Showrooming vs Webrooming

Showrooming vs. Webrooming: What’s the difference to retailers?

The way we shop is evolving. As the digital revolution continues, more of us are hitting the shops smartphone in hand: price-checking items on the spot, comparing products between brands and using online reviews to inform our purchases.

Regardless of whether we shop in-store or online, the majority of us are doing our homework online before reaching for our wallets. A 2018 study (*1) found that 82% of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store and 45% read reviews before making a purchase. This process is magnified for high value purchases: the more we are planning to spend, the more research we tend to do.

For those at the helm of bricks-and-mortar businesses this mass migration towards digital might seem alarming. All is not lost.    

Showrooming vs Webrooming

Research suggests that shoppers still place huge value on an in-store experience, in fact, a recent study (*2) found that 46% of UK shoppers favour buying in a physical store, compared to 35% on laptops and 18% via mobile. Why? When in-store shopping works - it’s great. We can try on and touch potential purchases. If we’re in a hurry, we’re able to check out quickly and take purchases home on the spot - unless we know we can get a better price on Amazon, that is (*3).

Many shoppers visit a store to look at a product before purchasing online. This is known as ‘showrooming’ - and it can be a problem for retailers fighting to stay competitive.

On the flipside we have the rising trend of ‘webrooming’, where consumers browse products online before heading out to buy in-store.

Why is webrooming on the rise?

For larger retailers, multichannel selling and click and collect are now well established, giving shoppers more control over how they get their purchases home. More recently we’ve seen many also looking to refine their in-store customer experience to draw shoppers in.

The trend for experiential marketing and immersive brand experiences has seen leading brands competing on more than just price. Topshop have been nailing in-store experiences for years. With brand collaborations, festival makeovers and Instagram-friendly window displays, pop-ups meet pop culture in the brand’s Oxford Circus flagship store. Last Halloween its Stranger Things 2 event brought back-to-back screenings, exclusive merchandise and full recreations of sets from the hit Netflix show. Thinking even bigger, its Splash! event last summer featured virtual reality headsets worn on a real in-store slide!

Then there are the finer details, the little things that can make all the difference. In-store amenities like coffee shops, events, touchscreen shopping devices and even easy-access WiFi can make all the difference to those looking to take the hassle out of the shopping experience. Some larger retailers are using proximity marketing to offer smartphone discounts, with mobile alerts nudging shoppers to head in-store. On the sales floor, a drive towards more extensive employee training is helping retailers build a more knowledgeable, helpful sales staff.

Why would customers prefer webrooming over showrooming?

While preferences and reasons vary from person to person, there are a few considerations to be aware of. Picking up your purchases in a physical store slashes shipping and delivery costs - even factoring in the cost of petrol and parking.

It depends what convenience means to the customer in that particular moment. If they are picking out a new suit to wear to a wedding that weekend, convenience might mean being able to try on a range of different styles in-store and buying on the spot with no need for delivery. On the other hand, if they are buying the same style of jeans they always buy and aren’t in a hurry to receive them, convenience could mean having a parcel waiting for them when they get home from work.

Some of us like to see, touch and feel products before we buy them. Others like having the option to easily return items in-store. Particularly savvy and confident shoppers may feel comfortable asking store assistants to price match products they have found online; winning on price AND speed of delivery.

What can retailers do to reduce showrooming and increase webrooming?

The million-dollar question! What can you offer to differentiate your business?

Offer great service and initiatives

It’s not all about price - it’s about value. In today’s competitive marketplace, brand reputations are made and broken by customer service and by 2020, customer experience is predicted to overtake price and product as the differentiator to beat (*4).

Like it or not, research suggests that 15-20% of all purchases are being brought back, with return rates standing at 9% in physical stores and 20% for online. Dealing with returns can be one of the biggest headaches for customers, so it’s important to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible, with fair returns policies and fast payment processing a priority. Keep buying and delivery times as small as possible. (*5)

Engage with shoppers

Another effect of the digital revolution, social influencers and online reviews are having a profound effect on the way we shop. Think about how you can engage with shoppers and fans of your brand and how you can encourage them to share their positive experiences online.

Personalising the experience is a great way to surprise and delight customers to encourage social sharing - after all, it works for Coca-Cola and Starbucks!

Create an actual showroom

Making space where potential customers are encouraged to try out your products and connect with them in unexpected or non-traditional ways can help to drive interest in your business or product. For example, Nike have started offering complimentary athletics classes at some store locations and other high street retailers are installing coffee shops which invite customers to stay longer.

Stores like IKEA have launched products, campaigns and services with the help of virtual reality to help customers visualise how products could work in their own homes.

Keep customers engaged after they leave the store

Don’t wait for customers to return, keep in touch with regular (but not too regular) emails. Stringent new EU data regulations mean your customers need to opt in to receive your emails. Give them a reason to do so with highly-personalised offers and discounts.

Today’s shoppers value more than just price. Take time to learn more about your customers; who are they? What are they buying? How are they paying? If you have a website then dive into the analytics to find out about what they read and where they visit across the site.

Gathering as much information as you can on your customer base will help you deliver the stellar, personalised in-store and online joined up experiences they crave!  


*1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnellett/2018/02/08/new-research-shows-growing-impact-of-online-research-on-in-store-purchases/#782dd09316a0

*2 https://businessadvice.co.uk/high-streets-initiative/know-your-customers-uk-retail-trends-2018/

*3 https://www.businessinsider.com/these-are-the-retailers-most-at-risk-from-amazons-showrooming-mobile-customers-2013-2?IR=T

*4 https://econsultancy.com/17-stats-that-show-why-cx-is-so-important/

*5 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42539138