Look Out, Amazon: More Shoppers Browse Online, Then Purchase in Stores

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In the retail world, there’s tons of talk about so-called showrooming, when shoppers use real-world stores for browsing and websites for purchasing the goods inspected in person. According to a new survey, however, more shoppers do just the opposite.

The opposite of showrooming — purchasing an item in a physical store after conducting research about it online — has been dubbed by retail insiders as webrooming. And while the average consumer has never heard of the term, plenty plan on engaging in the practice.

According to a new poll conducted by Accenture, 65% of consumers said they would browse holiday purchases online that they would ultimately buy in person at a store. A slightly smaller proportion (62%) said they would partake in showrooming — browsing goods in stores before searching for them at cheaper prices on the Web.

Consumers are drawn to webrooming as a way to avoid shipping costs, fulfill their need for immediate gratification, and avoid some of the guesswork related to purchasing something they can’t physically touch and inspect in person. What’s more, because a growing number of brick-and-mortar-based retailers are now willing to match prices on identical items with Amazon and other major e-retailers, shoppers can enjoy the best of both worlds via webrooming: they take advantage of the online reviews, research and low prices offered by Amazon and the Web, as well as the convenience, service, expediency and tangibility of the real-world shopping experience.

A recent Minyanville post pointed out that Best Buy — which made its online-price-matching policy permanent as a counterattack to showrooming — could be a major beneficiary to the webrooming trend. Toys “R” Us and Target have also announced permanent price-matching programs, and Staples is among the retailers that plan on matching prices with e-retailers at least during the peak November-December holiday shopping period.

(MORE: Why Retailers Have Stopped Freaking Out About Showrooming)

Interestingly, the group of consumers that appears most interested in webrooming is also the group that has grown up with online shopping. Research indicates that webrooming is far more popular than showrooming among millennials. In one survey, 50% of millennials said they prefer buying in store after doing research online, as opposed to only 11% who indicated they like buying online after checking out goods in real stores.

Millennials, it must be noted, don’t assume that the cheapest prices are on the Web, once factors such as coupons, in-store specials and price-matching policies are considered. And they’re not making these assumptions blindly. Millennials are the prototypical “omniconsumers,” which is what researchers from the Vantiv payment-processing firm calls shoppers who browse, research and buy across all tech and real-world channels, and who expect a seamless, consistent shopping experience regardless of the medium.

Omniconsumer is another one of these retail terms that the average person doesn’t use, and probably has never heard of. Regardless, that average shopper today is an omniconsumer, and during the upcoming holiday period in particularly he’ll be webrooming, showrooming and maybe even engaging in a few other practices that retailers haven’t named yet.