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Mobile Shopping Tips: Showrooming Out, Webrooming In

Mobile Commerce Insider Featured Article

November 04, 2014

Mobile Shopping Tips: Showrooming Out, Webrooming In

By Stefania Viscusi
Assignment Desk Editor

Shoppers today – regardless of age - are armed with an important tool that is changing the dynamics of retailing and marketing. First there was the Internet, which changed shoppers into consumers who made more informed buying decisions and couldn’t be as easily sold.

But that took time. You’d either have to hear about a product, or see it in the store, then remember to go home and do some research about how it worked, maybe read or watch some reviews about it and then comparison shop a couple of stores to see who had the best deal.

While there were many who took this kind of shopping seriously, there we’re still others who just couldn’t be bothered by the extra hassle, or would rather just pick up an item while they were there in the store already shopping.

Now however, with the proliferation of mobile devices and better mobile Internet speeds, just about everyone is shopping smarter. This could spell success or disaster depending on whether or not retailers and marketers adapt offerings and tactics to deliver to this new kind of consumer.

New research from GfK shows that across 17 countries, people are now combining online and in-person shopping not just for big ticket items – but even for small low-value purchases to make sure they are always getting the best deal.

Also, the use of mobile devices and smartphones to conduct this shopping is on the rise with shopping from a home PC or laptop online dropping from 78 percent to 63 percent in just the last year.

Use of Smartphones and Tablets for Online Shopping

(Incidents in Past 6 Months)

Generation Z

(18 to 24)

Generation Y

(25 to 34)

Generation X

(35 to 49)


(50 to 68)


21% (+8*)

25% (+11)

15% (+7)

7% (+4)


9% (+2)

10% (NC)

11% (+5)

10% (+8)

* Percentage point change versus 2013

Source (News - Alert): GfK “FutureBuy 2014”

The above table shows not only the rise in smartphone shopping, but also displays the usage by Generation. Where both Generation Z and Y are using their actual mobile phones to shop and more Gen. X and Baby Boomers are using tablet devices to do their shopping.

The 2014 FutureBuy Shopping study also found that people are no longer relying on a tactic called smartphone “showrooming” – where they would visit an actual brick-and-mortar store to see a product and then return home to shop for the product and buy it via their smartphone.  In the U.S., this style of shopping actually dropped from 37 percent to just 28 percent of shoppers in 2014.

Instead, “webrooming” is now becoming the popular way to shop across Generations and is something retailers and marketers should pick up on quickly (especially with the big shopping season approaching) if they want to capitalize on the trend.

Webrooming is when a consumer goes to the brick-and-mortar location specifically to purchase a product they have already researched online using their smartphone. Forty-one percent of the research’s respondents reported doing this.

Showrooming versus Webrooming Using a Smartphone

(% reporting behavior in past 6 months)

Generation Z

(18 to 24)

Generation Y

(25 to 34)

Generation X

(35 to 49)


(50 to 68)











Source: GfK “FutureBuy 2014”

It turns out most U.S. shoppers are now becoming “Omni-channel” shoppers too, and doing a combination of  both in-person and online shopping – up seven percentage points from 2013. Leading the Omni-channel shopping experience are people purchasing Home Improvement, Auto and OTC medications – up 19, 14 and 12 points respectively from 2013.

U.S. respondents also said they chose to make their purchases at actual physical locations because they liked to see the and feel the products before they bought them and wanted to have the products in their possession sooner - without having to deal with any possible return hassles.

Still, those who chose to purchase from an online venue said they like the ease, ability to save even more money and having a wider selection of goods than what is only on the shelves in stores.

“The big take away from this year’s FutureBuy study is how dynamic the shopper environment has become,” said Joe Beier, Executive Vice President of GfK’s Shopper and Retail Strategy team in North America.

“We are seeing double-digit point changes in metrics designed to measure relatively foundational behaviors, such as Omni-channel and devices used to shop. This volatility, combined with significant variability in shopper behavior by category and generation, makes it even more imperative that manufacturers and marketers build out an up-to-date and nuanced shopper insights platform, from which highly engaging and relevant programming can be developed. Without these insights, brands are simply in ‘hit-or-miss’ mode in execution; and, given how fast this space is moving, that is not going to be a formula for marketplace success going forward.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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