Study Shows Prevalence of Consumer 'Webrooming'

More people researching online and buying in local stores

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Retailers who fume about showrooming may find a new report from Merchant Warehouse is a welcome reality check. The company, which is focused on business payment solutions, has melded together information from several research reports and surveys to show the prominence of a counter trend: webrooming.

Showrooming describes consumers who price shop online after visiting physical stores. Webrooming refers to the process of researching products online and then visiting a store to make a purchase.

According to Merchant Warehouse’s findings, 69 percent 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.

The report doesn’t get into revenue figures, but Forrester Research vp and principal analyst Sucharita Mulpuru does. Citing data from a recent Forrester study, she estimated that webrooming will result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017, versus $1.2 trillion in 2012. In comparison, all e-commerce sales should reach $370 billion in 2017.

Regardless, “[showrooming] is a flight risk and a bigger problem for retailers,” Mulpuru says.

The Merchant Warehouse report shows that 36 percent of all consumers with smartphones ask stores to price-match. It urges retailers to do that, and to provide more savvy customer service as well.

Chris Wuhrer, svp of strategic initiatives and product marketing at the company, believes that more stores will take the lead of Best Buy and Sears in creating apps that will allow shoppers to price compare in stores, and then beat any prices that are better than their own. On the other hand, “some consumers are less price sensitive and they’ll pay more when they can return [merchandise locally], particularly high-priced items and apparel.”

Warehouse’s sources for the report include Vibes Media, Business Insider, comScore, Neustar Localesze, the agency 15 Miles, Accenture, Deloitte and Harris Poll.