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Don’t know your webrooming from your showrooming? You should!

Abacus Solutions explores how, as an independent retailer, you can really make ‘online’ work for you!

Here at Abacus, web designers specifically for furniture retailers, we understand that this is a very tricky area to address. When we started to think about how we could really force online to work positively for furniture independents, we knew we had to do our research…so we did. We discovered a few internet insights that might well prove useful to you and your business- let us take the time to let you in on what we now know.

As a ‘Bricks and Mortar’ store owner, you have it rough; rental charges, wages, utility bills and additional overheads…it all adds up. Hence the reason why actual retail outlets can struggle to compete on price with their online counterparts. Add to this the unfortunate fact that footfall through stores is decreasing and consumers are increasingly reliant on smart phones and the internet to browse in an altogether different way to consumer habits of even ten years ago. We’ve all been there- cursing the customer who walks in the store, only to carry out a price comparison on his iPhone, haggling your profit out of existence! We know the difficulties but forewarned is forearmed- how can you overcome the potential pitfalls and make the web work for you? Understanding customer wants and internet habits are the preliminary steps.

So, on to the research… Google have invested an awful lot of time and money into understanding consumer behavior in order to optimize the online shopping experience. They discovered that a whopping 43% of shoppers reported leaving an actual store frustrated due to a lack of information. Leading on from this, a huge 71% felt that their smartphone proves vital for the purpose of research and obtaining information before committing to and making a purchase. Consider that: the online experience for consumers revolves largely around the desire to obtain product information. Even the most pessimistic retailer would be able to see the potential and possibilities that this offers.

Further positive news is that three out of four shoppers who find local information in search results helpful are more likely to visit stores. Shoppers are inspired to visit ‘bricks and mortar stores’ after successfully obtaining information such as: in-store availability, store location, opening hours or pricing. But when that information isn't available, shoppers may stay away. 25% of shoppers reported steering clear of a local retailer altogether if availability is dubious. Therefore, an up-to-date and highly informative website is likely to drive footfall your way. Simple.

Now onto the bit we really like: webrooming and showrooming! Never heard of them? Let us fill in the gaps! Being aware of these two concepts could really help you improve the success of your site and increase your online potential.

Showrooming- is that made up? Far from it! This is the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional ‘concrete’ retail store or other offline setting, and then buying it online, sometimes at a lower price. The reverse phenomenon is webrooming: when ‘webrooming’, customers research a product online, then buy in a store.

Given some thought, questions come to mind. If customers ‘showroom’ in our stores - why don’t they then purchase from our website? Conversely, if that customer is ‘webrooming’, what is stopping them from getting into our stores? Basically then, the conclusions are simple. A ‘showrooming’ customer needs to be guided from your actual store back onto your online store whilst a ‘webrooming’ customer needs to be given all the information possible in order to entice them into your actual store.

Given the existence of these two very different types of shopper, the conclusions are increasingly obvious. For independent furniture retailers, the website and shop floor experience need to be seamlessly woven together. This is what we refer to as ‘Omni-Channel’ marketing- basically meaning that the instore experience works in harmony with, and alongside, the actual shopping experience. John Lewis have proved an expert in this field, ensuring that whether you are a ‘webroomer’ or a ‘showroomer’, you achieve exactly what you set out to do. Feed into this the potential offered by media such as Facebook and Twitter, and you can see just how far- reaching the potential.

But how exactly can you manage this? For a simple starting point, ensure that your website is up-to-date and well managed. Are your prices accurate? Is stock availability easy to obtain? Are your product pages explanatory and are product images of good quality? All these areas will encourage those webroomers either into your store or to fill up their cyber carts! Consider using your website to generate your in-store brochure and use ipads to allow consumers to access your online catalogue while in store. Your typical showroomer will love the fact that they can be in the store AND browse online at the same time!

We know that the internet and online retail can seem an unmanageable threat to many independents but it really does not have to be like that. Knowing how people use the internet and making some simple changes can be the answer to making the most of your online presence. If you are looking for further insights or ideas, feel free to contact us at the address below.

E. Barker & Son (Hillsboro) Limited
Reg. Office: 39 Burton Street, SHEFFIELD, S6 2HH
Reg No: 254789
VAT No: 172 4086 69