apply to online purchases. “This keeps them online versus trying to go into the store and get the item(s) at a later date,” she said.

Showrooming

“To combat showrooming, we push the fact that customers can try on the pieces right then and there, and if they purchase anything, we throw in a special gift.” -Elizenda Jean-Claude (Photo: Elizenda Jean-Claude)

An overwhelming majority of consumers use their smartphones in stores while they shop to research products, look at online reviews and compare prices. So, how do you get them to stay and make the purchase in your store, instead of going online to buy from a competitor?

According to Elizenda Jean-Claude, founder of small business consultancy Launch to Scale, shoppers still place a high value on human connection. “This is why consumers like to go to stores to talk to people who are knowledgeable and feel like the employees care about their desires and concerns.”

Coleman echoed this sentiment in her strategy for boutiques: “To combat showrooming, we push the fact that customers can try on the pieces right then and there, and if they purchase anything, we throw in a special gift.”

Related: Customer Service: To Make it Memorable, Make it Surprising

For example, she said, “One of my clients offers a discount for a future sale or a pair of sunglasses or something that’ll keep you wanting to return to the store for the full-service package,” which includes a glass of champagne and a stylist to assist and curate a selection of items. By focusing on the personal service and shopping experience, she said, customers are encouraged to make their purchases in store versus going home and ordering online.

You can also minimize showrooming by price matching, if you’re able. But not all small boutiques can meet or beat prices of an online competitor. If that’s the case, focus on the value of your service offerings and that “human touch” that shoppers can’t get when they buy online.

Related: 4 Ways to Up Your E-Commerce Game in 2017

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