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Is ‘Omni-shopping’ The Future Of Retailing?

November 28, 2013BY AMS Editor

An omni-channel strategy can help retailers connect with consumers in a variety of ways, including in person or via an e-commerce website.

According to an article on the Time magazine website, a study has found that buyers are behaving in a way that challenges the notion that online-only vendors such as Amazon maintain an edge over brick-and-mortar stores.

The concept of “showrooming” — in which consumers check out products in stores but then make purchases through an e-commerce website — gets a lot of attention in the retail world.

But new research indicates the opposite is becoming more common. According to the Time article, more shoppers are now engaging in “webrooming,” in which they research products online, and then make purchases in person. A study by Accenture found that 65 percent of holiday shoppers plan to webroom, as opposed to 62 percent who plan to showroom.

It’s understandable that consumers would start to move from “showrooming” to “webrooming.” The only really compelling reason to showroom has been the ability to inspect a product in person before going online to get it cheaper.

Now that brick-and-mortar stores have removed the online advantage with price matching, the consumer might as well complete the purchase on the spot to avoid shipping costs and get real-time shopping gratification.

However, the real trend is not the shift from “showrooming” to “webrooming,” but rather the shift from “showrooming” to “omni-shopping.” Just as there are advantages to researching products online prior to buying, there are also advantages to touching and feeling the product in anticipation of a purchase. As a result, retailers really need to be able to do it all.

Here is where the brick-and-mortar retailers might have an advantage. From a capital expenditure standpoint, it would be easier for them to extend their business model to include an e-commerce website than for e-commerce-only vendors to open up shops in multiple physical locations.

With that being said, the trend really does vary by product. For example, there’s usually no reason to visit a physical store to buy computer hardware or software. On the other hand, consumers are more comfortable buying clothing in person because they can touch, feel and — more importantly — try the clothing on.

The bottom line is that there is a continuum in play in retail, and where a retailer chooses to operate is largely dependent upon its industry. One size doesn’t fit all. However, if a company is in an industry appropriate for omni-channel retailing, then that company needs to be able to play in all areas and the playing field needs to be even.

Source: Time magazine, October 2013

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