The Evolution of Consumer Behaviour: Webrooming v.s. Showrooming

This is an updated version of a post originally published in October 2014.

Consumers shopping habits have evolved over the last few years. Tech-savvy buyers are equipped with mobile devices, and they’re using them to research, purchase, and write online reviews. The modern shopper wants convenience, personalization, and speed.

Facilitated by technology, modern consumers are empowered by instant information that gives them the choice of when and where to purchase a product or service. Shopping habits these days are an evolving interaction between in-store and online environments. In particular, two shopping behaviors that have come to light in recent years are showrooming and webrooming.


Showrooming is essentially when a shopper checks out a product in-store, using the store as a “showroom” but then goes home and purchases the product online (often for a better price).

This proves that the physical store is still very much a part of the shopping experience; brick and mortar stores are not at risk of extinction because many customers still prefer the tangibility of being able to see and touch before they buy.


Empathica’s Dr. Gary Edwards defines webrooming as “the opposite behavior to ‘showrooming.’ With showrooming, retailers are faced with the challenge of customers coming into the store to browse and test products, only to subsequently go home and actually complete their purchase online (often through a competitor). Webrooming, on the other hand, is when consumers research products online before going to the store for a final evaluation and purchase.”

Modern consumers are informed shoppers, and with a plethora of information at their fingertips, consumers arm themselves with as much information, via online research, before making the decision to buy. Webrooming is one more indication of how frictionless it’s become for shoppers to buy when and how they prefer. It gives the consumer the power of choice and convenience.

Webrooming continues to grow, even outshining showrooming:

  • According to a Harris poll, 69% of people webroom, while only 46% showroom.
  • Forrester Research estimated that webrooming will result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017. In comparison, all eCommerce sales should reach $370 billion in 2017.
  • Three out of four shoppers who find local information in web searches are more inclined to visit physical locations.

Merchant Warehouse conducted a report that provides insights into why customers prefer webroom over showroom.

  • 47% don’t want to pay for shipping
  • 42% want to check an item’s availability online before purchasing it in-store
  • 23% didn’t want to wait for the product to delivered
  • 46% like to go to a store to touch and feel a product before they buy
  • 36% will ask the store to price match a better price found online
  • 37% like the option of being able to return the item to the store if needed


Brick-and-mortar stores are still needed

Like I mentioned earlier, brick-and-mortar stores are at no risk of extinction because of the tangibility they offer.

  • CBRE reports that more than half (55%) of the world’s retailers plan to open at least 11 new stores this year.
  • Research shows that consumers still find shopping in-store beneficial because they can see, touch, and try merchandise, get the product immediately, and they’re more certain about the fit/suitability of the product.

This only reinforces the fact that businesses need to be both online and offline; big eCommerce retailers like Warby Parker and ModCloth have expanded operations in the to include physical locations.

Now, let’s throw mobile into the mix

Mobile shopping and mobile payments continue to grow. With the proliferation of mobile devices, especially among millennials, it only made sense mobile made its way into the shopping experience. It’s powerful to be able to have the product in front of you and be able to price shop or read reviews simultaneously on your smartphone. An intermingling of offline and online occurs. A study by SecureNet revealed that 55% of them have used a mobile device to research a product while in store.

Go omnichannel

According to Retail Touchpoint’s global survey of customers, 60% believe that multiple retail channels including web, social, mobile, and physical retail will be the norm for most stores, and 56% of their respondents said they would spend more money at physical retail stores if those locations enabled shoppers to browse through their merchandise online first. Merchants need to create a rounded customer experience, making it easy for consumers to buy from you.

Consumers have begun to expect a seamless transition between online and offline, and brands are adapting in response. Rebecca Minkoff introduced “magic mirrors” to her stores that allow shoppers to adjust the lighting in changing rooms and make online purchases directly from the mirror by selecting the size and color. Makeup behemoth Sephora is one of the companies paving the way in omnichannel retailing. The beauty retailer built a large and loyal following with their highly successful loyalty program, interactive online store, and engaging mobile app that allows customers to upload a photo and test different products before purchasing. Finally, one of the more infamous applications omnichannel retailing is Apple, who arms their salespeople with iPads equipped with up-to-date information.

Below are some methods to help you implement an omnichannel approach:

Set up an online store

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, try testing out an online store; an eCommerce site helps expose your products to a wider market.

Test a pop-up shop

On the other hand, if you’re an eCommerce exclusive store, test out a physical location, in the form of a pop-up shop. Online retailers can use this as both a marketing technique and to test a new sales channel. A sales channel that has proven very successful for other previously online-only retailers like Nasty Gal and Clearly Contacts.

Facilitate in-store pickups

The name of the game is frictionless. Make it as easy as possible for consumers to purchase from you and they will come to you; allow them to pick up online orders in-store or order out-of-stock items in-store to be shipped to their home.

Omnichannel merchant American Eagle has been seeing great success since implementing their “store to door” omnichannel program, meaning placing an online order while in store and having it shipped to their home for free. COO of American Eagle, Michael Rempell, spoke with analysts at Multichannel Merchant and stated that the company’s buy online and pickup in store, ship from store and “store to door” operations resulted in $50 million in revenue during the second half of the year, nearly doubling the company’s expectations.

Enhance the in-store experience

Athletic retailers LuluLemon and Nike have turned their stores into studios, offering free fitness classes for customers. Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom added bars and restaurants into a number of stores to give their shoppers an opportunity to connect with the brand in non-traditional ways and encourage engagement and customer loyalty.

Be social

Consumers are always connected – even in-store so why not take advantage of the fact consumers are always connected by increasing mobile engagement. Ask them to:

  • Like your Facebook page
  • Take a photo with your apparel and tag it with your branded hashtag on Instagram
  • Share their purchases on Twitter.

Incentivize consumers with through contests, giveaways, discounts, and other promotional campaigns.

Actively monitor reviews, mentions, and complaints on social media and sites like Yelp because social media encourages social proof which increases conversion rates:

  • 82% of shoppers say they consult their phones about a purchase they’re about to make in-store.
  • People are 4x more likely to make a purchase when referred by a friend, and there’s an 18% boost in loyalty from a referred customer versus the ones acquired via a different method.
  • 90% of customers admit their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews

Give the people wi-fi

If consumers in your store are using their smartphones for some last minute research, think about giving them access to Wi-Fi. A lack of internet connection means they can’t access the information they need to see, leading to them waiting until they get home to make a decision, potentially resulting in a lost sale.

Ensure proper sales training

Empowering your staff is one of the most important ways to increase in-store sales and turn showroomers into customers. 54% of consumers stated that a knowledgeable sales associate was the number one offering that would compel them to make their purchase in-store. Improve the training of salespeople and arm them with digital resources that can help them better assist customers to find the information and products they want more quickly and efficiently.

Both showrooming and webrooming are purchasing behaviors that aren’t going anywhere and contributes to an overall omnichannel strategy. Consumer behavior will continue to change and evolve as long as technology continues to advance. Businesses are better positioning themselves to implement an omnichannel experience that benefits both merchant and consumer.

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