Showrooming vs Webrooming

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Behaviors of in-store running shoe shoppers

There is extensive research done on consumer behaviors as it relates to online vs. in-store shopping, with most them categorizing shoes into the apparel and accessories budget. Where applicable, information as it relates specifically to shoes was included (and is referenced in this write-up). What follows is an analysis of the client’s questions, organized into the following: Behaviors of in-store and online shoppers, important aspects to creating displays, what drives consumers to purchase in-store instead of online, brand loyalty, how long consumers spend researching before making a purchase, and what types of purchases are most likely to be made in-store vs. online. Further, information on the behaviors and demographics of shoppers is included, as it relates to differences between the two groups, behaviors of people who buy in-store vs. online, and any demographic and behavior information as it relates to online vs. in-store shoppers.


45% of men, and 36% of women shop for footwear exclusively in store. Recent studies show that if consumers are going to shop online, they will do so for research, and then pick-up and/or purchase in-store.

Online and "mobile assisted":
There are five kinds of mobile or online shoppers (as an overview of online shopping, not exclusive to running shoes, but still relevant based on consumer behaviors):
Experience-Seekers (31.7%): They value the best experience, not just the price." 22% are between the ages of 40 and 49.
Traditionalists (30.2%): “Prefer the in-store shopping experience.” 20% are between the ages of 50 and 64.
Price-Sensitives (19.4%): "Don’t plan, but always opt for deals. 26% are between the ages of 30 and 39.
Savvys (12.6%): “Calculating, but persuadable.” 26% are under the age of 30.
Exploiters (6.1%): “Premeditated about lower prices.” 6% are over the age of 65.
Further, numerous reasons can lead a consumer into the store for purchase, after doing online research.
“47% don't want to pay for shipping.”
“23% don't want to wait for the product to delivered.”
“46% like to go to a store to touch and feel a product before they buy.”
“36% will ask the store to price match a better price found online.”
“37% like the option of being able to return the item to the store if needed.”

Important aspects to highlight in displays

For in-store displays, businesses must first identify who their target customer is, beyond demographics of age, education, and household income. By understanding their lifestyles (research the data in your point-of-sale-system), you can understand further how they are as an individual. You can also utilize online resources to help create clean and eye-catching displays. Examples include websites such as Design Retail Online, Smart Retailer, Pinterest, and Shopify. Specialists recommend remembering to utilize all five senses in your displays, beyond just focusing on sight:
Sight: Use colors “as psychological triggers, and leverage lighting, symmetry, balance and contrast” when constructing your displays. Utilizing spotlights to highlight a specific shoe is also a great way to cause an eye-popping display that will cause your consumers to take a second look.
Sound: Music tempo and volume can affect how a consumer shops. Slow people down with mellow music to encourage browsing, while using a top 40 playlist will bring a younger generation into the store.
Touch: Make your display interactive — allow for the consumer to pick up the shoe, see it from all angles, and make trying on easy.
Smell: Utilizing smell in visual displays is a growing trend. Companies like Samsung and Verizon have begun utilizing light scents in the store, as smell “is a fast-track to the system in your brain that controls both emotion and memory”.
Taste: Not relevant for a running shoe store, but wanted to mention to round out the five senses. Utilized in consumable retailers (think Williams Sonoma).
Further, have your sales staff wearing the shoes you’re selling. It gives the consumer an idea of what they would look like walking around in their shoes. Group your shoe categories together — for example, have things organized by price, or color, or gender, or type (running support shoes vs. lightweight shoes).
Lastly, the “rule of three” is typically applied in retail displays. Meaning when you’re arranging your products, you want to have three of them side by side. If a consumer sees something symmetrical or balanced, they’re more likely to “stop dead in their tracks…and keep their attention longer on your product displays.”


Along the lines of in-store displays, brick and mortar retail locations are more likely to be successful if they offer their products in an omni-channel fashion; web, social, mobile, and physical store options. 56% of online shoppers report they would spend more money in a physical store if they were able to look at the items offered online prior to their visit.

Sales employee knowledge is a top driver in consumers making a purchase in-store. An example from a consumer discussed he originally intended to just try on a running shoe in-store, and then go back online to find the best price. However, once he realized how many questions he had, and that every employee was able to answer his questions (many were runners themselves), it led him to purchase in-store at his local running boutique. In the end, he paid 30% more for a pair of running shoes in-store, based on the personal experience with the sales staff and their knowledge of running.

Consumers still appreciate the human interaction of in-store shopping. They want intelligent answers to their questions, and want the return, exchange, or refund experience to be as seamless as possible. 86% of online shoppers report a willingness to purchase in-store if there is a discount on the total purchase, while 78% report shopping in-store if there is a price matching on products. 71% like bonus rewards offered in-store, and 63% look for extended warranties.


Brand loyalty doesn’t affect consumers like it used to. “Digital disruption” has led to changes in consumer behaviors, as it allows consumers online to easily look at multiple products, features, and prices, regardless of brand. Recent research shoes that purchases in shoe retail are only 3% loyalty driven. For reference, the only three categories that ranked as loyalty driven are mobile phones, auto insurance companies, and investments. Looking at an average across the categories surveyed (primarily retail products), 13% of consumers are loyalists, with 58% switching brands.
However, that’s not to say brand loyalty cannot be achieved. If a brand is well-known and established (e.g. Coca-Cola, Apple, Disney), or as a nostalgic appeal (e.g. Tide was the detergent your mom uses), consumers are more likely to stick to that brand. If you’re an established local business with a good reputation, you’re more likely to have loyal local customers. Millennials ages 18-34 are currently the most likely generation to be brand loyal.

Additionally, high-quality products are a “consistent driver of brand loyalty”. Utilizing your online presence in social media can also drive brand loyalty, as you can directly interact with your consumers on a personal level.
If you can drive an emotional connection with your consumers, they’re more likely to be brand loyal. Promote positive stories, body image (running shoes, healthy lifestyle), or post fun facts and “quick daily tips” to help inspire your customers.


As it relates to apparel & accessory online shopping, 2/3 of shoppers will browse products online at least once a month, 1/3 of online purchases are impulse buys, and almost 40% of online purchases are made from a consumer’s phone. 2/3 of consumers will begin searching directly on a retailer’s site (e.g. Target, Nike), while the remaining 1/3 go through a search engine. From the first search of a product online to purchase, the average number of days between the two is 8.4, with an average of 13 products viewed (for apparel and accessories).


Larger purchases (such as a TV, refrigerator, etc.) are more likely to be purchased in store, as customers “want to test the products they are shopping for.”

Looking at retail, clothing or shoes are more likely to be purchased online by A18-34 (56%) and A35-44 (52%). Baby care products are least likely to be purchased online (17% A18-34 and 40% A35-44), due to the sensitivity of products chosen by new moms that are safe for their children.


51.5% of females have made a digital purchase online, while 47% of males have. The most common ages to purchase online are A25-34 (61.1%) and A35-44 (60%), followed by A18-24 (54.7%) and A45-54 (51.5%).


While specific behaviors could not be found as they relate to shoe purchases only, retail shopping as a whole was publicly available. Online purchasers tend to lean towards online instead of in-store for convenience purposes. 68% say free return shipping is a driving force in online purchases, while 64% report online discounts and 44% like that a website can have many unique products. While 74% of omnishoppers (those who utilize all avenues of shopping, i.e. fully purchasing online, or researching online and purchasing in-store, or purchasing online and picking up in-store) look forward to shopping in store, but more than half end up purchasing online due to a lack of time.

For these behaviors, are there any notable differences between groups (age, sex, established customer, etc.).

52% of global shoppers prefer to first research for clothing and footwear online, and 34% do their research in-store. Of the 52% doing online research, 31% use a computer, while 12% use their smartphone. In terms of purchases, 51% prefer to purchase in-store (for clothing and footwear).
39.43% of consumers reported never purchasing sports shoes online. 26.72% reported purchasing sports shoes in-store less than once a year, while 21.49% reported purchasing once a year in-store, and 22% reported purchasing once every 6 months in-store.

Below are further demographic and behavioral comparisons of online vs. in-store shoppers. It is important to note that this study was done in 2014, however I felt it relevant to include based on the extensive details provided, and that it specifically calls out shoe buyers included in the data.

Seeing and touching the product is the top driver for purchasing shoes in store (56%), followed by 15% who like the act of browsing through products, and 13% want to take home their purchase the same day.

Looking at online shopping behaviors, the most crucial factors are convenience (15%), variety and selection (15%), and ease of price comparison (8%).

In-store: 52% women vs. 48% men
Online: 53% women vs. 47% men
In-store: 36% younger than 34
Online: 42% are younger than 34
In-store: 57% have children or grandchildren
Online: 53% have children or grandchildren
In-store: 17% have a graduate or PhD degree
Online: 18% have a graduate or PhD degree
In-store: 26% have a household income of under $35K, 58% earn $35K-$125K and 16% earn $125K+.
Online: 25% have a household income of under $35K, 56% earn $35K-$125K and 18% earn $125K+.
*please note — percentages do not add up to a perfect 100 due to rounding.
Follow trends/current events/music:
In-store: 35% follow closely
Online: 43% follow closely
Influenced by recommendations on social media:
In-store: 31%
Online: 40%
Own a smartphone:
In-store: 57%
Online: 63%
Own a tablet:
In-store: 39%
Online: 40%
Look for online reviews prior to purchase:
In-store: 64%
Online: 70%

To summarize the above, gender is relatively flat across online and in-store shoppers, while younger shoppers tend to shop online instead of in-store. Education and HHI do not have an impact on online vs. in-store shopping decisions. Online shoppers are more likely to be influenced by comments, reviews, and recommendations about a product on social media, and are more likely to own a smartphone and a tablet.


As a conclusion, consumers are shopping for retail items utilizing a blend of online and in-store options. They may research different running shoes online, and compare prices, but will purchase in-store if the sales associate is knowledgeable, and can help them make the best decision for their running style. While gender doesn't effect online vs. in-store purchases, the younger generation is more likely to purchase online, as they are more likely to utilize technology and seek out online reviews.
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Behaviors of online running shoe shoppers

Through the large number of studies created to understand the behavioral psychology differences between online and offline shopping, we have found that customer experience is the ultimate differentiator in the behaviors of shoppers who buy their running shoes online as opposed to a retail location.

Also, brand loyalty affects customer behavior and companies must adapt to customer needs in order to continue cultivating the brand loyalty.

Online shoppers tend to visit up to four websites during their research phase. About 50 percent of online shoppers will compare similar items on the same website they originally found the item, while 20 percent will leave the item in their cart, choosing not to purchase immediately.

Mobile shopping is another important topic in customer behaviors. Shoe shopping has been prominently shifting from traditional in-store shopping to online shopping using smartphones, tablets, and computers. Researchers have found that "there were more than 3X more mobile searches than computer and tablet searches."

Data has shown that younger consumers,such as millennials, are leading the change from in-store to online purchases. The majority of shoe shoppers in all age ranges shop whenever their shoes are no longer wearable and needing replacement. However, a large portion of people 34 to 44 years old said that they have been tempted by sales promotions.


There are four fundamental principles of the customer experience: convenience, speed, relevance, and reliability. Companies that provide at least three of these principles tend to have the best customer experiences.

1. Convenience - A growing reason why customers are leaning toward online shopping vs in-store shopping is the convenience they have by instantly searching on their mobile devices.
2. Speed - Customers expect to quickly find the answers they need regarding a potential purchase. If a company cannot offer those answers fast, whether through their website (like FAQs), a chatbot, or human, the company risks losing business to those customers.
3. Relevance - Customers are beginning to expect companies to use a personalized approach to marketing their products. Customers want to see products that are relevant to their own lifestyles.
4. Reliability - Customers want to purchase from reliable companies that provide good-quality products which meet the customers' needs.


Although the fate of brick-and-mortar stores has been discussed a lot over the last few years, many consumers are still brand loyal to different footwear brands, such as Nike and Adidas. However, to continue cultivating that brand loyalty, companies must adapt to customer needs and expectations.

Nike is a well-recognized footwear brand that is aiming to improve their customer experience by offering personalized shopping services and working with partners such as Foot Locker and Dick's Sporting Goods, while also giving attention to their own Nike stores. Companies must recognize the close interaction between brand loyalty and customer behavior.

Buyer research and length of time until purchase

On average, online shoppers tend to visit 2.7 websites when they make a purchase. About 30 percent of online shoppers will visit just one website. More than 50 percent of online shoppers visit about two to three sites, and 11 percent generally visit four or more sites.

After finding an item to purchase, 50 percent of online shoppers will compare similar items on the same website they originally found the item; 25 percent will compare on other sites; and 20 percent will leave the item in their cart, choosing not to purchase it immediately.


In 2016, ComScore conducted a study for UPS, determining a gradual rise of purchases made online over the last few years. They found that in 2015, online purchases made up for 48 percent, which was up from 47 percent back in 2014..

Not many people prefer to shop solely online vs in-store. According to a survey conducted by BigCommerce and Square, many factors such as a lack of a brick-and-mortar location, long delivery times, and concerns of privacy contribute to shoppers not shopping for everything online. Despite this, online shopping is still vastly growing.


When it comes to online shopping, mobile searches are increasingly becoming the norm. Mobile shopping has made it extremely easy to shop, driving customers to buy online instead of at a physical store. From a study in September 2015, researchers have found that "there were more than 3X more mobile searches than computer and tablet searches" for a specific Nike sneaker.

Shoe shopping has been prominently shifting from traditional in-store shopping to online shopping using smartphones, tablets, and computers. Out of these mediums, more and more people are turning to smartphones for their shopping and research. Micro-moments are the moments when people automatically reach for a mobile device to seek instant answers for whatever just came to mind. These micro-moments are crucial in capturing and realizing potential consumers because this is when those people rely on finding details to help them through the sales funnel, from finding a specific store or brand name to determining if the item in question is readily available online or nearby.

Shopper demographics

In the US, data has shown that more than half of male internet users preferred purchasing products online and picking them up in-store. Over one-third of female internet users shopped in-store for footwear. Younger consumers such as millennials are leading the change from in-store to online purchases.

In the UK footwear market, researchers have found that females tend to be more fashion conscious than males. The females that were more conscious ranged from ages 34 to 54. The majority of shoe shoppers in all age ranges shop whenever their shoes are no longer wearable and needing replacement. However, a large portion of people 34 to 44 years old said that they have been tempted by sales promotions. Of people 55 years old and older, comfort is what they most likely preferred.


Customer experience is the most important thing to look at in the behaviors of shoppers who buy their running shoes online as opposed to a retail location. Brand loyalty also affects customer behavior, so companies must find ways to adapt to customer needs.

The general online shopper will visit up to four websites during their research phase. Shoe shopping has been shifting from in-store to online shopping using smartphones, tablets, and computers. Specifically, mobile shopping is growing even more from online shopping.

Younger consumers such as millennials are leading the change from in-store to online purchases, but a large portion of people 34 to 44 years old said that they have been tempted by sales promotions.
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Best-in-class examples of running shoe companies that have bridged the divide between in-store and online shoppers

With the prevalence of smartphones, tablets, computers, and other internet connected devices, brick and mortar stores have the difficult task of competing with online prices. However, the forecast for brick and mortar stores isn’t all gloomy. Statistics from 2012 show that 27% of cell phone owners used their phones in store but only 12% bought online while 46% bought items from the physical store. A Shopify article from 2017 notes that 85% of people who visit a physical store still prefer to buy from the store in person rather than online. Despite this, showrooming has obvious benefits such as the ability to simply find cheaper prices online.

Your request was specifically for running shoes. While information on how brands such as Adidas and Nike fight against showrooming was readily found, in-depth case studies that just focus on running shoes are scarce. However, information on how other shoe stores (such as a children’s shoe store) handle showrooming was found. Additionally, general information about how stores deal with the smartphone age was readily available too. This general information applies to running shoes as well, as the strategies brands like Nike use (such as omnichannel, which will be explained below) are the same as what other non-footwear brands use.

Combating Showrooming

The internet provides the benefit of instant and constant access to information which allows shoppers to compare prices and simply order an item. This is certainly a great and wondrous benefit, but physical stores have their own benefits which they must leverage as to not become just showrooms. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that when purchasing products, consumers believe that pros of physical stores are that they can feel the merchandise, get it immediately, and try them out to see if they fit. Retailers, such as Nike and Adidas, are reimagining the in store experience based on those benefits. For example, Nike, the athletic and running shoe retailer, turned some of its stores into fitness and running clubs of sorts. Their stores offer free services from experts to examine a customer’s running stride as well as providing other tools, like treadmills, which help test products. These perks draw shoppers to stores to try and buy footwear as well as the other fitness tools Nike offers.

In Potomac, Maryland, a children’s shoe store retailer, Shoe Train, had a similar strategy. The owner of the local shop, Marina Fradlin, holds back to school fashion shows to get parents and kids invested as well as show off products. As the business caters to children, a shoe tying clinic is offered which is often fully booked months in advance. The store also has a strong social media presence to show off seasonal stock as well as active in the community such as running shoe drives and sponsoring “Girl on the Run” events. Shoe Train judges their success based on customer engagement with their brand, such as by the constantly booked and filled events and the fact that they’re always ready for the season.

Adidas used technology to solve the problem of stock rotation. In an online store, all of the items in stock can be easily viewed. Physical stores have to rotate stock. Adidas used technology by Intel called Virtual Footwear where products can be displayed on a huge, interactive screen that functions as an “endless aisle.” Consumers can compare products easily and then ask for the physical product to try. This combines the benefit of the internet’s endless stock display with physical store’s ability to allow consumers to feel and work with products. Early reports show that consumers are spending more with the system than they were without.

The Footwear Plus Magazine had an article on how some footwear retailers handled the showrooming situation. The store Comfort Shoes Specialists in St. Louis takes a very hardline tactic to stop showrooming. The owner, Edith James, advises her staff to simply stop working with customers who browse their stores only to purchase online. Luke’s Locker, a running sneaker chain, has pondered the idea of charging a service fee for trying on and testing shoes in store while offering store credit if the person buys products in person.

Nielson has found that rigid strategies like those work less than simply providing extremely helpful and knowledgeable customer service which ends up pushing customers to buy in person. Personable sales staff goes a long way toward pushing customers to buy products in store. Brands such as Nike actually offer retail only footwear. Shoe stores are advised to stock products that have great shelf appeal, i.e. products that aren’t oversaturated and available everywhere nor products that are sold direct to customer online.


Omnichannel is simply the combination of different “channels” of an experience, shopping or otherwise such as being able to observe all of your house’s bills in one location. The Footwear Plus Magazine article briefly mentioned omnichannel, but the paradigm is a general one thus the ideas presented aren’t specific to running shoes. One way to deploy omnichannel would be to use online information to drive in store sales. Websites could provide information about in store deals, products, et cetera and data gathered about products observed online could be used to influence stock in physical stores. Personalized ads, emails, and other media can also help drive physical store sales. Ikea, for example, saw in store visits rise by 31% when targeted ads were deployed. Wi-Fi availability influences in store visits as well; customers are 44% more likely to shop in a store with Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi access can be used in conjunction with apps to direct customers toward deals or coupons. These are also known as “beacons.”


The efficacy of brick and mortar stores has led to previously online only stores such as ModCloth, Rent the Runway, or Warby Parker to expand to physical stores. However, showrooming is still a problem that must be managed. Edith James’ strategy of simply ignoring customers doesn’t work. A running shoe store must give customers a reason to patronate it, such as how Nike offers fitness experts to examine customers. They must also coopt or integrate the benefits of online services such as via omnichannel.

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