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Over the last decade, consumers' shopping habits have altered so much that it's not as simple as visiting a shop and making a purchase anymore. With the proliferation of Internet-enabled devices and online search and comparison tools, we have many different methods of browsing and shopping—most notably, in-store, online, and via mobile.

This new freedom of choice for consumers has led to the emergence of some interesting shopping habits. It is common for shoppers to consult more than one medium before making a purchase, rather than simply buying online or in-store. You may have heard of two different types of shopping processes known as webrooming and showrooming.

What is webrooming?

Webrooming is the process of buying a product in-store after conducting research on it online. Shoppers have the advantage of all the product knowledge and price comparison tools available online while browsing for goods. At the same time, they still getting the chance to see and feel the product before buying it. Buying in-store also means that they avoid paying shipping costs and having to wait for delivery. You can also benefit from easier returns and the advantage of in-store loyalty schemes.

What is showrooming?

Showrooming is when a consumer buys a product online after visiting a physical store to research their purchase. The benefit of this is that they get to experience the tangible properties of the product – how it looks and feels – to help inform their decision. They also have the opportunity to gain additional information from the store staff. Customers will then shop for the product online while potentially paying less with online promotions or discount codes.

How can retailers cater to these new shopping habits?

Different customers will have different preferences when it comes to how they shop. A generational gap has been noted with these shopping habits. Baby boomers are more likely to shop in-store, while younger generations and millennials will more likely prefer to shop online.

To help cater to these different habits, retailers need to make it easy for their customers to switch between online and offline channels. Omni-channel retail marketing provides consumers with more choice of where they interact with and buy from their favorite brands.

Brick-and-mortar retailers face the problem that they might be losing customers to showrooming. These shoppers are browsing in their stores and then going online to buy from a competitor. To combat this, retailers can encourage in-store purchases with discounts and promotions exclusively available in-store.

Retailers should also take advantage of the benefits of shopping in-store compared to shopping online. Visiting a physical store is all about the experience. So, retailers should focus on offering a positive and unique customer shopping experience with in-store events or attractions. Retail stores also have the benefit of having face-to-face interactions with their customers. It is important for staff to be friendly and well-informed about the products so they can provide customers with all the help they need.

Learning more about the shopping habits of your customers can help you develop a strategy on how to cater to them effectively.