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Tech Guest Viewpoint - Make Room for ‘Webrooming’ in Your Store


By James Han, Tyco Retail Solutions

This holiday season consumers have a long wish list of what they want from retailers both big and small – mobile coupons, price matching, rapid site-to-store pick up, loyalty rewards, readily available merchandise, easy checkout process and more. The demand for instant gratification has never been higher, prompting retailers to prepare for a new shopping trend that’s emerging as a faster, more convenient and increasingly popular way for customers to shop for the holidays – “Webrooming.”

Beyond Showrooming

Compared to “showrooming,” where shoppers physically go research items in the store, then go home and order online for the best deal, “webrooming” allows shoppers to find what they’re looking for online and then pick it up at a time and location that’s convenient for them. Instead of browsing aisles packed with holiday customers, heading home to place an order online, paying for shipment, and then waiting for delivery (which may or may not make it in time), Webrooming reverses the showrooming model.

Consumers find the merchandise they want at the price they want online, place an order, and then pick up the item in-store. This level of simplicity is particularly appealing to holiday shoppers in a time crunch. It provides the convenience of online shopping while eliminating shipping fees and delivery. This type of digital shopping also provides consumers the ability to see and touch items before taking them home, avoiding disappointed shoppers and unwanted returns.

Webrooming is expected to go far beyond the 2015 holiday season. Forrester estimates that this practice will result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017 alone and is proving to be especially popular with the Millennia generation, surpassing “showrooming.” A recent report by Merchant Warehouse states that 69% of people with smart phones aged 18-36 have “webroomed,” while only 50% have showroomed. This combination of digital and in-store shopping is a global retail phenomenon. Webrooming has quickly gained popularity across North America and other parts of the world, as evident with “click and collect” transactions in Europe.

If managed correctly, Webrooming can lead to significant gains for retailers. Macy’s CEO, Terry Lundgren, recently stated that for every “buy online, pick-up in store” order, the customer spends on average 125% of the intended order amount when they come to pick-up in store. But with this retail model, there’s no room for customer disappointment due to broken pick-up promises or unfulfilled orders.

Capitalizing on this opportunity for profit and greater customer satisfaction will only work if the retailer’s online inventory correctly represents the available in-store merchandise quantities. This accurate inventory visibility must be available to the store associates as well as the online and mobile shoppers. Visibility into on-hand inventory will entice customers into the store for the available merchandise they’re shopping for and potentially more.

Enter RFID

Increasingly, RFID technology has been successfully deployed to address this very scenario. With RFID-based inventory visibility solutions, retailers can accurately track inventory throughout all channels – in all stores and online – easily conducting regular item inventory counts and reliably generating replenishment alerts to help maintain inventory accuracy, to nearly 100% in some cases.

Accurate inventory visibility increases on floor availability, reduces out-of-stocks, and frees store associates to spend more time with customers and less time on inventory tasks. RFID-based inventory management solutions are critical to ensuring holiday customers can come into the store and find what they want instead of walking away empty handed and disappointed.

Today’s shoppers are more discerning, empowered, and time-strapped than ever before. This holiday season, retailers need to be prepared to meet shoppers’ needs at this most critical juncture. Ensuring inventory accuracy, availability, and visibility – powered by RFID – is a key component to retailer’s success as they address evolving customer demands across every channel – from Webrooming to showrooming and every holiday shopping trend in between.

James Han is VP, Marketing and Product Management, Tyco Retail Solutions
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