A Changing Role for Brick-and-Mortar Stores This Black Friday

Webrooming more common than showrooming

Author: Andria Cheng

November 20, 2017

In recent years it has become clear that Black Friday weekend is no longer just a brick-and-mortar event, as consumers’ purchases increasingly migrate online. But there are signs that the tides may be shifting a bit, creating some opportunities for brick-and-mortar.

According to a Deloitte survey earlier this month, 69% of consumers who plan to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday said they plan to engage in so-called “webrooming,” or first researching an item online before going to a store to see it and then buying it there. That’s much bigger than 46% of shoppers who said they plan on “showrooming,” or first going to a store to look for an item before searching online for the best price and buying it there.  Deloitte surveyed more than 1,200 adults ages 18 and older.

“As recently as five to six years ago, showrooming was all the rage and the thing every retailer worried about,” said Rod Sides, who leads Deloitte's US retail, wholesale and distribution practice. “Now people are doing webrooming and going to stores as the last part of their shopping journey…. Consumers are looking for the right product and the right experience. They want retailers to meet them wherever they are. They don’t shop by channel.”

The shift reflects the continued trends of consumers straddling online and physical stores and highlights retailers’ increased push to leverage their physical-store assets to the advantage of their growing online sales. Walmart, for instance, has repeatedly touted the point that its physical stores, which are within 10 miles of 90% of the US population, give it an advantage for evolving delivery and pickup models. Online retail giant Amazon, for its part, is seeking increased physical-store push by not only buying Whole Foods but also by inking partnership with Kohl’s to take its product returns.

In total, the Deloitte survey, released Monday, showed three-quarters of American consumers plan to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday and spend 6.8% more than last year. That’s higher than the overall holiday growth rate projected by Deloitte and others, a sign of how important the shopping weekend remains, even as early promotions stretch the selling season.

“This weekend is really important to set the momentum for the holiday season,” Sides told eMarketer Retail. “It’s not a make or break weekend, but it’s important as a barometer.”

While 91% of those who plan to shop from Thursday through Monday in total plan to buy online versus 85% in stores, the survey showed between Black Friday and Sunday, in-store shopping still dominates. On Black Friday, for instance, 70% of shoppers said they plan to shop in stores while the percentage who plans to buy online that day declined to 47% from 55% in last year’s survey, according to Deloitte. On Saturday, 52% plan to go out to shop in stores while the percentage intending to shop online dropped to 24% from 36%.

The 31% planning to buy in physical stores on Sunday also outweighs the 25% who plan online shopping. “The stores are very important for the overall season,” Sides said. “It’s become a tradition. Shopping is as much a social event.”

A similar survey by Flipp found that roughly 90% of consumers it surveyed expected to do at least some shopping in-store on Black Friday.

And it looks like consumers are also willing to travel for it. A separate IBM study, also released Monday, showed that on average US shoppers are expected to travel 4% farther on Black Friday to shop than they do on typical weekends. There’s also some solace for struggling clothing and department stores as shoppers said they are willing to travel 7% and 6% farther respectively for these two channels.

The opportunity and challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers is to introduce fresh and new products to “create that excitement” when consumers are in stores, Sides said. While the survey showed that “taking advantage of the sales or best deals of the season” was the key reason that motivated shoppers to go into stores on Black Friday, the hope for retailers is that shoppers will pick up additional items to add to their shopping basket, he said.

In terms of the share of wallet, online will continue to lead, representing 52% of consumers’ budget for the four-day shopping period, compared to 46% on in-store purchases, according to the Deloitte survey. (The remaining 2% goes to catalog shopping.)

It’s no surprise online dominates for Cyber Monday, cited by 72% of shoppers versus 37% who plan to go to physical stores. While many major retailers have now kicked off their official “doorbuster” events in stores on Thanksgiving, going to stores still remains more a minority sport: six in 10 shoppers said they prefer to spend Thanksgiving Day with their family and believe stores shouldn’t be open. As a result, 28% of those who plan to shop on the holiday opt to buy online versus 25% in stores, the Deloitte survey showed.

Online or in-store, the anticipation game is on, despite retailers’ increasingly earlier-than-ever unveiling of Black Friday-type deals. Online holiday shopping traffic to US retailers actually declined 18% and 15% respectively this past Saturday and Sunday from the same periods a year earlier, according to Verizon’s Holiday Retail Index released Monday.