How Much Showrooming Are Consumers Really Doing? - eMarketer
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How Much Showrooming Are Consumers Really Doing?

Showrooming and webrooming concern retailers

September 8, 2014

Brick-and-mortar retailers worry that their expensive storefronts are just museums for ecommerce sites—expensive to maintain and feeding product sales directly to competitor ecommerce sites like Amazon.com. But is worrying worth it if ecommerce sales only make up around 6% of total retail sales?

Demographic Profile of US Internet Users Who Have Engaged in Showrooming Behavior, April 2014 (% of respondents in each group)

Before quashing ecommerce completely, a primer on who is showrooming and why:

  • An April 2014 comScore study found that US male internet users were more involved in showrooming, eking out women 37% to 34%. As many might assume, the biggest showroomers were 18- to 34-year-olds. But those ages 35 to 44 didn’t trail far behind—41% of internet users in that age group reported showrooming.
  • Showroomers also skewed wealthy; 40% of respondents with over $100,000 in household income admitted to it. Respondents who shopped more often also used brick-and-mortar storefronts as showrooms to buy online, likely to find the best prices and curtail overspending from overshopping.
  • Price drives showrooming behavior. Nearly three-quarters of respondents to comScore’s survey said they bought online after looking at items in-store because the price was better online. Half intended to buy online all along—they just wanted to see the item in person before committing to the purchase.
  • Other less often cited reasons for showrooming included out-of-stock store items and convenience.

But while retailers worry about showrooming, ecommerce sites have the reverse problem: webrooming. Data released in February 2014 by Accenture revealed that there may actually be more shoppers who browse and conduct research online before buying in-store than those who browse in-store before buying online. Among US digital shoppers who had made purchases in the past 12 months, 78% reported webrooming (buying in-store after browsing digitally), and 72% said they showroomed (bought digitally after browsing at a store).

The leg up that retailers’ storefronts will always have is the ability to gratify customers’ needs instantly. No need to wait for a package to arrive and track it to the doorstep.

US Digital Shoppers Who Have Made Purchases Webrooming vs. Showrooming, Nov 2013 (% of respondents)

Trends in brick-and-mortar store openings indicate that retailers are doing everything they can to keep customers coming to their stores—or at least make them relevant enough to the path to purchase to ensure that keeping storefronts open is viable and necessary for sales and marketing. Retailers are also equipping themselves—online and offline—to compete with independent sites like Amazon head-on. They have beefed up their online inventories and offer store credit to customers who buy through the retailers’ ecommerce site when they can’t find an item in-store. Some also provide free shipping.

Retailers that want to escape the threat of ecommerce-first platforms breathing down their necks will first have to improve customer service, return policies, selection and stock. If customers can’t find what they need in-store today, why wouldn’t they buy from an ecommerce engine tomorrow?

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