Showroom Or Webroom With A Smartphone; Which?

According to GfK’s 2014 FutureBuy global study of shopping habits and preferences, the complex interplay between online and in-person shopping in the US has tilted slightly in favor of bricks-and-mortar retailers. Incidents of smartphone “showrooming,” (seeing a product in a store, then buying it online from another retailer using a smartphone), dropped from 37% in the US last year to 28% in 2014. But “webrooming,” (in which consumers buy in a store after researching a purchase online using a smartphone), was reported by an even higher proportion of respondents, 41%.rtret

Use of a smartphone or tablet to “webroom” topped “showrooming” on those devices by 12 to 14 percentage points among Baby Boomers (ages 50 to 68) and Generations X (35 to 49) and Y (25 to 34). Only Generation Z preferred showrooming – and not by much.

Showrooming versus Webrooming Using a Smartphone(% reporting behavior in past 6 months)



(18 to 24)

Generation Y

(25 to 34)

Generation X

(35 to 49)


 (50 to 68)











Source: GfK FutureBuy Study, October 2014

Across 15 product and service categories studied, 44% of US shoppers reported combining online and in-person shopping activities, a jump of 7 percentage points versus 2013. Once limited primarily to “big ticket” purchases, this “omni-channel” behavior is surging in even lower-priced categories such as

  • Beauty and Personal Care (reported by 39% of US shoppers),
  • Lawn and Garden (29%), and
  • Food and Beverage (22%).

The largest US increases in omni-channel shopping came in

  • Home Improvement (57%, up 19 points from 2013),
  • Auto (also 57%, up 14 points), and
  • OTC Medications (27%, up 12 points).

US shoppers who decided to make their purchases in a bricks-and-mortar environment were motivated by key differentiators such as:

  • “See and feel before buying” (58% prefer bricks and mortar, versus 9% online)
  • “Get products sooner” (53% bricks versus 16% online)
  • “Hassle-free returns” (35% bricks versus 10% online)

When online was the preferred purchase venue, deciding factor attributes are:

  • “Save money” (61% versus 28%)
  • “Easier” (53% versus 24%), and
  • “Better selection” (46% versus 16%)  

Though PCs and laptops still account for the lion’s share of online research and purchases, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are playing a growing role, says the report. Internet shopping via a traditional home computer (PC or laptop) dropped from 78% to 63% in the US in just one year, while use of mobile devices doubled from 8% to 15% for smartphones, and 5% to 10% for tablets.

According to the report rises in smartphone shopping were more dramatic among Generations Z and Y, while tablets recorded significant upticks with Generation X and Boomers. Tablets have very consistent (though currently lower) usage for shopping across generations, while smartphones clearly skew younger.

Use of Smartphones and Tablets for Online Shopping(Incidents in Past 6 Months; * Percentage point change versus 2013)


Age Group


Generation Z

(18 to 24)

Generation Y

(25 to 34)

Generation X

(35 to 49)


(50 to 68)


21% (+8*)

25% (+11)

15% (+7)

7% (+4)


9% (+2)

10% (NC)

11% (+5)

10% (+8)

Source: GfK FutureBuy Study, October 2014

Joe Beier, Executive Vice President of GfK’s Shopper and Retail Strategy team, concludes that “… the big takeaway from this study… is how dynamic the shopper environment has become… (and) double-digit point changes in metrics designed to measure… foundational behaviors, such as omni-channel and devices used to shop… “

For additional information and to download a PDF file of the report, please visit here.



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