Webrooming on the rise, physical stores take back sales

Post-recession shoppers, on the hunt for good bargains, are increasingly webrooming when they shop—studying prices and products online, then purchasing in a physical store.

In fact, P.K. Kannan, Ralph J. Tyser professor of marketing science, University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, predicts that mall and store traffic is going to increase and threaten online sales volumes.

The contrasting shopping strategy, showrooming—browsing in-store then purchasing online—has also become a trend, forcing retailers such as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) to open stores for the holidays.

"In recent years, we've heard a lot about showrooming shifting the sales of big ticket items from offline to online stores. Such items, especially electronics, remain popular with holiday shoppers, so this trend continues. Consequently, offline retailers selling branded, standard products will continue to see sales volumes being eaten away by cheaper online stores," said Kannan.

Even digital-savvy millennials prefer webrooming to showrooming by 5 percent.

However, in the long-run, Kannan predicts that showrooming will decrease as webrooming increases, especially around the holidays. Physical stores will benefit from the volume shift and the reasons, he said, are two-fold: One, the price difference between online and offline will decrease as taxes become the norm for online purchases, in addition to shipping costs. And in fact, holiday-season consumers will want immediate possession of the items.

The second reason for this consumer shift is attributed to consumers wanting to try on and test the quality of products more and more.

"The pendulum is swinging back, at least for now, to the offline retailers. Consequently, webrooming should be a real concern for online retailers especially during the holiday season," said Kannan.

At this year's Shop.org Summit, Healy Cypher, head of retail innovation, eBay, opened one breakout session by listing some staggering facts about the progress of digital. He noted that as many as 72 percent of consumers are showrooming and 78 percent are webrooming.

For more:
-See this University of Maryland press release

Related stories:
Mobile payments, in-store tracking among key trends to watch  
Study: Teens prefer shopping in stores
Shoppers reject in-store tracking by retailers
NRF: Retail spending for Super Bowl will hit record high 
Kmart, Sears, American Apparel voted least engaging brands