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As the lines between our online and offline lives get blurrier, shopping behaviors are changing irrevocably. The omnichannel nature of modern retail has given rise to two related shopping trends: webrooming and showrooming.
Webrooming refers to the practice of researching a product online before buying it in a store. Showrooming is the opposite of webrooming — it’s when consumers browse products in a store but make their final purchases online. Below you’ll find examples of both.
Both of these trends highlight how fluid consumers’ shopping habits have become. And both need to be adapted if brands and retailers want to keep pace with their competition.
Here are some pros, cons, and best practices for using showrooming and webrooming to your advantage.
Report: 2023 Global Guide to Consumers
From the rise of the store brand to the demand — nay, necessity — for a flawless digital presence, learn more about what consumers are looking for in 2023.
Webrooming is when a consumer browses a product online but then makes their final purchase in a store.
There are a number of reasons why someone may shop like this. For example, if a consumer researching a product online sees that it’s available in a nearby store, they may go pick it up so they can get the product immediately without having to pay for shipping.
In our upcoming report on consumer behavior, we discovered that 48% of Australian shoppers, 45% of British shoppers, 34% of German shoppers, 25% of U.S. shoppers, and 24% of French shoppers are most likely to purchase a product online and pick it up in-store.
Webrooming gives people an opportunity to do most of their browsing from the comfort of their homes but still see and feel a product before purchasing.
Here’s a perfect webrooming example: Someone looking for new hiking boots wants to compare styles, features, and prices online, but they still think it’s important to try the shoes on before taking them on the trail if they want to guarantee a great fit.
Showrooming is when a consumer looks at products in a store but makes their final purchase online.
It’s become common practice for consumers to browse online retailers even while standing inside a brick-and-mortar store. According to Salsify's "Post-Pandemic, New Recession: Global Guide to Consumers" report,
“51% of shoppers said they’re spending more time researching products and prioritizing a product’s quality when making their selection.”
Whether they’re using their phones in-store or going home to do additional online research, showrooming is a way for consumers to take control of their shopping experiences. They may want to read reviews, compare prices, or look up additional product information before having to make their final choices.
For example, someone shopping for a new lipstick may want to look at colors in-person but compare online reviews for different brands before buying.
A consumer browsing in a store may come across a sweater they want to own, but then price compare online so they can buy it on sale.
Some retailers are understandably frustrated by showrooming, as it can drive more sales to competitors.
But the practice isn’t going anywhere — Shopify and Forrester found that 54% of consumers are likely to look at a product in-store and later buy it online. Retailers need to adapt to this behavior instead of fighting it.
Neither option is inherently negative. Instead, each has a unique set of pros and cons. Like almost any new trend, they introduce challenges to retailers who can’t adapt and opportunities to those who can.
Webrooming allows consumers to do thorough product research on their own time but still feel confident that they know exactly what they’re getting. Brands and retailers gain the opportunity to better serve consumers by offering the convenience of online shopping alongside the more personal experience of in-store service.
Pros of webrooming:
Cons of webrooming:
The showroom approach may have a bad reputation for “stealing sales,” but showroomers don’t always buy from competitors. If you give them a great shopping experience both online and off, you’ll be able to retain them across channels.
Pros of this approach:
Cons of this approach:
These approaches are two sides of the same coin, and both are indicative of how pervasive omnichannel commerce has become. To welcome shoppers of all kinds and cater to all preferences, consider the following practices.
Many brands have adapted to the rise in the showroom approach by turning their storefronts into something resembling a literal showroom. These smaller storefronts are designed to create memorable customer experiences and let them explore their offerings without pressure to make final sales.
This is common among many newer brands that began online. For example, digital-first menswear brand Bonobos refers to its physical stores as “guideshops” because their primary purpose is to give consumers opportunities to interact with stylists, known as “guides.”
While the above showroom approach may not be appropriate for every brand, there are many other ways to make the in-person shopping experience unique.
Better-trained salespeople, appointment shopping that guarantees personalized attention, and in-store events, among other strategies, can make your store a destination. This appeals to showroomers’ desire for a browsing-first experience while introducing the potential to keep webroomers in-store longer.
Online retailers often offer products at lower prices than can be found in stores. You can counter this by offering exclusive in-store sales, unique products, and proximity deals sent to shoppers’ smartphones.
Webroomers often check online to make sure a store has the product they want. If they drive to a store only to find that the product isn’t there after all, they’ll become understandably frustrated.
To satisfy today’s omnichannel shoppers, it’s important to invest in technology that guarantees that inventory is tracked consistently and accurately across all channels.
Make life easy for both webroomers and showroomers by allowing consumers to pick up or place orders in your store.
If someone wants to order something online because your store doesn’t have the exact item they want, sales associates should be able to facilitate that order and have the product delivered to wherever it would be most convenient for the consumer.
Similarly, if a shopper wants to order something but doesn’t want to pay shipping, they should be able to opt to have it delivered to a nearby store for them to pick up.
These practices have become commonplace in recent years, and any retailer who doesn’t offer them will be viewed as outdated.
Every shopper has their own preferences. Increasingly, these preferences involve innovative approaches that blur the boundaries between physical and digital storefronts.
Consumers want to be able to shop wherever and however it’s convenient for them — whether online, in person, or a combination of both — and be consistently satisfied by their experiences.
By adapting to webrooming and showrooming trends and catering to both types of shoppers, you’ll be able to build winning shopping experiences for every consumer.
Nicole D’Angelo (she/her) is a freelance writer, editor, and content marketer with over eight years of experience creating content for a broad range of industries. Before launching her freelance business, she managed content production for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, including...
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