Webrooming and lessons from Verkkokauppa.com, Target and Gap

Webrooming is the new hype and hope of brick-and-mortar stores. The reverse of showrooming (going to a physical store and then buying the product online), webrooming stands for researching the product online and then going to a physical store to make the purchase.

In this post, I will examine how innovative retailers are taking advantage of webrooming, and what possibilities may still lie untouched.

Why do people look for items online before going to a physical store?

The key question to be able to take advantage of webrooming as a brick-and-mortar store is understanding why people do it. Here Merchant Warehouse comes to the rescue, having gathered data from various sources into a compact report on webrooming.

Here are the top reasons:

  • I don’t want to pay for shipping (47%)
  • I like to go to a store to touch and feel a product before I buy it (46%)
  • I want to check an item’s availability online before I purchase it in-store (42%)
  • I like the option of being able to return the item to the store if I need to (37%)
  • I will ask the store to price match the better price I found online (36%)
  • I don’t want to wait for the product to be delivered (23%)

For a brick-and-mortar store looking to benefit from webrooming, these form a list of customer requirements answering to which can help turn in a profit.

Target, the pioneer of price matching

With 36% of webroomers seeking to use the information they find online to get a lower price, one way to respond to this is to have a price matching policy in place so that all staff can rapidly respond to the customer expectations. This policy has been pioneered by Target and followed up by Best Buy.

The exact content of the policies differs in respect to the companies whose prices are being matched and whether price matching is also done retroactively or only when making the purchase.

Gap and the reserve in store program

With 46% of webroomers wanting to touch and feel the product before buying, the first step is to show the availability of items in physical stores so that customers know what they can get their hands on.

Gap has taken this idea a step further with its reserve in store program that enables consumers to reserve up to five items in a Gap store for one day for trying them on before making the purchase decision. And as Gap manages to entice consumers to come to its stores, they have discovered that these customers tend to walk out with more items than just the ones they had reserved.

Verkkokauppa.com takes availability display one step further

The Finnish electronics store Verkkokauppa.com has been a pioneer of real-time availability display on its website for several years already. They also have one feature that I have not come across anywhere else yet: the ability to search based on availability and product group. If I want to know what 55-inch LED TVs they have currently available in their store in Pirkkala, for example, that information is just one search away. They also show which products they have on display at each of their stores (instead of just in storage).

So how is this information useful? If I have several alternatives in mind, I can easily check which ones I can see at any store. Or, to take an example more directly related to making a sale right now, let’s say my washing machine breaks down and I would really like to get it replaced right away: I can check which models they have available right now, and make a purchase decision based on this information, instead of checking the availability model by model or finding out the availability only once I enter the store and talk to an employee there.

Geo-targeted ads, case IKEA

Another way to lure in customers, currently especially those in the under-30 age group, is to use geo-targeted mobile ads. This has been on social marketing recommendation lists for quite a while, but the results are often difficult to prove. IKEA has recently experimented with this in Cardiff, UK, and their experiences suggest that such campaigns could really be worth the cost with an 11% increase in store visits for the targeted audience.

Potential future development: inventory management based on web traffic

When we combine the desire to check the availability and the desire to touch and feel the product, an obvious future potential is unveiled: inventory management based on web traffic. If people decide whether to go to the store in the first place based on item availability, why not control availability based on what items’ pages are visited? This goes beyond tracking conversion rates and into understanding the reasons people visit the pages in the first place – online conversion may not even be the target.

Can webrooming save brick-and-mortar stores?

It’s too early to say. However, considering that the first thing most people do nowadays when looking into purchasing something is to search for information online, showing your inventory online is rapidly becoming mandatory. When you can add more services on top of that, the chances of luring people into the store get better.

Photo: Verkkokauppa.com 24h store by Janne Heinonen (CC)

Author: Ville Kilkku

I run my own consultancy business, so if you find the ideas on this blog intriguing, contact me at consulting@kilkku.com or call me at +358 50 588 5043 and we can discuss how I can help you solve your business problems. I am currently based in Tornio, Finland, but work globally. Google+