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What is Webrooming? Boost Your Retail Sales

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(Posted on Jul 2, 2014 at 04:33AM by William Cosgrove)
By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media



Are you a small retailer in a cold sweat about showrooming? This trend where customers browse in-store but then buy products online, began striking fear into retailers’ hearts a few years ago.

Who wants customers coming in, trying on or feeling the products you offer, and then buying them at a deep discount from Amazon or some other site?

The trend was especially unsettling for small, independent retailers. While big national chains with huge volume may be able to afford to price-match online sellers, independents are less likely to be able to do so without losing their shirts.

But a new report from Merchant Warehouse suggests that instead of stressing about showrooming, small retailers should welcome “webrooming.”

What is Webrooming?

The reverse of showrooming, webrooming is when consumers research products online, then come into a physical store to buy them.

Webrooming is even hotter than showrooming – and it’s creating new opportunities for brick-and-mortar retail stores.

What You Need to Know About Webrooming

It’s more popular than showrooming.

Some 75 percent of men and 63 percent of women webroom, compared to 53 percent of men and 40 percent of women who showroom. By other demographic measures, such as age, consumers are also more likely to webroom than to showroom.

What might surprise you is to learn that consumers aged 18 to 36 are equally avid webroomers as those aged 49 to 67. Sixty-nine percent of both groups webroom, but only 50 and 44 percent respectively showroom. And while 90 percent of showroomers have also webroomed, just 60 percent of webroomers have showroomed.

Why Do Consumers Webroom?

Particularly when they could just as easily order a product online – why add that extra step?


  • 47 percent don’t want to pay for shipping. To make sure you capture the sale, try offering coupons good only for users who visit your site, then buy a product in-store. Or allow customers to order online and pick up in-store to save on shipping.
  • 46 percent want to see and touch a product before buying it. This is especially important with “sensory” products like home furnishings, clothing and cosmetics. Encourage customers to test products in-store, and create displays that are tactile and inviting.
  • 42 percent want to check in-store availability online - then go to the store so they don’t waste a trip. Look into an eCommerce system that has this capability for your store, and educate employees about the importance of making sure data is accurately maintained so customers aren’t disappointed.
  • 37 percent want to be able to return products to a physical store. You can capture both online and in-store sales to these consumers by offering the ability to buy online and return in-store.
  • 23 percent don’t want to wait for delivery. For those impatient consumers, be sure you have in-store availability information on your eCommerce site so they can check it out. Make sure that your clerks have accurate inventory info at hand in case the customers call the store as well.
The bad news is that 36 percent of consumers will ask you to price match online prices – so should you?

That’s up to you. Merchant Warehouse suggests doing it during especially competitive times, like the holidays. However, be aware that information spreads rapidly on social media today and if you price match for one person, he or she is likely to tell friends who will then expect the same treatment (and may badmouth you if they don’t get it).

If you do price match, you may want to set limits such as price matching one item per customer or deduct a certain percentage from the price without actually matching. That way, the customer is still getting a deal while also getting the product quickly.

Check out the graphic below for more.


[Click graphic above for larger version]

Choice: Giving customers too much of a good thing online

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(Posted on May 6, 2014 at 05:17AM by William Cosgrove)

In our latest ebook, “A Marketer’s Guide to UX: The ‘Invisible Elements That Fuel Success,” we explored how a website’s design, form and function affect the number of visitors who stick around to complete goals. What makes UX such an important subject is that it’s recently become more complex.

Twenty years ago, futurists were already trying to figure out what life in an online world would be like. Some of them, like author Michael Heim, assumed we’d all be living in a digital matrix, but their concerns about frames of reference, content and choice are now strikingly relevant.

Already, in the electric element, the need for stable channels of content and reliable processes of choice grows urgent. [...] Cyberspace without carefully laid channels of choice may become a waste of space.

The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality — Michael Heim

We don’t live in an immersive online reality yet (although Google Glass gives us a hint of where tech companies would like to go), but even though we’ve managed to confine cyberspace to screens on our desks or in the palms of our hands, some of the challenges futurologists worried about have come to pass.

The modern web needs to follow physical rules of design, information architecture and usability, just like a virtual world might. But there’s also the issue of choice. In both an immersive digital reality and today’s internet, how will you ever be able to make a choice if you can do anything, click anywhere and look at it all? This is an important hidden element of UX, and one that will impact all content marketing campaigns.

Marketing in the Matrix

The question of choice in marketing has its roots in the offline world. Susan Broniarczyk, a professor of marketing at UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business, first identified the phenomenon in her 2005 paper, “The deleterious Consumers have more choices than ever before, and it's up to marketers to give them direction.effects of living in consumer hyperchoice.” She identified purchasing paralysis as the consequence of:

  • Consumers making more purchases each year
  • People are choosing in a market with more new products than ever before
  • Individuals are subject to more demands for their attention
  • Buyers have less free time than in the past

When faced with this reality, many consumers simply stop shopping for items altogether. But don’t customers say, time and again, that choice and variety are one of the most important attributes a business can have?

Maximize & satisfy

Part of the issue may come down to a principle researcher Barry Schwartz describes in “The Tyranny of Choice.” He breaks down most consumers into two groups:

  1. Maximizers, who are determined to find the best product or service for the best value, and they won’t give up until they’ve found it. They value money over time. 
  2. Satisfiers, who will only spend so much time researching before they make a purchase. These customers are more concerned with time than money.

Part of the problem may lie in the fact that people don’t want to admit that they’re Satisfiers. The internet supposedly empowers people to make smart buying choices, so when asked, of course they’re going to say they’re skilled shoppers. But it may be true that ecommerce and online marketing are at their best when they save people time, rather than money.

You can’t choose your way out of a jam

Columbia University conducted a study of consumer choice by offering customers at a supermarket free samples. One set included 24 different flavors of jam, while another was only comprised of six types. While 60 percent of shoppers tasted from the 24-variety group, only 3 percent of them made purchases. Conversely, 40 percent of shoppers tried from the six flavors in the second group, but 30 percent of them bought jam.

With fewer choices and more design clarity, your traffic might be lighter, but it would lead to more purchases.

Think about these figures in terms of web traffic and goal completion. With fewer choices and more design clarity, your traffic might be lighter, but it would lead to more purchases.

UX: When not choosing is a chore

So what can marketers do? Here are some ways to carefully curate a web page to ensure it isn’t so open-ended that customers flee en masse.

  • Design: Don’t offer too many options

Brands that want people to buy should minimize the number of choices they give consumers.Websites should be visually clean, meaning that colors don’t clash, text is easy to read and all elements follow a clear optical hierarchy.

Don’t include a link to every part of a site from the homepage, or a landing page for that matter. It’s estimated that modern humans in industrialized society make more than 70 important choices every day – so try not to give customers too many more of them. Make it obvious where they should click, and limit the number of elements that are actually hyperlinks.

  • Information architecture: Front-load choices

According to a study by Stanford University, the closer people are to the conclusion of a task, the more choices will derail them. If there are options on a website, they should appear earlier in the purchasing or goal-completion process. For instance, don’t make consumers fill out half a dozen forms on separate pages just before a transaction is complete.

  • Usability: Set default options

A study of workplace retirement plans found that when employees were asked to make choices before plans took effect, only 9 percent ended up participating. However, when workers were allowed to opt-in with default settings in place, participation shot up to 24 percent.

If you want or need to make options available, you don’t have to make it a requirement. Instead, let the Maximizers make additional decisions while the Satisfiers simply click ‘OK.’

Digital UX: Only on screens…for now

We’re still a long way off from spending all of our time in an immersive digital simulation, Google Glass and the Oculus Rift notwithstanding. But even if we lived in a cyberpunk dystopia where it was impossible to tell when existence begins and virtual reality ends, the same rules would still apply: Visual design has to make sense, information needs to be organized and functions must work.

And too much choice is no choice at all.

By Alex Butzbach Marketing Writer at Brafton.

Fastest-growing Top 500 merchants give the customer what she wants

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(Posted on May 5, 2014 at 03:21AM by William Cosgrove)
Sur La Table, Uniqlo, RealReal.com and the other fastest-growing merchants ranked in the 2014 Top 500 Guide deployed new features and listened to customers to put e-commerce on a faster track.

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There’s a pretty good reason web sales at cookware and kitchenware retail chain Sur La Table Inc. jumped 104.2% in 2013 to $56.8 million. But it wasn’t because Sur La Table, No. 303 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide implemented a new multi-million dollar e-commerce technology plan. And Sur La Table didn’t completely re-invent its digital marketing plan. Instead, what made Sur La Table the second-fastest growing Top 500 chain retailer behind Japanese apparel and accessories chain Uniqlo Inc. (No. 495) is just that online shoppers are embracing a constantly improving web shopping experience, says senior vice president of digital Kevin Ertell.

“It’s not one big thing we are doing to generate more e-commerce sales but just the constant stream of small things we keep doing to make improvements,” Ertell says. In the last year Sur La Table has worked to improve SurLaTable.com by implementing a new site search engine from Oracle Corp. “With better site search the whole e-commerce shopping experience is now just more intuitive and personalized for each shopper,” Ertell says.

Sur La Table also implemented a new social media tool on SurLaTable.com called “My Collections” that lets customers shop for their favorite cooking or kitchen item, see similar items other shoppers have purchased, create a collection based on the results, and then share the collection with family and friends on Facebook and Pinterest. “We wanted to bring some aspects of social media to the site because we can use this as a tool to generate transactions,” Ertell says.

Many of the fastest-growing merchants in the 2014 edition of the Top 500 Guide cited improved features and functions as the reason why their online sales are growing at a brisk pace. The fastest-growing web merchant overall and among retail chains was Uniqlo, which increased web sales 341.3% to an Internet Retailer-estimated $22.06 million in 2013. Uniqlo, a chain owned by Japan-based Fast Retailing that only began selling online in the United States in 2012, credits its growth to faster search, one-click shopping on many product pages and a responsive design that enables Uniqlo to use one code base and one set of web content to render a site that fits the size of any screen.

Likewise the fastest-growing Top 500 catalog/call center company, Interline Brands (No. 90), which operates 14 business-to-business e-commerce sites and grew web sales 37.8% to $377.3 million last year, and RealReal Inc. (No. 295), the fastest-growing web-only merchant with 2013 e-commerce revenue that grew 296.8% to an Internet Retailer-estimated $60 million, also implemented new web site features. At Interline, which sells maintenance, repair and operations, or MRO, products to businesses of many sizes, the company added faster ways to track merchandise, new budget management tools and easier ways to repurchase certain items, says vice president of e-commerce, marketing and pricing Ramesh Bulusu.

RealReal.com, a deep discounter of used and consigned luxury apparel and accessories, stimulated growth with an updated mobile app that automatically puts a shopper on a wait list for similar items if a product she wants is sold out, says founder and CEO Julia Wainwright. At the fastest-growing Top 500 consumer brand manufacturer, jewelry maker Alex and Ani, the key to sharply higher web sales was marketing via social media and better use of customer data, says Ryan Bonifacino, Alex and Ani vice president of strategy. The company grew online sales 249.7% to $45.7 million in 2013

Overall 172 Top 500 merchants, or 34.4%, met or exceed the overall growth rate, which was 17.1%. That compares to 166 merchants—33.2%—of all merchants in the 2013 Top 500 Guide.

At Sur La Table it’s a mix of new programs such as a ship-from-store program that will launch sometime in 2014 and more attention to mobile commerce that will drive continued growth in web sales, Ertell says. In 2013 about 40% of all traffic to SurLaTable.com came from a mobile devices and mobile commerce accounted for more than 10% of all sales, Ertell says. “We just want to keep on getting better,” he says.

For more information on how to order the 2014 edition of The Top 500 Guide click here.

Mark Brohan Research Director

Countering Bad Reviews Through Effective Digital Marketing

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(Posted on Apr 23, 2014 at 06:57AM by William Cosgrove)
Picture It happens all the time: The hard-working crew at a small business loses customers thanks to the sour grapes of one person.

It could be a disgruntled employee, an angry customer or even a competitor, says V. Michael Santoro, coauthor with John S. Rizzo of Niche Dominance: Creating Order Out of Your Digital Marketing Chaos.

“Anyone can post a bad review online and hurt your business,” says Santoro, who is a managing partner with Rizzo of Globe On-Demand, an internet technology company. “Unfortunately, most business owners are not even aware that these bad reviews are out there.”

Seventy-two percent of buyers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 70 percent trust consumer opinions posted online, according to a 2012 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey.

“A bad review published in a newspaper, or broadcast on radio or TV, is short-lived, but a bad review posted online can live indefinitely,” says Rizzo. “With consumers now researching an average of 10 reviews before making a buying decision, and 70 percent trusting a business that has a minimum of six reviews posted, business owners need to be proactive in developing their online reputation. You need several positive reviews.”

Online searches have been streamlined, combining reviews with maps, pay-per-click advertising, local business directories and Facebook Fan pages, Santoro says.  As damaging as bad reviews can be, positive reviews can be equally constructive, he says.

Rizzo and Santoro offer an Internet marketing strategy called “reputation marketing,” described in the following steps:


  • Develop a 5-Star Reputation: Begin by having your happy customers post great reviews about your business. Strive to have at least 10. This needs to be a continuous process. Proactively ask your customers to post reviews.
  • Market Your Reputation: Once reviews are posted, use a well-designed online marketing strategy to drive targeted traffic to your website. Ensure that your website can convert this traffic into customers. Additionally, showcase these third-party reviews on your website.
  • Manage Your Reputation: Regularly check that the reviews being posted are positive. You can use Google Alerts for your business name; however, you will need to check the local directories, too, since they’re not picked up by Google Alerts. By building up the positive reviews, you can counter a poor one by sheer volume. You should also quickly post a reply to a negative review if they occur. Always be professional and indicate what action you have taken to remedy the situation.
  • Create a Reputation Marketing Culture: Train your staff to proactively ask customers for reviews and to deal immediately with any customer who appears unhappy. A positive culture will encourage customers to post positive reviews about your business.
By Michael Essany

Also see Increase Your Sales & Improve Your Reputation
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