Webrooming: The Clash of Offline and Online Retail

Webrooming: The Clash of Offline and Online Retail

December 14, 2015

As we see today, consumers wandering around brick-and-mortar stores with their smartphones or tablets in hand – browsing for online counterpart of the products stocked in the store – are really not bringing the end to the physical retail.

Of course, there are shoppers feeling an urge to move towards buying the same product from an online competitor thanks to the agility of e-commerce. Amazon actually put a quite scientific marketing act towards this trend thanks to its price comparison applications. However, research shows that it’s quite common for consumers to do this online browsing before entering to the physical shop to finalize their purchase.

Actually, this act has become so common and visible that it already has a buzzy name of its own: “Webrooming”. And, according to a survey by Nielsen, %60 of shoppers are into webrooming.This figure beats the rate of %51, which is the ratio of shoppers, who check out products offline before buying the online.

Nielsen’s study – polled 30.000 shoppers in more than 50 countries – acknowledges the same findings for webrooming by Accenture, which also found that more the %70 of consumers do the showrooming, while around %85 of them do the webrooming as part of their purchasing journey. In addition to these findings, a report by Merchant Warehouse broke down the popularity of both webrooming and showrooming into age groups and concluded that webrooming is a more popular shopping strategy than showrooming for all age groups that had been researched.

This popularity really proves the facts that, shoppers can now enjoy a much more frictionless shopping experience and now it’s easier for them to buy whatever they want, wherever they want to and from whomever they choose.

In such a situation, retailers do not really decide on where their shoppers are going to meet them, or where they will shop from. The power is fully in hands of consumer. Although it seems like falling only into the retail domain, the actual story is fully about technology – as in many such paradigm shifts in retail. Particularly, this phenomenon of webrooming has been driven by the evolution of mobile technology and the massive adoption of smartphones.


This is quite similar with how Internet made it so easy to access information or to create content many years ago. Now, shoppers have the ability to carry Internet along with them in their pockets and this caused the above mentioned webrooming shift in the balance of shopping power.

Another interesting point here is that, this shift has not been designed by the retailers themselves at all, and they did not really get together with a strategic plan by planning the rise of mobile or something. No, shoppers are really running the show here. Because of this fact, some retailers also think that this could be dangerous. Because what might happen is that, through webrooming, shoppers may find the products they love on a site, but if it’s also available elsewhere, say, in a brick-and-mortar that’s more convenient and faster than yours, the sale could just flow in that direction, and the first retail might just lose here.

In order to guard against such losses of sales, retailers could fight against such a technological trend with – again – technology, or let’s say, by implementing the technology in a way that it capture all the touch-points within the shopping experience, i.e. mobile, desktop and in-store.

As a whole, retailers can particularly:

  • Improve their SEO performance, web and mobile capabilities to make sure that consumers will find the products they are eager to buy from their store.
  • Train their salespeople, aware of this webrooming phenomenon, and deliver them the required digital resources through which, they can help the shoppers to find the products they want.
  • Create a seamless ordering and inventory strategy where shoppers can pick the items they bought online, from the store, or vice versa – i.e. receiving the items both offline through home delivery.
  • Deploy a user friendly shopping experiences on all devices, particularly mobile devices, to reduce a potential frustration that may arise from customers while they are webrooming, i.e. using different channels to access your online presence. It’s also shown that, such consumers who use multiple channels to approach a retailer are among the most loyal customer segment.

With all these ideas, thoughts and tactics put in display, surely many retailers have been implementing strategies to catch up with the rapidly-evolving shoppers. Some focused on the seamless delivery aspects and some used the big data insights in store, by analysing the online preferences of their customers.

We’ll see whether offline retailers would reverse a trend where number of consumers visiting brick-and-mortars are falling consistently. Of course, such acts put in display to reverse this phenomenon are already buzzing around, and they also managed to acquire a flashy name for themselves: omni-channel.

The question here is: Can offline retailers be agile and rapid enough to survive the rapidly changing lifestyles and shopping tactics of their consumers?


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