Turning Web Research into Foot Traffic
Over the past several years, as consumers have come to rely more on the Internet for information and shopping, it’s been a challenge for retailers to find the best recipe for attracting customers via the web. Working for a company that’s grown from a consumer direct audio brand to a hybrid direct and retail sales model, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how people use the Internet to make purchases. It’s easy to make the assumption that people researching products online are always buying online, but in reality, it’s far more complicated.
“Showrooming,” the process of researching a product in-store and then buying it online, has been lamented and portrayed as a threat to brick-and-mortar sales for many years. Showrooming certainly exists and has certainly changed how retail works, but emerging data shows us it is just part of the buying experience, which should give us all a reason to be optimistic.
What I see growing is the concept called “webrooming.” This describes the majority of shoppers who research products online and use that information to make an in-store purchase based on price, proximity and any other number of factors. In reality, this is happening on a much bigger scale than showrooming. In fact, one of the more interesting analyst reports I’ve read stated that roughly 90 percent of consumer electronics purchases begin on the Internet, yet just between 35 percent and 45 percent of CE purchases are consummated on the Internet. That leaves a lot of people who buy through brick-and-mortar, and it creates new multi-channel opportunities.
Web-savvy consumers (and let’s face it, with smartphones, work computers, personal tablets, etc., that’s most of the population) are far more likely to research the finish, features, price and read a few reviews about a product before ever stepping into a store. This applies even more for big purchases. To a web-conditioned shopper, having too many choices, no price comparisons and a lack of outside reviews can be paralyzing. The research is done ahead of time. The in-store experience is about validating all of their research in person. They’re excited and educated about the product and just need that final experience to confirm what they already know.