Rise of the ‘webroomers’

Andrew Saville, head of sales for the retail sector at Experian Marketing Services speaks to Talk Retail about how ‘webrooming’ could be much more of an issue than ‘showrooming’.

Retailers and marketers alike have long feared the concept of ‘showrooming’; where a customer heads into a store to see a physical product and try it out, but ends up making the final purchase online. This is mainly because it creates a disjointed and un-attributable customer journey. However, there is growing evidence that consumers are doing a lot more of the opposite. Enter the new term of ‘webrooming’ – where shoppers research items online and then make their purchases in store.

According to payment technology company, Merchant Warehouse, 69% of the UK population who own smartphones in the 18-36 age group have ‘webroomed’ in the last 12 months, compared to 50% who have ‘showroomed’. Among the 37-48 age categories, the results are 71% and 53% respectively.

These figures are a great example of how technology and lifestyle changes have seen consumers become more empowered and less likely to conform to typical shopping habits. Customers are interacting with brands via a variety of channels – both online, social, in store, and so on – and at various points in the purchasing journey, jumping between channels at will.

When we are thinking about how to tackle this trend, it’s not really a case of catering for either ‘showrooming’ or ‘webrooming’. Rather, these two concepts should really be treated as two sides of the same coin – the same solutions apply to both. The main issue to think about is the gap in the customer journey, and marketers must work to remove friction across touch points so that the customer experience is a seamless process.

Retailers have to learn how to recognise what specific people are interested in and translate that understanding into other channels. Good analytics and an understanding of your customers will help inform how they interact with your brand across the journey.

They need to run programmes that expand consumers’ access to information online, while retaining some control over the customer journey by emphasising offline stores as the customer’s potential ‘final destination’ – based on the benefits of offline shopping, as outlined earlier.

However, obstacles shouldn’t be put in the way to stop or make it difficult for web visitors to make a purchase online. The power lies with the customer and making it easier for them. Silo processes and departments are anathema to creating seamless customer experiences and need to be removed. Operations, marketing, sales and service should be considered one team in order to work towards a single goal – a joined up seamless customer experience.

In line with this, every channel and touch point needs to be measured and optimised with insights being fed back into the overall planning and strategy. Retailers need to leverage every ounce of customer data to understand behaviour and improve customer experiences, both offline and online.

For more about ‘webrooming’ and why it happens, click here.

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