If you’ve been around in retail, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of showrooming. This is where brands use a physical space to showcase products. Customers, however, can’t purchase the products in the space. It is more of a gallery and less of a store.
As online commerce continues to take the world by storm, showrooming’s digital counterpart has emerged: webrooming. And while tech-savvy shoppers are beneficial for retailers, it can also pose unique challenges. 70 percent of consumers have said that it’s “easier than ever” to find other brands to do business with thanks to technology, according to data from Salesforce.
It’s important to stay ahead of your competition and capture the digital shoppers who are exposed to your brand. Let’s look at what webrooming is and how you can turn slightly interested researchers into lifelong customers.
What Is Webrooming?
Before we look at ways to avoid webrooming, let’s first look at a few industry definitions:
- Techopedia: “Webrooming is a slang for the consumer practice of researching products online before buying them in a physical store.”
- Orderhive: “Similar to showrooming, webrooming also allows online and offline store opportunities. But vice versa — instead of researching product and service in-store and purchasing them online, webrooming shoppers research online and purchase them in-store.”
- Total Retail: “Webrooming is the practice of researching products online before going to a brick-and-mortar store for a final evaluation and purchase. For retailers, webrooming presents opportunities to provide shoppers with information they expect to receive online (e.g., product information, pricing, peer reviews, etc.), while maintaining control over the customer journey by showcasing the physical store experience as the consumer’s final destination.”
Whether you’ve heard of it or not, webrooming is a trend that’s here to stay. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen, most shoppers research online before making a purchase, regardless of where they make that purchase. And almost 90 percent of consumers have webroomed, compared to 76 percent of those who have showroomed, according to Retail Perceptions.
Now let’s look at a few tactics you can employ to turn those browsers into buyers.
How to Turn Webrooming Into Sales
Create an In-Person Brand Experience
Perhaps the most obvious, you’ll want to find a way to capture those in-person sales. As many webroomers are simply researching online with the intent to purchase in-store, you’ll want to somehow extend that in-person brand experience to the online shopping experience.
One straightforward way is to create pop-up showrooms — essentially flipping the concept of webrooming upside down. Cayan (formerly Merchant Warehouse) conducted a study to understand the motivations behind webrooming. 46 percent of respondents webroom because they like to touch and feel a product before purchasing. In your showroom, display products in an interactive manner and provide a seamless way for shoppers to complete the purchase on your website.
If you already have a brick-and-mortar location, consider turning it into a fulfillment center. The buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) trend is growing — Forbes reports that 30 percent of shoppers opt for this option. It was a major initiative for Target when it was first released, and it continues to grow in popularity among small and medium-sized retailers as well.
Offering free in-store returns can also help to reduce friction for online researchers, and it’s confirmed by the Cayan survey: 37 percent of respondents like being able to return purchases to the store.
Create the In-Person Experience Online
Can’t create an actual experience IRL? You can fake it a bit on your website. Look at ways to fill the voids that physical stores typically do. Recall Cayan’s survey results: Many shoppers webroom because they like to experience the product in person before they buy it.
Consider creating videos that show off your product. Maybe you have a series of video content that show how it’s made, showcase each of its specific features and how it’s used in real life.
Another component to the in-store experience is access to sales associates who can provide more information and recommendations for your products. Implement live chat functionality on your online store to fill that role of a virtual sales associate. Draft automated responses for commonly asked questions, and consider employing a sales team dedicated to your web presence (if it’s feasible).
Learn What’s Stopping Browsers from Buying
While studies and surveys provide great information, the best source of insight into your business comes directly from your customers. Installing conversion rate optimization (CRO) software can help you understand user behavior and improve your site to drive more online sales.
Your CRO software can provide the following:
- Screen recordings: watch individual user sessions on your site
- Heatmaps: see where most users click and engage on your page
- A/B testing: compare variations for call-to-action (CTA) buttons and other isolated elements on the page
- On-site polls and surveys: ask users why they’re not purchasing and how you can better serve them
But online CRO isn’t the only way to learn what’s preventing researchers from hitting the ‘buy’ button. Firas Kittaneh, co-founder and CEO of Amerisleep shares how his company found out what their customers’ hesitations were:
“In 2017, my team and I at Amerisleep opened our redefined mattress stores in luxury shopping malls around Arizona. Why? A 2011 study from nonprofit RTI International revealed that, in a typical showroom experience, most people were unable to identify the right mattress to improve their sleep quality. A survey we conducted found that nearly 20 percent of respondents didn’t know how to choose a mattress with the appropriate firmness level for their body type and sleep style.”
Learning this type of information can help you structure product pages in a way that accommodates shopper needs and proactively answers questions and addresses concerns.
Incentivize the Online Purchase
The reason so many brands use incentives is because it works. If you can incentivize the online purchase, you’ll give browsers a more solid reason to convert directly on your site instead of seeking an in-store solution.
Recall that Cayan survey: 36 percent of respondents will ask a brick-and-mortar store to match the price they found online. Lowering your online prices is one way to capture those shoppers.
Exit offers in particular can help you lure webroomers in. This is when a pop-up appears when the mouse heads towards closing the tab or window. Your exit offer can provide a last chance to receive a discount on their online purchase. KUTOA Health Co. used this approach, resulting in a 187 percent increase in conversions.
If price reductions cut into your margins too much, you can also incentivize online purchases in other creative ways. Perhaps it’s a free gift with purchase, extra customer loyalty program points, or expedited shipping.
Provide Flexible Shipping Options
Speaking of shipping, this is one of the major challenges that ecommerce businesses face, especially those without a physical retail presence. Brick-and-mortar stores have the unique advantage of being able to offer customers the products they want immediately. Online stores, however, must allow for a few days to ship the products.
And Cayan’s survey confirms this hunch: Nearly half of respondents webroom because they don’t want to pay for shipping, and almost a quarter because they don’t want to have to wait to receive the item.
As an online retailer, you can offer a few attractive shipping options to try and compete:
- Free shipping
- Expedited shipping
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