Each month, approximately 2.9 billion people access the Internet and a good portion of that activity is centered on shopping. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), online (e-commerce) retail sales now comprise over six percent of all retail activity.
Over the past several years the hot conversation was around showrooming, the process of walking around the inside of a store but failing to purchase any products. Today, the focus is shifting to webrooming, the act of researching a product or a service on the Internet before going to a physical store and buying the item. In fact, in 2013, the number of people who engaged in webrooming surpassed the amount of individuals who participated in showrooming.
While showrooming created challenges for brick and mortar retailers, webrooming presents new opportunities, but retailers must ensure that prospective customers can find them online.
One of the key drivers in webrooming is local search. Customers research a product online (more and more from a mobile device) and then seek out the stores locally that sell the product(s).
In 2013, 78 percent of local searches lead to a purchase with nearly 90 percent of these transactions were made at the business's physical location. In fact, 76 percent of the purchases were completed on the same day that the search was conducted with 62 percent of the transactions were made within three hours of the original search.
Optimizing for local search - with a focus on mobile - is critical for businesses that want to compete and thrive in the world of webrooming. There are many great online resources to help get a business started, but here are three things that are musts.
Major search engines - Make sure that your business has an accurate website map submitted to all the major search engines especially Google and Bing.
Build your online business profile - Google+ provides businesses with an important advantage in terms of getting recognized through Google search. Set up a business page on Google+ and also consider business pages in other platforms like Foursquare and Yelp.
Go social - You cannot hide from social. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram continue to grow in popularity. For example, Facebook has added the Graph Search - allowing users to search through the social media site for people, places etc. It’s critical that businesses ensure that they have pages built that contain their address, hours, phone number etc.
Webrooming will give local businesses a lift provided that they optimize their business online to ensure that prospective customers can find them and understand their offerings. Luckily, with the move to mobile, much of this preparation can be done with minimal effort and little expense, if any.