What is “webrooming”? The term, coined by Wired Magazine, refers to the practice of shoppers relying on browsing virtual showrooms to do their product research over brick-and-mortar locations. According to the publication, 69 percent of 18-36 year-old smartphone owners have webroomed, while only half have “showroomed”, and the number only gets higher for older shoppers.
What does this mean in practice? It means a longer sales cycle and less foot traffic at brick-and-mortar stores—a few years ago, foot traffic in American malls was observed to have dropped by 50 percent. It also means that more mobile shoppers use their device to browse—not to buy. Even though people reportedly touch their phones 2,167 times per day, studies show adult shoppers spend 59 percent of their time browsing on phones rather than desktops—and only 15 percent of their dollars on mobile.
Why is Webrooming not Leading to Web Purchases?
Online shopping continues to have well-known logistical challenges. Recent studies suggest that 62 percent of American shoppers find shipping costs to be a significant deterrent to online shopping. The same study shows that 55 percent of Canadian shoppers prefer to see or touch products in-store, and 40 percent of Canadian shoppers are too impatient to wait for shipping.
Mobile shopping itself, at least in the West, also has limitations when compared to the more mature mobile experience in the Asia Pacific region. According to recent studies, 31 percent of mobile shoppers are concerned about security, preferring to make payments via desktop or in person. Another survey suggests that 41 percent of shoppers are concerned about Wi-Fi connectivity and another 27 percent express are concerned about mobile connectivity—a dropped connection could mean a botched transaction, double purchases, and other headaches.
Turning Mobile Traffic into Mobile Sales
Though the challenge seems steep, mobile merchants have options, which range from short-term to long-term. The most obvious is improving the mobile shopping experience, optimizing mobile landing pages for conversion, cutting page load times and using attractive, colorful product images that catch the eye.
Online to Offline
Online-to-offline is a powerful strategy that e-commerce leaders are already exploring. This means not simply focusing on a brick-and-mortar retail strategy, which may not hold as America looks to close1/3 of its shopping malls. But it also means not simply focusing on online-only operations. This is why Amazon has gone into brick-and-mortar with bookstores as well as with grocery stores with the acquisition of Whole Foods. Google points out that 3/4 of smartphone users performing a local search actually visit a physical store location within 24 hours… and 28 percent of those searches convert to actual purchases.
Shopping with Google
Google itself offers a powerful way to ensure marketers’ messages hit home with relevant prospects—paid search marketing, a multi-billion-dollar industry that connects user intent with relevant ad results. More specifically, Google offers a channel for retailers known as Google Shopping, which features image-based Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which have shown phenomenal results in 2016 with no signs of slowing down—with clicks up 171 percent, sales up 164 percent and revenue up 52 percent. They also enjoy gigantic real estate on Google search engine results pages (SERP)—try it yourself by doing a search on Google for any product plus your ZIP code on your mobile device. You’ll note that the product ads dominate the page real estate, completely crowding out even the #1 organic search results.
While mobile commerce is still a developing channel, there exist powerful opportunities for marketers who explore new strategies and channels—particularly clicks-to-bricks and search-based channels.