By Mark Kersteen - September 11th, 2015

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'-Rooming' isn't a surprising trend, it's the natural progression of customer behavior, and it's something marketers can capitalize on.

There’s been plenty of handwringing among retailers such as Best Buy, Costco, Macy’s, et cetera about webrooming and showrooming. Neither are new or surprising developments, and both show where brands are falling short, and where they’ll be able to excel in the future.

Webrooming is when you look up a product online, then go to buy it in-store. Showrooming is when you look at a product in a store, then go buy it online (often from somewhere else). They’re buzzwords for two pretty common things that most customers don’t even know have buzzwords attached to them.

According to Merchant Warehouse, 69 percent of 18-36 year-old’s have webroomed, and half have showroomed. The percentages are close to identical for the 37-48 demographic, 71 percent versus 53.

Clearly, both behaviors are crucial if you’re a retailer. Each one can lead to you losing money or an entire sale. However, both are just the growing pains caused by evolving customers. They don’t mean anything, besides that customers use the internet on their phones sometimes.

The way for brands to stave off any threat to their business is to simply be where their customers are and give them what they’re asking for. Offer strong in-store experiences, personalized deals, connect in-store and online shopping, ensure products are easy to search for and learn about, and make returns, exchanges, and shipping cheap or free.

However, that’s all baseline stuff. Each brand should be prioritizing every one of those things. They’re the natural progression of an interconnected world, and customers have come to expect all of it.

The way to stand out will be through mobile.

Mobile usage continues to rise. Webrooming and showrooming are an example of customers using technology to define their experience with a brand. They go into a store, find a product they don’t have much information on, and use the tools at their disposal to find more. That, or they’ve found something online, but want to see it in person without having to wait. Brands that want to get an edge need to be more a part of this journey.

What does that mean? Brands need to be improving the digital mobile customer experience themselves if they want to benefit from -rooming of any kind. Here are some ideas:

  • Cover your bases: Automatically display where the nearest place to buy a product is when you’re browsing online. 
  • Connect loyalty programs to mobile: Like Starbucks, have your rewards card and account pop up when you walk into a store. 
  • Augment the experience in-store: Make it easy to find products once you’ve marked them online, and make reviews and other info easy to find while browsing (like Target).
  • Just for you: provide special offers just to customers based on their preferences, habits, and how close they are to a store.

These won’t apply to every brand and every store. But, it’s innovation in this space that is going to set companies apart. Spamming ads and endless email offers aren’t the future for marketing. It’s using digital in a way that’s simple, smart, and indispensable. Doing just pieces of each have given Target, Home Depot, and Starbucks a massive edge, and as mobile usage passes its tipping point, these strategies will become essential.

Keep in mind: Showrooming and webrooming are two halves of the same coin. Providing an excellent digital and in-store experience is the only way to capitalize on both. -Rooming is the product of customers just using their common sense to access information and tools that are readily available. Instead of fretting over them, brands need to enable customers and make these processes even easier. Neither are threats—they’re opportunities.

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