The data coming out of the most recent holiday shopping period in the US continues to offer up some surprises. Take for example, the concept of “webrooming,” or the practice of researching products online, then purchasing them in a brick-and-mortar retail store. This is sort of the opposite of the dreaded “showrooming,” where the shopper goes to a retail store to select an item…then buys it online.
In an interesting new study from ORC International conducted in September 2016, a surprising number of consumers – fully 85% – said they would be webrooming this holiday shopping season.
But what is really surprising, is the number of millennial’s who said that. Read on to find out…
The survey by ORC (Opinion Research Corporation) was conducted for the International Council of Shopping Centers and it specifically surveyed Internet users on their shopping plans for the 2016 holiday selling season. Results were reported both with an overall number, and also broken down by age groups.
As impressed as we were that 85% – more than 8 our of 10 respondents – planned to webroom during this season. But even more surprising is that 95% of millennials said they would research online and purchase items in a physical retail store.
Webrooming is Growing
So what do we mean by “researching” products online? Typically, this includes searching for items to purchase, looking at similar items, reading reviews, checking prices, and looking for discounts and deals. It also includes checking inventory levels (at retailers that offer that functionality on their website.)
Webrooming has been identified and tracked in the past, but the numbers in this particular version are higher than ever. As eMarketer noted in reporting on this research, “The implication of this increase will affect how retailers manage their mobile marketing going forward.”
4 in 10 Millennials Research Inventory Availability for In-Store Purchase
The International Council of Shopping Centers followed this study with another after the holiday shopping season. In this study, they asked millennials, what they used their smartphones for when using them in-store during holiday shopping. Not surprisingly, more than half (52% said their used their smartphones to compare prices. But a solid 40% said they checked availability or inventory, while another 37% said they looked for coupons or digital discounts. Finally, 33% said they read product reviews and ratings on the items they were looking at.
Finally, another study by GfK looked at the year-round incidence of webrooming (not just during holiday shopping) and compared it with the more pernicious practice of showrooming (pernicious to retailers anyway.) This study, like others, demonstrated that the practice of webrooming is far more popular than showrooming – although both practices have been increasing…perhaps with the increasing penetration of smartphones.
Both Webrooming and Showrooming are Growing
The GfK study showed that in 2016 46% of shoppers aged 18-26 years old, regularly engaged in webrooming. Another 32% of that age group engaged in showrooming. Both of these increased over 2015 with webrooming up 5% and showrooming up 8%.
Why do young shoppers webroom vs. showroom? According to analysts at eMarketer, even though online purchasing offers more convenience and lower prices, many consumers “still prefer in-store purchases to avoid shipping charges, delivery wait times and online return policies.”
Research analyst for eMarketer Yory Wurmser noted that while webrooming is common amongst all shoppers, “what sets millennials apart is their inclination to do their preparatory research on their phones, often while they’re in the store. They’re webrooming until the moment they buy, which has major implications for the type of mobile experience retailers need to deliver to millennials.”