Turning Showrooming on its Ear

A new word has entered the retail lexicon. The opposite of the well-known practice of showrooming (where consumers shop a products at brick-and-mortar stores, only to purchase them online for a discount), the term "webrooming" recently popped up in the 2013 US Holiday Shopping Survey from Accenture, a global business consulting firm. It refers to the practice of first being exposed to a product online, then finding and purchasing that item in a physical store location, and according to the survey, 65% of shoppers indicate that they are at least "somewhat likely" to give it a try this holiday season. This is hopefully good news for pet store owners and operators, who have experienced more showrooming than they care to think about over the past several years.

However, pet specialty retailers cannot simply sit back and wait for online browsers to come through the front door. Taking advantage of the webrooming trend will, in fact, take some effort. Given that these shoppers are typically first learning about products online, it is important that pet stores try to engage them on the Internet. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways.

First, if a product supplier offers a store locator on its website, pet specialty retailers should be sure to register their establishments with this service. And once the store is registered, be sure to go back and make sure that your address and other contact information is listed corrrectly. I have personally had several experiences where a so-called store locator listed a retail business at an address that wasn't even close to where it was actually located.

Beyond being included in vendors' store locators, it is also important that pet retalers have their own well-designed and maintained websites. As they do with products, the shoppers who will be webrooming this holiday are probably going to want to scope out a business on the Internet before making a trip to the store. And if one store has a lackluster, token website (or worse, no website at all), but another has, by comparison, a comprehensive Internet presence, which one do you think will win the business?

Will webrooming have the same impact as showrooming this holiday season and beyond? Only time will tell. But one thing is sure: those brick-and-mortar pet stores that position themselves correctly on the web are the ones that are most likely to benefit.