Beating Back the Internet




Mark Kalaygian
Editor in Chief



Showrooming may have finally met its match: Webrooming.

Showrooming, the term used to describe the shopping tactic where consumers visit a brick-and-mortar store for product and prices and then buy it for less online, has definitely caused havoc with many merchants across the wide spectrum of retailing. In fact, independent pet retailers may be among the most vulnerable to this trend, mainly because they do not have the same price-matching ability that the larger chains—such as Best Buy, Walmart and Petco—have to fight the practice.

Now, however, rumors are starting to percolate that some consumers are actually turning to webrooming, which is basically the complete opposite shopping tactic, to complete their holiday purchases this holiday season. Webrooming is when consumers shop the Internet for the best buy and then go to their favorite store to complete the purchase. The benefit for the shopper is instant gratification, helped, in large part, by more aggressive pricing and promotional support by traditional retailers that are fighting back against the Internet.

Are we starting to see cracks in the Internet shopping model? It may be too soon to tell, but many industry experts say that some factors, including the fact that more and more states are demanding that online retailers collect state sales taxes, seem to be leveling the playing field between traditional retailing and the Internet. Now, webrooming may be the next trend to hit back at online retailers.

How do retailers keep this fledgling trend going?

The first thing they need to do, of course, is to make sure that price points are within 10 to 15 percent of online pricing. A price differential in this range or less will convince consumers that they should not leave the store empty handed, according to most experts. Second, retailers need to make sure they have the right product selection for their main consumer base. Third, pet store operators should be sure that they are reaching shoppers who do research products online. This can be accomplished with a two-prong approach: Make sure that your business appears on the store-locator features offered on vendor websites; and represent your store well on the Internet with an attractive, easy-to-navigate and informative website.

Finally, pet store operators must understand that their ability to offer a high level of customer service is key for webrooming and, at the same time, their most formidable weapon against showrooming. It has proven invaluable against competitors in the mass and grocery channels, and even the big-box pet chains, and you can be sure that it will make all the difference again in this latest fight for survival of the pet specialty store.