Webrooming is the New Showrooming — and Other Retail Trends

Thirty years ago, shopping was a completely different process than it is today. What has changed over the past 30 years? The Internet. Before the Internet, shoppers went to a brick-and-mortar store to make their purchases — and, on some occasions, consumers shopped through catalogs, but that wasn’t too common. There wasn’t much variety.internet shopping

Today, consumers have many options, and the Internet has changed all parts of the shopping experience. From consumer reviews to pricing options, all information and options are available at the click of a button. The Internet has changed everything.

The question now is will our society switch to completely online shopping? Most retailers now offer the option to shop online, including grocery stores. If you can purchase anything and everything online, is there still a need for brick-and-mortar stores?


The trend over the past decade has been transferring brick and mortar to online. Many start-up retailers even started online without having a brick-and-mortar option. There are companies like Amazon who are solely online – and they have obviously shown tremendous success. However, the trend lately has been to go back to the brick-and-mortar establishments.

Why are companies reverting back to the “old-fashioned” way of doing things? This doesn’t seem progressive. The answer is in the consumer.

According to the Babes vs. Babies study by People StyleWatch, 65 percent of purchases by millennials are in brick-and-mortar stores.

Consumers also want options, especially millennials. Consumers don’t want to be forced into one option or the other. One consumer might want to quickly order something online one day and the next day want to have a relaxing day physically shopping to relieve some stress.

In fact, a report from Cisco demonstrated this desire for options. The report stated that 60 percent of tech-savvy shoppers preferred to shop at brick-and-mortar stores that also offer online features. In addition, the study from People StyleWatch found that 48 percent of millennials alternate between online and offline shopping.

So, how can retailers combine offline and online? Many major retailers offer both. For example, you can go to the mall and shop at Foot Locker, or you can go online and order something from Foot Locker’s online store. But, what about the small, local businesses? And, what about the retailers who are solely online, like Amazon? How do they adjust to this desire for options?

Small-business retail owners have come to find that they can actually offer a larger selection of products if they offer an online store. In store, there is only a certain amount of room for products and there are only a limited number of consumers who can physically shop at the establishment. However, you take the business online, and then you have just expanded your space to unlimited and expanded your customer base to unlimited.

Take for example a retailer featured in a recent Orlando Sentinel story: Winter Park Cycles. They were a small bike shop that realized after opening that there were not as many bike consumers as they had anticipated in the area. So, the owners decided to open an online storefront and become a distributor nationwide. Now, they can offer more products and their revenue has increased. However, they did not close their brick-and-mortar store because they wanted to offer consumers the option. Some consumers prefer to come in to touch and feel the product before they purchase.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Winter Park Cycles is Amazon. Amazon is extremely successful, but they are also feeling some of the strain from the consumers desiring options. Instead of opening physical locations, they have opened more distribution centers to decrease delivery times and given consumers more of an option when purchasing online.

There are many ways to give consumers options when shopping with your business, but you must offer options or consumers will go to the competitor who is offering them.


One major issue that retailers were facing was – and still can be – showrooming. Showrooming is when consumers go to brick-and-mortar establishments, look at different options for what they are considering and then go home and purchase the product online. Many consumers were doing this because they could compare prices online and find the best price on the exact item they were looking for.

However, with consumers desiring options, showrooming problems have slowed. Most retailers have found ways to combat the problem.

A new concept facing consumers and retailers now is webrooming. Webrooming is the opposite of showrooming. Consumers look online for different products and then go to the brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. There are many reasons for this action, but one of the most common is the consumer wants information. Instead of going to the store itself and asking an employee who may or may not know anything about the product, the consumer does his or her own research ahead of time and walks into the store a knowledgeable consumer who doesn’t need “counseling” on the product.

Many consumers feel more empowered when they walk in knowing everything they need to know. They don’t feel as if they are being manipulated into purchasing a more expensive item, and they know what they are getting – most of the time – before they actually make the purchase.

Another reason for the eruption of webrooming is impatience. Many consumers want instant gratification. They don’t want to wait the 24 hours necessary for home delivery. So, the consumer finds exactly what they want online and head to the nearest store that carries the product: instant gratification.

The combination of online and offline can also significantly benefit the retailer while also benefiting the consumer. For example, when I went to my AT&T store to change my wireless phone plan, I needed to also upgrade my phone. I didn’t have much money, and I was looking at the free phones or the phones on the cheaper side. The sales representative that I was working with kept trying to push the more expensive, new smartphones on me. After going back and forth, the rep was able to offer me the higher-end smartphone in the store for the price it was offered at their online store – free. I got what I wanted, and he got the credit for “selling” one of the top phones, even though it was free.

By offering consumers the same deals that are offered online, you are satisfying the consumers’ wants and needs while also combating showrooming problems and preventing losing a customer to a competitor.

The key to retail success in today’s modern, Internet-filled world: You must offer options. There are always going to be people who “use” your retail establishment like with showrooming, but you must find ways to combat these types of problems while still offering options. The retail world will never be simple and easy, but the easiest way to find success is through consumer options.

For more, check out our article on digitizing trade shows or how to maximize your results from virtual trade shows.