RetailWire has been discussing showrooming vs. webrooming and 8th & Walton’s Saturday Morning Meeting has hailed the upsurge of webrooming among millennials as a good sign for brick and mortar retailers.
They’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
Showrooming is the practice of trying things out in physical stores — treating them as showrooms — and then ordering online. The term refers specifically to the intentional use of physical stores as an adjunct to online shopping by people who have no intention of buying in stores, but is sometimes also used for people who shop in stores, compare prices, and order online in response to a lower online price.
Normal shopping in physical stores nowadays follows this path:
Brick and mortar retailers want to call this “webrooming.” They want to think of it as a new trend among young shoppers. There’s a problem with this. Obviously, there’s no such thing as a webroom, but that’s not the main problem. The main problem is that there is already a name for this process.
We call it “shopping.”
For years now, the majority of shoppers have gone online for information before they do any physical shopping. Having gone online and made their major shopping decisions, they either buy online or go to a physical store. Why go to a physical store? There are lots of possible reasons:
- The item is not readily available online.
- They like to try before they buy.
- They feel they need more information.
- They don’t want to wait even for 2-day shipping.
- The price is lower in a local store.
- They expect to have an enjoyable experience in the physical store.
- They want help from a human being.
For many modern shoppers, buying online or buying in a physical store is not a key decision. They want the item, and will buy it by whatever means is the most convenient or enjoyable when they make the decision. The diagram below, while it’s not as snappy as those above, is the most accurate image of current shopping habits:
- The challenge for brick and mortar retailers: make the experience of visiting your store enjoyable and convenient enough to tempt shoppers.
- The challenge for online retailers: provide enough information and enjoyment to rival physical world shopping experiences.
- The challenge for CPG manufacturers: be wherever the shoppers are when they decide to buy.
For retailers and manufacturers alike, however, the most important step is to be the one providing the info online. That is always the first step for shoppers. Let your competitors do that, and it won’t matter whether you’re a showroom or a webroom. Webroom? Let’s nip that in the bud.