This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Consumers embrace shopping behaviors that combine the convenience of online research with the tangibility of in-person product experiences. Showrooming and webrooming are examples of two such behaviors—the former involving visiting physical stores for research and online stores for purchasing and vice versa for the latter.
There are many benefits of these trends for retailers—from enabling deeper customer interactions to reducing your retail space—and ways for businesses to accommodate showroomers and webroomers. Let’s take a look.
What Is Showrooming?
Showrooming is when a consumer visits a physical retail store to do product research and then opts to purchase the product online, be it from the same retailer or a third party. These shoppers prefer to physically experience a product before they feel confident enough to make an online purchase. They may also wish to speak to a human to ask any questions before they purchase.
Showrooming shoppers may purchase online because they’re in search of lower prices, friendlier return policies, or better product warranties. Mobile technology has made it easy to shop online while browsing in-store simultaneously—and online is where comparison shopping and bargain hunting happen.
Did you know?
46% of brands planned to offer a showroom experience in 2022.
What Is Webrooming?
Webrooming is when a consumer researches and browses products online and then visits a physical retail store to make a purchase based on that digital research. Consumers who shop this way prefer the convenience of shopping online—websites are available 24/7 and don’t require a trip, which takes time.
Plus, when you research products online, you can search testimonials, customer reviews, watch videos and tutorials, and even find similar products elsewhere. Online shopping also makes it easy to price compare—and often, shoppers will visit the physical store with the lowest price.
They might opt to purchase the product in person as opposed to online for other reasons as well. Perhaps the store has a friendlier return policy, or they don’t want to wait or pay for shipping costs.
Benefits & Risks of Showrooming & Webrooming
Showrooming and webrooming come with both advantages and challenges for small businesses.
Some of the benefits of these trends include:
- Deeper customer interactions: You have the chance to build relationships with customers online and in person.
- Satisfied shoppers: You can meet shoppers where they are and provide the experience they want, in their preferred channel.
- Competitive advantage: If you leverage both in-person and digital channels to capitalize on these trends, you can get a leg up on your online-only or in-store-only competition.
- Less retail space: If you’re creating a showroom experience, you don’t need all the space a department store would need, for example. Instead, think of an art exhibit: less is more.
And the drawbacks tend to be:
- Race for the bottom price. Many of these savvy shoppers are looking for the best deal. Competing on price isn’t the best way to increase profits.
- Inventory management: The less linear the customer journey becomes, the more difficult it is to keep up in the back end. Managing inventory across multiple channels is particularly challenging when you have in-store shoppers potentially making online purchases.
Showrooming & Webrooming Trends
Showrooming and webrooming aren’t brand new, but retailers are still catching up. According to research from Shopify, 53% of retailers are adopting tools to help them sell in various channels. And a Criteo survey found that 72% of consumers would like to visit a brand’s showroom as part of their purchase process.
These trends correspond to overall omnichannel statistics, which indicate growing demand for a variety of channels with consistent experiences and seamless convenience.
But beyond simply intentionally catering to webrooming and showrooming, stores are also becoming spaces for:
- Content creation: Store owners are increasingly shooting content in-store for social platforms like TikTok and Instagram to improve brand awareness and engagement.
- Fulfillment centers: Retailers are fulfilling online orders directly in-store for faster turnaround times, in-store pickup, and to accommodate local delivery.
- Services: Styling and design services, such as at fashion boutiques or garden centers, are becoming more common ways for retailers to engage shoppers.
- Product demos and tutorials: In addition to services, demos and tutorials are effective ways of building trust and loyalty with your audience. For example, re-potting lessons at a plant shop, styling services at a fashion boutique, or lessons at a bike shop.
- Events and pop-ups: These limited-time and collaborative events are a popular way to engage shoppers in-store, online, and through social media all in one go.
How to Capitalize on the Showrooming & Webrooming Trends
To take advantage of these consumer behaviors, you might consider the following ideas:
- Create a great website and online store. Some shoppers want to purchase online and others want to research online, so give them the option to do both directly through your own ecommerce site.
- Optimize your website for mobile. Capture showroomers in particular by optimizing the mobile experience.
- Offer price matching. Appease bargain-hunting showroomers with a price-matching policy, if your business can swing it.
- Get a mobile POS. Turn showroomers into customers by making it easy to make a purchase from the floor—no line or register necessary.
- Invest in local SEO. Make sure webroomers can find you when conducting their online research—especially those in your community.
- Offer click and collect/buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS). This fulfillment option is the perfect hybrid of online and in-person shopping.
Key Concept: Creating an Omnichannel Shopping Experience
According to Shopify’s 2023 Commerce Trends Report:
- Retailers see 37% more website traffic after opening a physical store
- 24% of shoppers interact with products in-store before buying
- About three-quarters of shoppers research a product online before purchasing, regardless of whether they purchase online or in-store.
Showrooming & Webrooming FAQs
An example of webrooming is when a customer is shopping for the best television. They do all their research online, reading reviews and industry publication reports, comparing prices, and looking for deals. When they know what television they want and where they want to buy it, they visit a physical store to make the actual purchase. They typically beeline straight for the television they want.
An example of showrooming is when a customer is shopping for clothing and they visit an apparel store to try on different options. This customer wants to ensure the clothing fits and looks good before they make the purchase. After visiting the store and trying on the clothes, they purchase the clothing online when they return home.
Webrooming is when a consumer researches a purchase online and then makes the purchase in person. Showrooming is when a consumer researches a purchase in a store and then makes the purchase online.
- Decreased inventory holding costs
- Lots of space in the retail store
- Allows for minimal design
- No need for a huge retail space
- Decreased fulfillment costs
- Flexibility and agility of managing an online store compared to organizing a physical shop
- No need for lots of retail sales associates
Trendy buzzwords don’t have to be complicated. Webrooming and showrooming are simply two ways consumers have embraced an omnichannel approach in shopping. And it’s up to small businesses to keep up if they want to compete.