A few years ago, showrooming was causing high levels of concern among retailers. They were worried that shoppers were using their physical stores as showrooms to touch, test, and try on items only to ultimately purchase them online. Naturally, they saw showrooming as a threat to the success of their stores.

Nowadays, we know that the showrooming phenomenon is real – 72 percent of consumers have showroomed in the past year –  however, we also understand that it’s not necessarily a force to be feared. In fact, it can present new opportunities to sell and sell more. The new path to purchase is no longer linear or simple. It involves multiple channels, devices, and touchpoints. A fresh look at the showrooming phenomenon takes the new customer journey into account and sees it as a normal step in the process.

The Changing Role of the Store

The role of the store is changing. Whereas stores were once the primary place for transacting and purchasing, with the advent of e-commerce, their purpose has shifted. With free, fast shipping offered by many online retailers, it’s often cheaper and more convenient to buy goods online. That doesn’t mean that there is no place for physical stores in our lives. Shopping in stores is an enjoyable solo or social pastime for many. Stores can appeal to our curiosity with creative merchandising strategies and our desire for instant gratification, which still can’t be met by online shopping.

Stores have another important advantage over the internet: people. Don’t underestimate the human factor in retail sales. Well-trained, enthusiastic, personable retail sales associates equipped with the right tools (like clienteling) can build relationships with key customers that will enable them to influence repeat visits and sell more.

What is webrooming?

Whereas showrooming was a hot term 5-7 years ago, a new phenomenon has emerged in recent times. Webrooming is the practice of researching an item online and then buying it in a physical store: essentially, the opposite of showrooming. It’s about as prevalent as showrooming, with 78 percent of consumers partaking in webrooming in the last year.

The Internet is a great place to research products before making a purchase. There’s an astounding amount of information available online: on retailers’ websites, blogs, review sites, social media, and more. Shoppers can compare prices, read reviews, check out videos, look at instruction manuals, see pictures of clothing on real people (well, if you consider Instagram as real), and gather so much more information than a physical store could ever hope to provide. Even the best-equipped and brightest sales associates can’t quite deliver what the Internet can in the palm of the shopper’s hand.

How can retailers engage webrooming shoppers?

Like showrooming, webrooming is an opportunity to engage shoppers, complete the sale, and perhaps, even sell more. Here are some techniques that you should use to engage webrooming shoppers:

  • Offer fast, free shipping within minimum purchase thresholds. A whopping 9 out of 10 shoppers say that free shipping is their number one incentive to buy online.
  • Use email and display retargeting to engage cart abandoners. Entice them with email offers to complete their purchase, and include complementary or similar items in the message.
  • Make customer service readily available. Offer live chat, social customer service, and a toll-free hotline. Make it easy to do business with you and easy to find answers to customers’ questions.
  • Use an intelligent unified order management system to streamline your fulfillment process and offer highly desired features like BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store) in a cost-effective manner.
  • Educate and equip store associates to deliver outstanding service when customers arrive in store to pick up an online order. Recognize that this is an amazing opportunity to sell more and to re-engage with the shopper.
  • Offer inventory checks on the website for local stores. Take the guesswork out of local shopping so that consumers know ahead of time if the item they want is in stock.
  • Provide a generous return and exchange policy, and be sure to accept returns of items ordered online in physical stores. This gives customers another reason to visit their local store, and you just might be able to sell them something else!
  • Create engaging in-store experiences. While it has become a natural part of the shopper’s journey to research online, stores can still make it fun and engaging to shop. Create community by offering in-store events, workshops, and extra services like personal shopping.