'Webrooming': the Opposite of Showrooming

Traditional retailers express anxiety and concern about so-called "showrooming," whereby smartphone owners shop for products in physical stores and then buy online for lower prices. We've shown multiple times that this is a real phenomenon; however it's generally a minority use case. 

In a sort of contrarian finding, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners said a few months ago that the large majority of Amazon shoppers are loyal to that site and not opportunistically buying online based on price. The financial research firm used consumer survey data to argue, "rather than looking for items at a physical store, then buying them online, most Amazon.com customers [80%] started shopping at the Amazon.com website." 

In our own survey data we have documented that roughly half (52%) of mobile users have (at some point) decided not to buy something based on information discovered on a smartphone while in the store. It's safe to say is that consumer in-store behavior is now more complex and smartphones are arming them with more information to help make purchase decisions -- online and off. 

Multiple surveys, including ours, have shown a range (66% to 90%) of in-store smartphone usage.

But what about the opposite of showrooming -- "webrooming" (a very awkward term I hope doesn't stick). According to an article in AdWeek, Merchant Warehouse found that "69% of people with smartphones in the 18-36 demo have webroomed, while only 50 percent have showroomed. Among 37-48 year olds, 71 percent have webroomed versus 53 percent who have showroomed." 

This is being presented as some new behavior or novel phenomenon. But it's just traditional retail buying. 

Well over 90% of all retail buying happens locally. But most internet users now do some form of online research before buying offline (depends on category/consideration). The bigger the ticket the more online "pre-shopping." 

I've previously estimated that when retail spending and local services are combined you've got a $9 to $10 trillion annual market in the US. Roughly $2 trillion or approximately 20% (or so) of that is being influenced by "online research." That figure will only grow as more people use smartphones as shopping assistants.

The bottom line, literally and figuratively, is that consumer shopping behavior is now multi-platform and more complex. But whether you call it "local shopping" or "webrooming," the overwhelming majority of buying (90%+) continues to happen offline.