You may have heard the word “webrooming” buzzing through the retail industry lately. But if you still don’t know what it means, you aren’t alone. Unlike showrooming, where consumers shopping in a store look online for more info -- or more competitive prices -- on a product, recent studies suggest that the newest trend among shoppers is to gather web intelligence before heading to the nearest shop to make their purchase. In fact, a recent Nielsen survey revealed that 60 percent of consumers browse products online before ultimately buying them in stores. The result? A new buzzword and a wave of opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers.

While consumers still prefer making purchases in-store this new practice also empowers shoppers to make more informed purchases. That means retailers should be as up to date as possible on their products and services, and ensure they have a strong presence both online and in person.

Retailers with a strong omni-channel presence likely already recognize the benefits from the webrooming phenomenon. But for those still developing your omni-channel strategy, there’s no need to fret. This can be a perfect opportunity to gain new consumer confidence and capitalize on the trend by taking a few steps to start developing your online presence.

Putting the basic tools in place

If you’re working on a tight budget or aren’t sure how to tackle the project on your own, there are plenty of “D.I.Y.” options -- or “do it with a little help” options -- for getting your e-commerce site started. Web service vendors like Bigcommerce, Shopify, Tictail, Storenvy, and Big Cartel provide the tools to help you create a site quickly for a small monthly subscription (beginning at $10/month) or transaction fee (1 to 2 percent/purchase). But as can be expected, there are various pros and cons to the different e-commerce platforms. Ask yourself what you’re looking to achieve with your online storefront and choose the option that works best for your business.


Establishing a look and feel that’s true to your brand

Third-party web services will often give you the same professional and polished look that consumers expect from your brick-and-mortar store, without the hefty costs of paying a digital company to build the site out for you. And the best part -- you’re in control. Choose from a range of preset designs and themes and have access to your own dashboard with insights into order numbers and sales analytics. For the most effective results, create an appearance that coincides with your website, logo, or storefront to create a consistent and familiar look across your brand. Then, people recognize your product when they transition from their online research to their in-store purchases. Need some more inspiration? Shopify recently shared its 30 favorite e-commerce website designs.

Don’t be afraid to get social

Social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are also great places to display your products and services, and complement your e-commerce site and physical stores. If you’re not ready for a full site yet, give some new social media tools a try to allow your customers the opportunity to do a little webrooming. This is also a great place to connect with your shoppers in a personal and creative way, making meaningful connections that will build brand awareness and affinity.

As Conor Flynn wrote on our blog nearly a year ago, omni-channel retailing was destined to become mainstream for retailers by the end of 2014. Whether its showrooming or webrooming, that projection has come true, and demonstrates the relevance of both community shopping centers and online retail to the overall industry.