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'Webrooming' beats 'showrooming' this holiday season

By MICHELLE GROENKE, United Press International   |   Dec. 8, 2013 at 6:01 AM   |   Comments

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"Webrooming" -- researching a product online before going to the store to make the actual purchase -- appears to be the shopping trend to watch this season, according to retail analysts who say brick-and-mortar retailers are finally getting the hang of e-commerce.

While last Christmas was all about "showrooming" -- shoppers going to a store to check out a product but then heading home to buy the item online -- shoppers this year are more likely to buy in the store, a Harris Poll indicates.

Nearly half of U.S. consumers (46 percent) say they've showroomed, but an even higher proportion (69 percent) say they've webroomed.

The findings were based on an online survey of 2,250 adults Nov. 13-18.

John Talbott, associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Retailing at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, said brick-and-mortar retailers have learned how to play the e-commerce game.

"The reality is the Internet is now as much a part of how these retailers interface with their consumers as their stores," Talbott said in a release.

He said e-commerce is actually helping stores like Kohl's, Macy's, Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods.

"In all the cases listed above, e-commerce is by far the biggest 'location,' if you will, for all of these players," he said. "These stores are essentially now using 'showrooming' techniques to display goods to consumers and are indifferent about whether the consumers buy in their stores or on their website."

While Amazon is building warehouses to put merchandise closer to consumers, major retailers already have stores in close proximity to their customers "and are rapidly building capability to deliver from these locations," he said.

The Harris Poll found Walmart (24 percent) and Best Buy (21 percent) are the top destinations for showroomers, followed by Target (9 percent).

Amazon is the clear winner when it comes to showrooming, the survey suggests. Roughly 6-in-10 showroomers (59 percent) said Amazon is the online retailer they most frequently purchase from after visiting a store. Walmart was a distant second at 6 percent.

Amazon is also the biggest source of information for people who do their research online before heading to the store, with 48 percent of webroomers naming it as the website they most often visit to examine a product before purchasing it in-store. Walmart, however, wins when it comes to webroomers. The survey found 26 percent of webrooming shoppers head to Walmart to make their purchase, followed by Best Buy (11 percent) and Target (11 percent).

"Walmart seems to be most successful at transitioning their online visitors into in-store purchasers, as two-thirds (67 percent) of those webroomers who typically do their investigating at Walmart online say they usually go on to make their in-store purchases at a Walmart brick and mortar store," Harris Interactive said.

"When it comes to the battle for consumers' holiday shopping dollars, all retailers are upping their games," said Mike de Vere, president of the Harris Poll.

"Want to skip the crowded stores this holiday shopping season? Online is a clear answer. Feel better about being able to take your purchase home with you immediately? Brick and mortar stores have you covered," he said in a statement.

The survey found shoppers prefer buying books online (41 percent), but go to big box retailers for appliances, electronics, computers and pet supplies. Shopper said they prefer to buy clothing, shoes and cellphones in-store at retail chains.

Ebay has dubbed the second Monday in December "Green Monday," a reference to its best day before Christmas.

Last year, Green Monday reached $1.275 billion in spending, making it the third-highest online shopping day of the 2012 holiday season, according to comScore data. This year should see at least $1.5 billion in spending, comScore told UPI.

In honor of the day, Walmart says it has brought back 10 of its most popular deals from Black Friday weekend.

"The second Monday in December ... was Walmart.com's highest traffic day in December for two years running, and has always been one of the highest trafficked days of the year," Joel Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Walmart.com U.S., said in a statement.

RetailMeNot.com's Trae Bodge says Green Monday is known to be a great time to find discounts on toys, winter apparel and holiday-themed merchandise.

"We also usually see deals in the food/wine space ... so we wouldn't be surprised to see some deals in those areas trickle in [over] the next day or two," Bodge said Friday.

Gallup said general consumer spending appears to be up this holiday season. Consumers reported spending an average $100 per day during Thanksgiving week, the highest of any Thanksgiving week of the past six years, although not unusually high for 2013. Gallup said spending averaged $104 a day in the week ending Aug. 11, and was in the high $90 range for several weeks in July.

"Spending appears to be continuing at a high level through Tuesday of the week after Thanksgiving, suggesting that holiday spending this year may be spread out rather than concentrated on just one day, such as Black Friday," Gallup said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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