Webrooming is a shopping process where the consumer browses for a product online before purchasing it in-store. Webrooming is the reverse of showrooming, where a consumer visits a brick-and-mortar store to inspect the product before purchasing it online for a lower price. Webrooming, therefore, describes the consumer practice of researching products online and then purchasing them from a physical store.
Studies show that webrooming is most common for products such as appliances (58% of all purchases), electronics (54%), and apparel (49%). The practice is mostly utilized by Gen X consumers, who perform detailed product research online before buying, and Millennial consumers, who rely on devices to improve their in-store experience.
What causes webrooming?
Here are some of the key drivers of webrooming:
- Shipping cost – some consumers purchase in-store because they want to avoid having to pay for shipping.
- Tactile experience – others want to be able to see and touch a product before they commit to purchasing it. Somewhat counterintuitively, the desire for a tactile experience is also a driver of showrooming.
- Store availability – according to online publication Small Business Trends, some 42% of consumers check store inventory levels online before visiting a store to avoid wasting a trip. In other words, their primary intention is to purchase in-store.
- Product returns – a certain percentage of consumers also want to be able to return products to a physical store. In general, returning a product in-store is considered easier than posting an item back to an online retailer.
- Impatience – webrooming also occurs because consumers do not want to order online and be forced to wait for the product to be delivered.
The future of webrooming
Critics of the shift toward eCommerce believe that practices such as showrooming force bricks-and-mortar stores out of business. However, it may be that the retailers who suffer in this environment are those that are caught out by rapidly changing consumer preferences.
To survive in the modern retail industry, businesses must allow consumers to easily switch between online and offline purchases. This means catering to a mixture of showrooming and webrooming across stores, apps, websites, and any other channel a consumer considers when making a purchase decision.
Webrooming seems to have strengthened in the past years. While showrooming, on the other hand, was reported by only 57% of consumers. This data indicates that the future of webrooming – and by extension, physical retail stores – is not as uncertain as some critics propose.
- Webrooming describes the consumer practice of researching products online and then purchasing them from a physical store.
- Webrooming tends to be concentrated on appliances, electronics, and apparel. In general, the practice is caused by avoidance of shipping costs, the desire for a tactile experience, store inventory levels, easier product returns, and impatience.
- Some propose that showrooming and eCommerce will make webrooming and bricks-and-mortar stores unviable. However, data indicates that webrooming is more popular and that retailers should incorporate a mixture of both to cater for consumers.
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