E-commerce is a strong and growing channel, representing about 13% of the total sales and 49% of the growth in retail, based on 2017 data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Despite this growth, many CPG brands don’t see e-commerce as a viable sales channel. Because of variables like packaging design, product weight and average unit price, these brands are hesitant to heavily invest in digital.
However, data suggests that an increasing number of consumers are “webrooming,” or researching products online before they purchase them in store. This provides a significant marketing opportunity for CPG brands whose products may not be suitable for traditional e-commerce.
What Is Webrooming?
Webrooming, or researching online and purchasing offline (ROPO), is a trend in buying behavior where consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by digital product content such as photos, descriptions, ratings and reviews. This research can be done prior to stepping foot in a retail store or on smartphones while walking through the store’s aisles.
Webrooming and ROPO Statistics
Consumer behavior is evolving, and online research is becoming more common before making a purchase in store. Recent statistics show:
- Almost 9 out of 10 consumers research products online before making a purchase in store
- 67% of consumers conduct online product research prior to stepping foot in a store
- 58% of consumers use their mobile phones in stores to look up product information
- $0.56 of every dollar spent in a store is influenced by a digital interaction
While Electronics, Apparel and Appliances are the most popular categories that are researched online before being bought in store, consumers are also actively researching CPG categories such as Beauty Care and Cosmetics, Food and Groceries, and Medicines, Vitamins and Supplements.
Why Are Consumers Shifting to ROPO?
Even though e-commerce is growing as a sales channel, there are many reasons why customers still prefer to make certain purchases in stores, particularly when it comes to CPGs. The most common are related to:
- Shipping costs: Because CPG products typically have lower average unit prices, consumers are hesitant to pay shipping charges, which can vastly increase the overall cost of an item.
- Shipping speed: Many CPG categories are needed as soon as they run out, so shoppers still lean toward instant gratification on these products.
- Sensory detail: Some CPG products are hard to fully detail without being able to see, touch, smell or sometimes taste them in store.
How Brands Can Win
Today’s shoppers are finding, researching, and making purchasing decisions about products before they even set foot in stores. To win in this omnichannel environment, CPG brands must have a strong digital presence, even if their products aren’t suited for traditional e-commerce. This means investing in things like search visibility, product content, and consumer-generated ratings and reviews.
Many of today’s consumers start their product discovery process online even if they end up making their purchases in stores. For this reason, it’s crucial for your products to have maximum search visibility on retailer websites. This means that when consumers search for keywords related to your product, your products appear as close to the top of the search results as possible.
Start by compiling a list of relevant keywords you want your products to rank for. These should include both broad and specific terms, and they must be relevant to the products.
Next, optimize your product page content to include these keywords. Incorporate these terms in a natural way, avoiding “keyword stuffing” that can negatively impact customer experience.
Once you’ve optimized your listings, monitor your products’ rankings for target keywords across retailer websites to see how your efforts impacted your search visibility. Continuously optimize content for the best results.
Once a customer has found your product via site search, the content on the product page allows them to research the item and determine if it is a good fit for them. First and foremost, this content must be accurate, and it should provide everything the customer needs to know. Take advantage of all of the available content options, including photos, titles, bullet points, descriptions and enhanced content. Expand on the information on the product packaging, further demonstrating how the product will benefit the customer. Use this opportunity to answer any common questions or concerns consumers have, as well as to explain how the product compares to its competitors.
Ratings & Reviews
Once a customer has all of the information they need about a product, they turn to customer reviews to help them finalize their purchasing decision. According to a recent BrightLocal survey, 85% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.
Most shoppers first turn to Amazon when seeking out reviews, making it a great place to focus your initial efforts. Amazon has strict rules about incentivizing customers to leave reviews, so work with your vendor manager to make sure you understand your options. One great way to increase the number of reviews on a single product page is to optimize your use of product variations. If one variant has a high number of positive reviews and the other none, merging the variants together will put all reviews and questions on one product page.
And don’t make a habit of neglecting negative reviews; shoppers value engagement and authenticity, so actively respond to customer concerns as quickly as you can.
Once your brand has nailed the basics of online reviews, take your efforts to the next level by seeking out digital influencers to post about your products on popular social media sites like YouTube and Instagram. These digital influencers have been shown to provide a great deal of reach and positive impact to brands.
Digital’s influence on consumer buying behavior is becoming increasingly stronger, and the popularity of webrooming will continue to grow as consumers and retailers adopt omnichannel approaches to shopping. Regardless of the types of products a brand sells, a total neglect of e-commerce will end up hurting sales, both online and offline. Brands must start investing in digital marketing initiatives across retailer websites, ensuring products have maximum search visibility, high-quality content, and reputable customer reviews. This ensures the best chance of winning in today’s omnichannel environment.
Joshua Schall, MBA has an 11-year background in the emerging and intersecting CPG/FMCG categories of functional food and beverage and nutritional products.
He currently is the owner of J. Schall Consulting, an Austin, TX-based boutique management consulting company that focuses on digital growth strategies for CPG/FMCG brands that range from pre-launch to portfolio companies with $500M in yearly revenue.
Joshua enjoys an active healthy lifestyle but still finds himself spending way too much time scanning social media and digital grocery aisles for new consumable brands.