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High-value purchases: How online retail has changed the showroom and customer journey

bigstock-Single-Car-Green-Color-Parking-433135328Showrooms are all about telling a story and allowing the customer to envision themselves with the product. Some products like cars, home furniture, new-build homes, and mobile phones have always traditionally been in-person purchases due to these being high-cost and high-commitment products.

These products were traditionally marketed in TV and print adverts and presented in showrooms, but they’re increasingly shifting to online in response to the customer journey.

The world goes online

Of course, it wasn’t just showrooms which were forced online by the pandemic. But the world was already heading that way prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Looking back to research from 2019, data from the Office of National Statistics shows that British shoppers were already comfortable making high-value purchases online.

  • Holidays – 70.9%
  • TVs – 69.5%
  • Computers – 63.9%
  • Furniture – 54.6%
  • Jewellery – 40.4%
  • Cars – 27.2%
  • Property – 11.3%

From a consumer’s point of view, it’s much easier to compare the price of products online, learn more about features & benefits, and to see how the reviews stack up.

Again, this isn’t a new way of shopping.

Way back in 2013, Dr. Gary Edwards, former Chief Customer Officer at Empathica, said:

“With ‘showrooming’, retailers are faced with the challenge of customers coming into the store to browse and test products, only to subsequently go home and actually complete their purchase online (often through a competitor).”

Post-pandemic, shoppers are still keen to see a product physically before parting with their cash – what’s changed is the order in which they do it.

According to a study conducted on behalf of Shopify, over the next year, more consumers (59% vs 54%) are likely to look at a product online and then buy it in-store (dubbed “webrooming”) than to look at a product in-store and buy it online (showrooming). Click and collect is a prime example of this.


Showrooms here to stay

Despite new technology, online may never be able to truly compete with showrooms. A screen can’t truly replicate getting behind the wheel of a car, for example, and feeling how well the seat supports your back, or the intuitiveness of the controls.

The showroom is still the only place a customer can come and accurately experience the visual part of a brand and its products. In fact, there’s a school of thought that physical stores as a showroom rather than a selling space might be a way forward.

For some retailers and their customers, it’s still important to have something physical to back up the storytelling and customer experience that they’re selling online. is a prime example of an online store opening a physical shop.

So, although people are now more willing to purchase products online (things they would have once only bought in person, like a car or TV), showrooming still seems to be an essential part of the customer journey; especially when coupled with webrooming.

But, whether shoppers are viewing the product at the start or end of the customer journey, you can bank on them going away at some point to engage with the brand online and build a fuller picture of what they can expect.

Consumers are no longer interested in the hard sell – they want to make their own minds up.

Supplementing the showroom experience

Whereas brands of big-ticket items might’ve once put most of their efforts into the showroom – be it physical or, as is increasingly the case, virtual – there now needs to be more of an even split with their online presence and storytelling.

For showrooming shoppers, you need to ensure that when they come away and do their research online, you’re backing up what they’ve just experienced in person and don’t have their gaze turned by another brand.

Similarly, for webrooming shoppers, you need to make it onto their radar, guiding them towards experiencing the product in person to complete their purchase.

Branded content helps you meet your customers where they are – via their favoured online publications – with messaging that either urges them into stores to experience the expertise of the staff, or demonstrates the specs of the product to make an online purchase feel less risky.

Contact us today to see how we can create and distribute targeted content for all stages of the customer journey.