For several years, retailers have been adapting their marketing efforts and websites to accommodate the trend toward shopping on smartphones. However, statistics from this holiday season show that webrooming is growing, especially among millennials. Webrooming involves using a mobile device to compare prices, check out reviews, and search for discounts or offers before making a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store.

The Findings

Although webrooming is popular among all age groups, 95 percent of millennials said they would webroom for their holiday shopping compared to just 85 percent of all Internet users. This data comes from a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, conducted in October 2016.

Subsequent data from a survey this January found that just over half of millennials shopping in stores used their mobile devices to compare prices. Other popular uses of mobile capabilities included:

  • Checking availability and inventory (40 percent),
  • Searching for digital discounts and coupons (37 percent), and
  • Reading reviews or ratings of products (33 percent) before making a purchase

The Increase in Webrooming

Yet more research (this time from GfK) shows an increase in webrooming no matter the time of year. In 2016, 46 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 to 26 researched products on their mobile devices before buying. This was an increase from 41 percent in 2015.

Although the habit is common whatever the age of the consumer, millennials stand out from other customers as they tend to research on their phones when they are already in the store. They often webroom right up until they complete the purchase. This impacts what marketing tactics mobile retailers should use with millennials.

The Increase in Showrooming

Opposite to webrooming is showrooming — researching products in store and buying online. Although this is less common than webrooming, the trend is also growing. In 2015, just 24 percent of young adults practiced showrooming, but last year the number was up to 32 percent, according to GfK.

Why Is Webrooming More Popular Than Showrooming?

Purchasing online is usually cheaper and more convenient than shopping in store. However, consumers frequently want to receive products faster and avoid shipping charges. Plus, shopping in store avoids the need to deal with what can be complex online return policies. Experts speculate that it is for these reasons webrooming is the preferred method of online shopping.