An Introduction to Showrooming

September 2016

Studies indicate that one of two customers is engaged in showrooming, or the practice of identifying and examining products in store before buying them online. This new consumer habit has brought new challenges to the retail market, forcing companies to adjust their means of offering consumer support throughout the entire buying process.

As an alternative, many e-retailers have taken to offering online "fitting rooms," or webrooms, to help their clients find the best product to fit their needs. This article will introduce you to this online practice, and explain its various benefits for online businesses.

What is Showrooming?

The term showrooming refers to the practice of visiting a physical store to examine a product and ask questions before returning home to compare prices online. According to recent numbers, nearly 50% Americans practice some form of showrooming before making a purchase on online retail sites such as Amazon that offer comparative pricing options.

While this practice was initially feared by storeowners, showrooming has quickly become an advantage for brick and mortar retailers. Four of the most common strategies used to combat these trends include Cross-channel strategies, which allows businesses to continue to follow the consumer’s purchasing process via geolocation, email, or text messaging; multi-media support systems, or the use of social networks and mobile applications to better retain consumers; "phygital" strategies, or using virtual online catalogs or onsite web-to-store services to promote links between a physical store and its digital shop; and better in-store payment options such as contactless payment or payment via mobile application to better facilitate direct payment.

Online Fitting Rooms: Advantages for a Brand

Another strategy commonly used by brands is that of an online fitting room (commonly referred to as connected shops or webrooms), where the consumer is encouraged to try what he wants to buy.

These webrooms offer customers the ability to take control of the products they're interested in, and/or get advice from an on-site vendor. The order is completed in-store or online on the company site and delivery is then made to the consumer’s home using a vendor-approved channel.

The practice of webrooming has a variety of benefits for companies, both on a consumer side, as well as on the business end. First and foremost, webrooms provide brands with a new way to interact with their customers. This is especially true for brands that do not yet have a physical store where a prospective customer can interact can interact with a sales team, or test new products. In offering an additional, personalized buying experience, webrooming is also an effective way of building consumer loyalty and standing out from the competition.

From a business standpoint, webrooming allows a company to facilitate the purchasing process using their own trusted vendors and affiliates, and keep a closer eye on their stocks without additional inventories.

Before You Showroom

Before getting started with showrooming, there are a number of points that need to be considered.

All online “fitting rooms” must be integrated into the marketing strategy of the brand as a whole. It should also have an exact place in a company’s sales channels. In addition, companies should also establish a cross-channel strategy whereby visual identification of an online store is consistent with its physical locations.

Communication is key with online showrooms. Consistent communication can help avoid surprises when customers learn that they are not able to make on-site purchases. This can further be facilitated by bridging any gaps between "fitting rooms" and online sales sites to keep customers informed of product stocks.

Finally, businesses should also be aware of delivery times and circulation. This final step in the buying process will either solidify a customer’s desire to make future purchases from the business itself, or abandon a business in favor of third-party vendors.

Reverse Showrooming

By contrast, the term reverse showrooming refers to consumers who conduct all of their product research online, compare prices, and read reviews before heading to a store to make a purchase.

Studies indicate that nearly 7 in 10 consumers practice this concept of "reverse showrooming." These numbers indicate that consumers are becoming increasingly informed when it comes to their purchases, and often look for the most unbiased means of attaining this information (whereas attaining information from a sales person may be slightly biased, based on what he or she is looking to sell).

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