Webrooming, before the pandemic, was a full-on retailing trend. But as the pandemic-driven digital shift gains traction, retailers have to be wondering if consumers will use websites to comparison shop for brick-and-mortar retail (webrooming) or whether they’ll go back to shopping retail to order online (showrooming).
For the record, webrooming was beating showrooming in a survey conducted in late 2019. According to SaaS scheduling platform company JRNI, 74 percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers webroom, mostly for electronics, clothing and household items. On the flip side the same survey showed that 57 percent of respondents showroom primarily for clothing, gifts and electronics.
And if consumers return to webrooming, the research also explored the areas in which they want to improve their in-store experiences. Fifty-seven percent of respondents expressed an interest in scheduling appointments with in-store staff, while 64 percent want to attend in-store events.
The operative issue is how the tide will turn now that consumers have declared their shift to online shopping and their fear of returning to physical stores. As retailers start to plan inventory and marketing for the holiday season it becomes more important.
“Smart retailers are taking a longer-term view of the season,” says Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s retail practice. “Rather than just striving to win new sales through ever-lower discounts, they instead see the holidays as an opportunity to define their purpose, engage in a way that is memorable and be clear about the role they will play in shoppers’ lives both practically and emotionally. Experiences that are distinct, memorable and worth sharing with others can be the foundation for a more-profitable, enduring and year-round relationship.”
Post-purchase retail logistics and data specialist ReadyCloud says it also expects webrooming to become more important as the fourth-quarter holidays approach. It says there are multiple reasons why some consumers prefer webrooming over showrooming, but three are the most important: price checking, online reviews and discount codes. Price checking, it says, is the area where retailers need to make the biggest change. Webrooming can be an effective tactic to hook shoppers with low pricing and good reviews, then follow it with a positive in-store experience. The firm says many of its clients are investing in employee training and in-store events to capitalize on webrooming customers.
It also recommends being aggressive on price to capture webrooming shoppers. Specifically, according to Managing Partner Michael-Jon Lazar, it means having the best price or else matching the best price consumers can find. Webroomers rely on two kinds of best-price policies: best price guaranteed and price matching. Best price takes researching the market and then beating it. This can be a zero-sum game at best. Price matching is more contained. Target, Walmart and Best Buy are all examples of companies offering price-match guarantees.
“Today’s consumer is impatient,” says Lazar. “As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to getting our online order delivered in a few days and often at no extra cost. The e-retailer can present a great buying experience, but if expectations aren’t met, they risk missing out on potential future sales. Retailers need to ask themselves: What are you going to do to adapt to the new customer experience? How are you going to preserve the new digital business model? I can tell you that putting sneeze guards in the store won’t be enough. The new model will tilt heavily in favor of digital and you have to think the way a consumer thinks.”