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How webrooming and omnichannel retail is bringing customers back in-store

28th Aug 2014
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There has been an undeniable change in people’s buying habits in recent years, with how consumers choose to buy and research products evolving as technology does. Armed with smartphones and tablets, consumers now have access to multiple retail channels throughout the entire customer journey, prompting retailers to adapt to accommodate this.

The extent in which retailers have begun to do this and optimise for mobile can be seen in the IAB Mobile Retail Audit, released in June 2013. The study found that 74% of the top 50 UK retailers had a mobile optimised site, 64% of the retailers have an app, but only 48% have a store locator on their mobile site.

As a result of the increase in online activity, two trends have emerged in the retail industry, which have been dubbed ‘webrooming’ and ‘showrooming’. To define these terms, showrooming is when a customer visits a store to view a product and then makes the purchase online, whereas webrooming refers to the reverse; researching online to then purchase in-store.

Merchant Warehouse recently published a report which demonstrated the growth of webrooming, and highlighted how researching online directly impacted sales in bricks and mortar stores. The study revealed that people tend to research online or on a mobile device before going on to purchase in-store, with 69% of smartphones users aged 18-36 years having practiced webrooming, compared to only 50% who practice showrooming. The findings also show that nearly 80% of local searches on mobile turn into a purchase, with nearly 90% of these purchases being made in-store, highlighting just how important a tool the internet is for driving in-store sales.

This way of thinking can be further supported by a recent report from L2 and Rich Relevance, which examined omnichannel retail tactics and the importance of implementing an omnichannel strategy to take full advantage of webrooming. The study found that by improving the in-store shopping experience and process for the customer as a whole, retailers became able to convert showroomers into webroomers.

As a result of today’s digital age, consumers are beginning to expect omnichannel capabilities, making it essential that suitable cross-channel solutions are in place to meet this need. Being able to offer online ordering with in-store pick up services, easy to navigate store locators, product availability checking or appointment booking, for example, are all tactics retailers can use to drive traffic in-store and increase brand loyalty.

If recent studies have shown us anything, it is that modern technology and cross-channel solutions are empowering the customer, and are an excellent means of providing them with a relatively unlimited amount of information. If used correctly, the omnichannel retail experience is a powerful thing, and one which retailers should utilise as a valuable tool for creating a better customer experience, leading to increased revenue and better customer retention. 


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