“Webrooming” — the act of researching a purchase online before buying it in a brick-and-mortar store — is growing, and several reports show that it’s long eclipsed its dreaded opposite approach, “showrooming.”
“The Web has made it easier than ever for consumers to make price comparisons and to access product reviews, and that has meant that today’s shoppers are frequently armed with reams of research by the time they pull the trigger on a purchase,” writes Sarah Halzack in the Washington Post. She cites a retail report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers that found, in part, that the number of consumers who research purchases has gone up in the last year: 92 percent for apparel and footwear purchases in 2014 vs. 80 percent the previous year.
A Forrester Research study cited in an AdWeek story on webrooming last year found that “webrooming will result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017, versus $1.2 trillion in 2012. In comparison, all e-commerce sales should reach $370 billion in 2017.”
According to the numbers, the big fear that consumers would use brick-and-mortar stores to research their purchases, and then buy online (the phenomenon called “showrooming”), hasn’t happened to the extent anyone thought it would. In fact, writes Halzack, a mere 7 percent of purchases are made online in the U.S. And that in itself presents a big challenge.
“[B]y the time they get to the store, shoppers already know exactly what they want, and they want to get in and out of the store quickly. And this attitude makes it extremely hard for retailers to upsell them on a fancier kitchen mixer or persuade them of the merits of buying a protective case for their smartphone. And it makes it hard for them to provide outstanding customer service, since store clerks now have to assist shoppers who might are already be experts on what they’re buying.”