Webrooming in Retail: How Businesses Can Turn Online Browsing into In-Store Buying

Webrooming for retailers | Shopify Retail blog

Webrooming might seem like a new trend, but the practice has been around since the early days of online shopping. Likely, many of your customers do it before making most purchases, and you probably do too.

So, what is webrooming? It’s the process of researching a product online before going into a brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. Essentially, it’s the opposite of showrooming, which is when a shopper browses products in-store but makes the final purchase online.

Webrooming vs. showrooming | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Merchant Warehouse

In the past, retailers believed that ecommerce was detrimental to offline businesses, especially because you can find almost everything online. But according to Techopedia, “the phenomenon of webrooming shows otherwise, suggesting that physical retailers still have a role to play in the future of commerce.”

How popular is webrooming exactly? Chris Wuhrer, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives and product marketing at Merchant Warehouse, told Business News Daily, “While about 60% of webroomers have showroomed, nearly 90% of showroomers have webroomed.”

In a 2013 Harris poll, 69% of Americans made purchases by webrooming. That number has continued to rise as more offline retailers have adopted multi-channel selling, setting up ecommerce businesses and catering to web-savvy shoppers. Furthermore, reports indicate that younger clientele actually prefer webrooming.

Although Millennials appear to spend most of their time online, a whopping 89% of shoppers born between 1980 and 2000 favor heading to a store to purchase items.

In short, the potential for growth in webrooming has just started and it’s a trend that isn’t going away.

In that same Harris poll, big-box stores dominated when it came to webrooming. Walmart, Best Buy, and Target were named amongst the websites most frequently visited by American consumers researching products. The brick-and-mortar locations for these three businesses were also where the majority of shoppers made their final purchases. While Amazon was cited as the most popular website for webrooming (48% of shoppers), the online retailer didn’t yet have in-store locations in 2013. That has since changed. In 2015, the retailer opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle, enabling customers to make purchases in person. And several more Amazon Books locations are scheduled to open across the U.S.

But big-box stores don't have to be the only ones cashing in on this trend. We’ll explore why webrooming is increasing in popularity and how it’s beneficial to shoppers and retailers alike. We’ll also give you the tools to implement it and tips on how to encourage webrooming for your business.

Why Do Shoppers Webroom?

There are many reasons why retailers should get into webrooming, but like everything in business, at the end of the day, it all comes down to dollars and cents. According to a report from Forrester, webrooming brought in around $1.2 billion for retailers in 2012. That number is expected to rise to $1.8 billion by 2017.

The reason for such growth is fairly simple: Consumers are neither completely satisfied with in-store nor online shopping.

Consumer complaints, online retail | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Wiser

While online shopping has many bonuses, it isn’t perfect. Sure, you can order anything from anywhere at anytime online. But at the end of the day, there are certain things that brick-and-mortar stores are better at offering. Here are a few common reasons, according to a Merchant Warehouse report, why webrooming is so popular.

1) Paying for Shipping

Shoppers don’t want to pay more for a product if they don’t have to, and shipping fees for online purchases are a frustrating extra cost. Factor in handling fees and additional taxes...then that online order just doesn’t seem worth it. It’s no surprise then that 47% of people listed “I don’t want to pay for shipping” as a reason why they prefer to make a purchase in store.

2) Tactility

While it doesn’t always matter, the ability to touch, feel, and truly experience a product before purchasing it is what stops many shoppers from hitting the “buy” button online. This is particularly true when it comes to clothing and shoes, jewelry and accessories, big-ticket items like furniture and tech gadgets, as well as food and grocery items. Many shoppers want to hold a product in their hands before buying it. When it comes to makeup and beauty products, customers often make a trip to a store to try samples before deciding which ones to buy. Forty-six percent of shoppers stated the ability to touch and feel something as a reason for webrooming.

3) Checking Product Availability

Webrooming enables shoppers to easily compare multiple products and prices at the same time online. It also allows them to check an item’s availability before heading to a store’s location. This saves time and reduces disappointment. Around 42% of shoppers stated checking a product’s availability as a leading reason why they look online before going to a physical store.

4) Returns and Exchanges

How easily a product can be returned or exchanged is important to shoppers on the off chance something isn’t right. About a third (37%) of people polled said, “I like the option of being able to return the item to the store if I need to.” Quick and convenient returns in store trump having to ship an online purchase back to the sender. With this being the case, even brick-and-mortar retailers who hawk their wares online should consider the option of in-store returns for the added convenience for customers.

5) Price Matching

Whether a business advertises it or not, many retailers offer some sort of price matching to a competitor’s lower price. That may be why 36% of people claim to take the best price they find online into a store to ensure they receive the best deal.

6) Delivery Time

While online shopping can feel instantaneous, the time it actually takes to receive a purchase in the mail can sometimes take weeks. That lag time between purchase and delivery is what drives 23% of shoppers to physical stores — instant gratification.

How to Encourage Webrooming

Now that we’ve provided some reasons as to why shoppers prefer webrooming, here’s how to get started.

Launch Your Ecommerce Site (if You Haven't Already)

Having an ecommerce site is the easiest way to encourage webrooming, allowing shoppers to compare what products you have to offer against your competitors. If running an online shop is out of reach, launching a basic business website with detailed product descriptions, photos, and prices is a good start. Including product availability is also useful. A Merchant Warehouse poll stated 85% of Millennial shoppers reported researching products online before making a purchase.

Start Selling In Person With Shopify POS

Already have a Shopify store? Get the free Shopify POS App.

Multi-Channel Selling

The main way that retailers can take advantage of webrooming is by embracing multi-channel selling. Today’s shoppers use multiple platforms to make informed purchases – from online to mobile to retail — and the businesses that are the most successful ensure they’re available to their customers on whatever channels they choose. According to an Accenture report, nearly 40% of Millennial shoppers purchase items from a retailer’s online store if its physical location is closed. Brand loyalty remains an important decision-making factor when it comes to final purchases.

Millennial shopper statistics | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Marketing Land

Tips to Boost Webrooming in Your Storefront

You understand the benefits of webrooming and are on your way to setting up multi-platform selling — great. Now, it’s time to take things one step further with these tips on how to encourage webrooming so that it benefits your business.

Customer Service

Brand loyalty is developed through excellent product reviews, but it’s also achieved through in-store customer experiences. A report in Business Insider indicated that a retailer’s knowledgeable sales staff had the ability to influence webrooming. A client may have researched everything they could find on a product online, but what extra bit of information or story can be offered in person? Customer service isn’t limited to human interaction; other in-store tactics to encourage webrooming include in-store pickup of online orders, free Wi-Fi, in-store-only discounts, and price matching.

In-store Product Testing

As mentioned earlier, nearly half of shoppers that practice webrooming go to stores so they can touch and test products. In the same way clothing and shoe retailers enable in-store clientele to try before they buy, in-store product testing should be part of the retail experience. This has been such an important factor that many retailers that were previously online only, such as Clearly, Warby Parker, and even Apple, have opened physical stores so that shoppers can touch and try on eyewear or test out iPads and Macbooks before making their purchases.

In-Store Experiences

A growing number of retailers, including Nike and Lululemon, have gone so far as to entice customers to their physical stores by offering complimentary athletic classes and workshops at select locations. According to a Marketing Land article, Urban Outfitters added restaurants and coffee shops to a number of locations so that Millennial shoppers could connect with the brand in non-traditional ways and have a reason to enter and remain in stores. Nowadays, retailers need to think beyond the marketplace when it comes to in-store experiences. Brick-and-mortar shops can be hubs for brand discovery, immersive retail, and ultimately, conversion.

Social Media

While many retailers are active on social media, only some accounts are using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to their full potential when it comes to webrooming. Social media is a great tool to alert customers about last-chance items, restocked pieces, and product availability. It’s also a good way to build brand awareness and loyalty. Around 95% of Millennial shoppers say they prefer that retailers court them actively. Along with emailed promotions and text messages, this includes interacting on social media.

A Final Word

Retailers have a lot to gain when it comes to webrooming. The majority of shoppers already do it, and the practice will only grow in popularity as more businesses adopt multi-platform selling. Implementing just a few of these tips could make a huge impact on your business. It’s time to embrace webrooming and turn online browsers into in-store shoppers.