Retailers panicked when they first discovered showrooming: consumers visiting brick and mortar stores to check out Webrooming in action.merchandise before buying it online.

Now they may be facing a happier reality: webrooming. It is defined as shoppers buying products instore after exploring them online. Even better, webrooming is more prevalent than showrooming.

Who Webrooms?

Those who webroom make up 70% of smartphone owners between 18 and 67 years old. Surprisingly, it’s almost equally popular across age groups. Men are more likely than women to search online before buying instore by a margin of about twelve percentage points.

A smaller percentage of shoppers showroom. And, it is highly dependent on age, with younger consumers showrooming substantially more than older ones.

Why Are They Webrooming?

The vast majority of shoppers who spend time online before buying products instore do so to identify different options, learn more product details, and compare prices.

Consumers’ decisions to purchase instore after searching the Internet is driven by four key factors: they do not want to pay for shipping (47%), they want to touch and feel the product before they buy it (46%), they want to be able to return it instore (37%), and they do not want to wait for delivery (23%).

What Products Are Webroomed?

Many consumers have set online shopping limits for themselves. The majority will not spend more than $150 for an item online, and women tend to have lower limits than men. As a result, higher ticket items are more likely to be webroomed than showroomed.

Americans have pretty strong preferences for where they would like to purchase different categories. For grocery shopping, 89% in a physical store. About three quarters prefer bricks and mortar locations for health/beauty items and appliance purchases.

Consumers are almost equally split between preferring to buy all types of electronics, including mobile phones and computers, online and instore.

Does Mobile Impact Webrooming?

Local smartphone searches play a key role in webrooming. Research shows that about 60% of local mobile searches lead directly to brick and mortar sales.

Smartphones are also used extensively by shoppers to check product availability before they trek to the store.

What Is the Financial Impact of Webrooming?

Forrester estimates that webrooming positively impacted $1.2 trillion of retail sales in 2012, and that will increase to $1.8 trillion by 2017. These figures dwarf the expected total 2017 ecommerce sales of $370 billion.

However, webrooming tends to reduce retailers’ margins. Over a third of consumers who webroom have asked a brick and mortar outlet to match the best price they found online.

How Can You Take Advantage of Webrooming?

To maximize the impact of webrooming and minimize that of showrooming, companies must take an omnichannel, integrated, consumer focused approach to selling. To get started:

  • Align prices across all your channels. Nothing frustrates consumers more than seeing a different price instore than the one they just found online.
  • Offer price matching. Selling an item at a discount is better than not making the sale.
  • Accept instore returns from all channels. Consumers vastly prefer returning items in person, and a return trip can be converted into a new purchase by smart instore marketing.
  • Shorten checkout lines. Almost 20% of consumers who showroomed and then bought online from another company did so to avoid waiting in line to make their purchase.