You might not know what it is but you probably wouldn’t mistake it for having a virtual roommate with whom you’re sharing your web domain with. If you’re a retailer, you probably know about “show-rooming”—the phenomenon of customers browsing in-store, getting the info and the touch and feel of a product, and then leaving your store to purchase it online, and most likely, from someone else.
Web-rooming might be considered the opposite, the latest trend that sees consumers researching products and shopping for the best deals online, but then venturing out to buy the item in-store or pick it up in person, in store, after ordering it online. There are many reasons they do: they want to touch it when they buy it, they want to buy it from an actual person, they want it immediately and don’t want to wait for shipping, or they don’t want to pay for shipping. It all boils down to what’s most convenient—for them.
While web-rooming and show-rooming may seem like two distinctly separate behaviors, they are, in fact, just two sides of the same coin: consumers turning to mobile technology to be the most savvy and informed about what they’re buying, and to provide them with the greatest convenience—shopping on their terms—when and how it’s easiest.
Should Retailers Be Afraid?
Retailers were warned to fear show-rooming and were told it would kill brick and mortar business. It didn’t. It certainly made a severe dent, but not outright destruction. This Black Friday has proven that while more purchases than ever are being made online, there is still a place for the concrete, the touching and the feeling—experiencing products in person in three dimensions, and maybe even making that purchase in person. After all, Amazon has now opened honest to goodness brick and mortar bookstores after virtually razing those of the more traditional and bygone booksellers.
So, should retailers fear web-rooming? Well, as FDR famously said: “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.” The answers to web-rooming are identical to how best to handle show-rooming. And that is for retailers to embrace mobile technology, not fear it or see it as a threat, but rather, consider it their greatest ally.
Consumers are turning to mobile tech to do just about everything. The smartphone has become the one item everyone has with them all the time. So it only makes sense that the shopping experience is migrating to and through that device.
And what are consumers looking for, whether it’s online or in-store? The ideal experience. They want to find the answers to their questions, to their needs, and to find the best product fit, get the best deal they can on it and buy it and get ahold of it as quickly and conveniently as possible in the most pleasant way possible.
Even if web-rooming is bringing the customer into the store, it doesn’t mean that they will make the purchase in-store. Sales may still happen online and at another retailer’s website. So that is a reason for wariness, but here’s the rub: consumers want the same experience whether they are online or in your store. Retailers who can use mobile technology to turn that in their favor will discover a win-win scenario.
How To Win The Web-rooming Customer
So, how to deal with the mobile shopping trend and what’s the best way for retailers to deal with web-rooming? The same way as dealing with show-rooming: Providing identically great and consistent experiences at every touchpoint, whether it’s online or in-store:
- Connecting via social media to answer questions and concerns and to give customers that personal brand touch.
- Having superior search engine optimization that ensures customers find you.
- Having great online product information and descriptions that live up to the product’s quality.
- Creating an online shopping experience that mirrors the in-store, with easy, efficient and hassle free ordering online.
- Having flexible inventory systems that respond in realtime to online and in-store purchases and that can handle online ordering and in-store pickup.
- Connecting in-store, answering questions and concerns and giving every interaction that personal touch.
Retailers should stop looking at show-rooming and web-rooming as different, just as they need to erase the distinctions between online and in-store shopping. Consumers don’t think in those terms, they look for convenience and the best possible, most consistent and seamless experience. When retailers see and address them as two sides of the same coin they have the best chance of being the recipient of that coin.