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flexReceipts responds to the “webrooming” trend

A recent trend appears to be literally turning the retail status quo upside down. There’s no need to be alarmed, however: engagement is the key to adapting.

In the clash between brick-and-mortar and online retail, one of the biggest topics of the last several years has been showrooming, the practice of trying out a product in-store, then purchasing it for less from an online retailer. Big names like Best Buy began implementing price-match guarantees to turn shoppers into buyers.

Now, however, the reverse appears to be becoming prevalent, as more and more shoppers compare products and prices online before heading to physical storefronts to actually make their purchases. The trend, which many have taken to calling “webrooming”, began attracting attention early last year. More recently, a holiday study by Deloitte showed that significantly more shoppers planned to webroom than showroom.

FlexReceipts may be a company born on the Web, but we serve clients doing business in stores and online. While webrooming is certainly a positive trend for brick-and-mortars, it need not be a negative one for online-only retailers. On the other hand, brick-and-mortar retailers shouldn’t let their guards down simply because the trend is currently in their favor.

For online retailers, the key to turning webroomers into buyers is to consider about what is driving the webrooming trend in the first place. The reasons consumers are shopping online and buying in-store are a combination of convenience and a desire for a hands-on retail experience. While online retailers may offer a better price, the hassle and added cost of shipping appears to be increasingly outweighing that benefit. This is compounded by price-matching policies in stores, meaning that the online price is no longer always the best.

On a psychological level, people simply enjoy the ability to touch and try out the things they will ultimately buy. This desire for the retail experience is bolstered to an extent by the recent “buy local” trend, as more consumers are driven to patronize local businesses.

The best way for online retailers to combat webrooming is to offer a shopping experience that meets or exceeds what shoppers are accustomed to in-store. This can include a unique, streamlined shopping interface, active and helpful customer service, optimization for all devices, and adoption of engagement-focused features like smart receipts. When combined with low-hassle shipping policies and a continued commitment to offering the best price, these steps can help drive the trend in web retailers favor.

As for retailers with physical storefronts, it’s just as important to pay close attention to why consumers are practicing webrooming and what steps they can take to capitalize on the trend. However, retailers should not focus on these trends as simply a tug-of-war between in-store and online. When retailers of all kinds are focused on providing the best possible customer experience, everyone wins.