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Combining the ROPO effect and showrooming to produce a formula for success

Showrooming and ROPO effects create interactions between online and offline channels, which can be addressed holistically as part of a multichannel strategy.
Image: © Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock

Anxiety scenarios related to showrooming and webrooming are unfounded

The e-commerce boom has long been accompanied by the tangible anxiety scenario of showrooming within the brick-and-mortar retail sector. A scenario in which the browsing, searching and buying behavior of consumers is changing drastically and stores are now predominantly being used to get information and advice on products, but the purchase is made online at a later time. On the other hand, the opposite ROPO effect (research online, purchase offline) is proving to be a cause for concern for many online shop owners. “Webrooming” describes exactly the reverse process in which buyers obtain information on a product using the Internet first and then buy it in a brick-and-mortar store.

However, in practice, the specific impacts of these different buying habits are frequently not that far-reaching. For example, this is shown by the Omnishopper Study 2.0 conducted by UX researchers from Facit Digital and the connected commerce agency hmmh. The study highlights that the browsing, searching and buying behavior of consumers is dominated by the consistent use of one channel – i.e. either online or offline. In contrast, mixed forms such as showrooming and webrooming often only play a subordinate role in the usual habits of buyers.

ROPO effect is strongest in automotive, public transport, and household appliances

As part of their Omnishopper Study 2.0 on consumer behavior, Facit Digital and hmmh asked a representative sample of more than 1,250 people where they usually get information on products and services and where they ultimately purchase them. The results revealed that only 13 percent of those surveyed combine online research with offline purchasing. The ROPO effect measured in the following sectors was much higher than the average though:

  • Automotive: 28 percent
  • Public transport and travel tickets: 22 percent
  • Household appliances: 20 percent
  • Furniture: 19 percent
  • Consumer electronics (large): 19 percent

In contrast, the showrooming phenomenon, i.e. the habit of researching offline and then buying online, happens a lot less frequently, at four percent. This effect is most noticeable with luxury items and bank investments (at seven percent each) as well as clothing and pharmaceuticals (at six percent each).

Benefiting from interaction between the channels

Even though the ROPO effect and showrooming do not play a decisive role, they do highlight the strengths of the different channels with regard to the various needs of consumers. This is where the consolidation of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail reveals its great potential to effectively combine the two opposing processes along the customer journey. It’s not without reason that Zalando, for example, is increasingly relying on outlet stores in an attempt to link its online business with its offline retail so that it can leverage both the ROPO effect and showrooming effect by taking a holistic approach.

Channeling the ROPO effect: drawing on the strengths of brick-and-mortar retail in e-commerce

Such a multichannel approach with physical stores is not feasible for the majority of online retailers. Nevertheless, the ROPO effect can also be used for their own e-shops. The key to this lies in identifying the preferences and needs of consumers who normally favor buying offline because they can see and touch the product or want personal advice.

These specific needs of buyers, where brick-and-mortar retail would otherwise win out, need to be consistently addressed in your e-commerce. For example:

  • A professional and transparently designed web shop enables your customers to quickly find their way around and encourages them to explore your product world.
  • Augmented reality allows customers to virtually try on clothes or virtually arrange furniture in their home, thereby creating a digital showroom where products become tangible.
  • Professional product videos, 360-degree images, and high-quality photos also allow the range of products to be experienced online.
  • Meaningful and detailed product descriptions give buyers an easy and convenient overview of all relevant information.
  • Additional services, items or offers accompanying the product in question generate added value.
  • By giving customers the option to review products, they can share their recommendations, thereby increasing the credibility of your online shop.
  • Highly responsive, extensive, and personal customer service is essential for business success. How easily can consumers get in touch with your company? What are the processes for communicating with customers? Is there a live chat option? Where can consumers find information on payment and return options or delivery times?

Combining showrooming and ROPO effects in brick-and-mortar retail

Bringing together offline and online offerings presents numerous opportunities for brick-and-mortar retail with regard to successfully implementing innovative concepts. To make themselves more appealing to online buyers, local businesses also need to have a professional digital presence. Companies that branch out online not only create new touchpoints along the customer journey (through showrooming), but can also provide new incentives for in-store visits (through webrooming). Four approaches are well-suited for this:

  • Investing a sufficient amount of time in your online visibility: so that your customers are also drawn to your products online, it is important to have a good presence on the Internet and ensure that all the key information is easy to find, consistently accessible, and up to date. Aside from the web shop itself, the main focus in this respect should be on local marketing and social media as well as business directories and review platforms.
  • An effective way of strengthening your online presence is to make products that are available in-store easy to find online as well and to offer additional services. For example, the online presences of IKEA and the German electronics chain MediaMarkt let customers check the availability of products at individual stores. IKEA even goes one step further: handy shopping lists can be created online that take customers straight to where the products are located when they visit the store.
  • New channels increase your digital reach and create additional touchpoints for potential customers. Whether local Google ads, a new Instagram account, your own corporate blog, or digital brochure platforms – what channels will deliver the best performance depends on your individual circumstances and should therefore be carefully tested.
  • Additional incentives for an in-store visit, such as “click & collect”, i.e. picking up goods ordered online in a store, are gaining momentum in brick-and-mortar retail. They show how online customer acquisition can be combined with professional on-site service. The extent to which customers are embracing this all-encompassing approach was already demonstrated back in 2016 in a case study conducted by German clothing company Ernsting’s Family. The study found that 31 percent of click & collect customers did not just come to the store to pick up their orders, but also bought additional products while they were there.
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