Retailers need to make plenty of room for webrooming

by | Oct 5, 2015

It sure wasn’t long ago that the showrooming phenomenon had the retail industry entirely up in arms. Big boxes and mom-and-pops alike were overwhelmingly worried that consumers would stroll through their aisles for merchandise, and then turn around and buy those products somewhere else cheaper online.

Well, the script has flipped, and something called “webrooming” is now all the rage. But the difference with this latest wrinkle in retail is that the retailers wield much more power than before – and can use this phenomenon to attract and retain discerning shoppers.

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Similar to the showrooming trend, webrooming gives consumers the ability to seek out exactly what they want and where they want it. The only difference is that the physical store is the end-game. Via their computer or mobile device, consumers can now comparison shop, get product details – even find other items or accessories to augment a potential purchase – all through retailers’ websites. Armed with the essential information they need, consumers can then walk into a store ready to buy what they had planned. But here’s the huge upside for retailers: If an online store presents a product just right, there’s a good chance a shopper will end up in that retailer’s in-store check-out lane before all the others, increasing the chances that it’ll become a go-to spot for shopping from there on out. It’s also likely that the consumer will pick up additional items while they are in the store.

According to a Washington Post article, 88 percent of respondents in a study of U.S. consumers said they browsed online before buying in a store, compared to 73 percent who showroomed. That said, retailers must rev up their online shopping engines to make their products standout from other retailers so that there is love at first swipe. Having the right assortment can get that shopper-retailer loyalty underway, offering consumers specific and unique product details, from care instructions and assembly manuals, to photos and videos that vividly demonstrate product benefits. These days, consumers want to have a good handle on what they are getting before they schlep to a brick-and-mortar location, so providing those finer details can go a long way for a retailer.

And if you haven’t noticed, there’s already growing evidence that retailers are demanding more of this robust item data from their supplier base, with Walmart recently asking that vendors hand over their entire product catalogs as a way to glean this information. If you are a retailer looking to shore up your online item information or a supplier wanting to seamlessly provide this data to retailers, see how the SPS Commerce Assortment solution can help make this process much easier.

Michelle Eide

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