Not long ago we put up a post about how the holiday season is a time that brings about significant omni-channel opportunities. Well, a recent survey from Accenture has put some numerical proof in the proverbial (Christmas) pudding. It pertains, particularly, to two trends on the part of Canadian consumers: webrooming and showrooming.
Webrooming is when shoppers research and review items online before purchasing in-store, whereas showrooming takes place when they visit a store to look for a gift and then buy it online for the best price. Accenture’s holiday shopping survey revealed that many Canadians are planning on doing a lot of both this year, with nearly three quarters (74%) intent on webrooming and nearly two-thirds (63%) looking to engage in showrooming.
Showrooming lends itself to commodity goods, like flatscreen TVs, that shoppers want to see, but for which they also want to find the best price.
The choice between the two really comes down to the type of product people are researching, says Kelly Askew, Canadian Managing Director, Retail Management Consulting, at Accenture. Showrooming lends itself to commodity goods, like flatscreen TVs, that shoppers want to see, but for which they also want to find the best price. After finding the right product they go online to find the right price because there are likely many different vendors selling the good.
Webrooming, on the other hand, caters to goods with which a physical experience is important, something like a new espresso machine that shoppers want to see and touch. As with many things, it’s also a matter of location, location, location.
“Canada’s not hub-and-spoke like the U.S., but more of a ribbon and entirely urbanized.”
“[Webrooming]’s also driven by some of the e-commerce challenges in Canada around shipping and distribution,” says Askew. “Canada’s not hub-and-spoke like the U.S., but more of a ribbon and entirely urbanized. So, for most of us, any major retailer is no more than a 10 or a 15 minute drive away, so the ability to get that instant gratification is there.”
Shopping less linear, more cyclical
Webrooming and showrooming are products of how the way people shop has changed. Shopping has become much less of a linear activity (go to a store, look around and make a purchase) and much more of a cyclical one (shopping all the time). We have digital to thank for that, with the proliferation of tablets and mobile devices exacerbating the change, says Askew.
“We have access to information whenever the need moves us,” he says. “It contrasts with the catalogue shopping days of yore. Now [shopping’s] universally available with online capabilities.”
Indeed, the survey also revealed that 30% of Canadian holiday shoppers intend to use their tablet, smartphone, or a combination of the two as their personal holiday shopping assistants this year, for reasons including: comparing prices in store (30%); avoiding crowded stores (17%); finding better discounts or deals (14%), shopping with more convenience (14%); taking advantage of improved technology (12%); receiving mobile text reminders on sales (11%) and alerts for in-stock items (9%).
The retailer reaction
So, how have retailers reacted to these digital-friendly trends? With some measure of surprise, says Askew, particularly when it comes to webrooming. Weirdly enough, the trend is illustrating how digital investment doesn’t always benefit e-commerce, but instead appears to be driving Canadians offline into the real world.
“For every dollar of digital sales generated by digital spend for retailers, they were seeing $10 of bricks and mortar sales.”
“We recently did a study that told us for every dollar of digital sales generated by digital spend for retailers, they were seeing $10 of bricks and mortar sales,” says Askew. “Spend in digital is having an even larger impact on physical channels than it is on the digital channels. For a lot of retailers that are organized such that their digital spend is part of an organizational lean that includes e-commerce, you can imagine the frustration for digital marketers in wondering why it’s not having that big of an uplift on their e-commerce sites. But, if you look at it from an enterprise point of view, it’s great and the impact for most retailers we’ve seen in Canada is there’s a tremendous upside to be had by investing even further in digital media and digital advertising.”
It’s about creating a seamless experience
…And back to omni-channel. The rise of Canadian webrooming and showrooming consumers, particularly webrooming consumers, as indicated by Accenture’s holiday shopping survey, is very compelling evidence in support of the notion that it’s incumbent on retailers to create and deliver a consistent experience across all their channels, both on and offline.
From a digital perspective, this means going beyond simply shrinking the experience for mobile. They have to develop an experience tailored to how people are using their mobile devices, providing things like store locators and inventory and stock availability, the latter two being especially critical components in light of the webrooming phenomenon. Factor in showrooming and it becomes even more essential that retailers be fully present at every channel, for every place they aren’t present represents a place for leakage to competitors or other geographies to occur.
Ultimately, it’s about embracing both the physical and digital retail spaces to serve people a special kind of seamless customer experience that differentiates retailers as their customers’ shopping habits continue to evolve, and whether or not they succeed is entirely up to them.
“Their future is their own to write and they need to invest appropriately in having the seamless environment, which includes their differentiated capability against the cross-border players or niche regional players that don’t have physical stores where the majority of Canadians are,” says Askew.