Around the world, consumers are taking the reigns when it comes to how shopping experiences are changing. In the UK, a growing percentage of buyers are moving more toward e-commerce as their go-to purchasing channel. Recent studies show that online shopping now accounts for just under 20% of all retail purchases made in the UK. That trend is likely to continue over the coming years, as stores and consumers adapt to new ways of doing business.
While many retailers see this shift as a threat to the viability of their business models, there are opportunities in the changing preferences of British shoppers. An estimated four out of ten British consumers state that an in-person store visit is still an essential part of the shopping journey. To ensure brick-and-mortar retailers still have a place in the modern world, it is essential to understand how consumers are combining digital and in-person experiences to fulfill their buying needs.
Webrooming and Showrooming Take Center Stage
Many buzzwords exist in today’s digital business world, but two significant terms cannot and should not be ignored by retailers. Webrooming and showrooming are tactics used by British consumers to make the most of their buying experiences, although each process takes a different path for both the consumer and the retailer.
Webrooming is the strategy of conducting online research about a product from a variety of e-commerce and traditional retail outlets. Consumers compare pricing, read customer reviews, and gather other pertinent details about an item they wish to buy before making a purchase. Webrooming relies heavily on a digital presence for retailers, but the purchase of the researched item is ultimately made in-store.
Showrooming is the opposite. Instead of conducting research online first, consumers visit a brick-and-mortar location to get a real feel for the product they intend to purchase. Once they have that experience, they then retreat online to find the product at the best price through the maze of online retailers offering it. Recent reports show that nearly 30% of British consumers are now taking to showrooming for their buying experience – a call to action for physical retailers around the country.
Actionable Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Stores
Both webrooming and showrooming may present as detriments to the conventional retail store with a physical location and a minimal online presence. However, savvy retailers can use each to their advantage to keep British consumers buying. One of the most important strategies for combatting webrooming as well as showrooming is the inclusion of the retailer’s products on a leading price comparison website in the UK. Sites that offer price comparisons of products give consumers the upper hand, allowing them to review product details, price points with various stores, and gather invaluable information through customer reviews. Retailers that are not listed on price comparison websites may miss out on British buyers relying on the sites for their buying direction.
Above and beyond price comparison sites, retailers should focus some of their energy on building a stronger online presence. Many younger British consumers feel as though retailer websites are not easy to use. If a buyer cannot quickly find what they are looking for, understand shipping or in-store pick-up options, or see return or exchange policies online, a retailer may have lost that customer for good. Boosting an online presence is necessary, as is ensuring a mobile site for consumers is well-adapted to today’s buyer behaviours.
Finally, retailers may need to implement a stronger in-store experience that engages consumers from start to finish. Many consumers still use an in-person visit to a retailer as part of their purchase decision. When associates are knowledgeable about products and pricing, when the store floor is clean and organised, and wait times are minimal, consumers are likely to come back for their shopping needs. Retailers that struggle with these issues must create a plan to improve the in-store experience if they want to keep up with e-commerce competitors.
The British buying experience still relies heavily on traditional retailers, but consumers are continually pushing the envelope in terms of the shopping journey they want and need. The brick-and-mortar retailers who are up for the challenge include those who utilise price comparison websites, implement a multi-channel strategy for engaging buyers, and create an in-store experience that is second to none.