How to Fight Webrooming in Retail: From Image Recognition to Artificial Intelligence

In a previous post, we talked about how to combat “showrooming” ‒ a consumer trend that 46% of shoppers engage in and means researching products in-store and buying them online. “Webrooming”, however, has become much more common  over the past few years, with 69% of shoppers taking part in it. Also known as ‘reverse showrooming’, it refers to the process of starting to browse  products online, but eventually completing the purchase in-store.

For brick-and-mortars, it is a driver to create seamless cross-channel shopping experiences, while for online retailers, it is becoming a threat. Especially with a growing number of physical retailers willing to match the prices of major e-commerce sites to better compete, it is a challenge for e-tailers to keep up with changing shopper  trends.


Why do people do webrooming?

A report by Merchant Warehouse revealed what the main reasons for webrooming are:

  • 47% don’t want to pay for shippings. Shipping fees and additional taxes can make a customer abandon their shopping cart and head to the store to save that extra money.
  • 46% want to see and experience a product before buying. This can be more or less important depending on the kind of purchase. Clothes, makeup, and tech gadgets, for instance, are items that customers usually want to visualize or try-on before hitting the buy button.
  • 36% want to price match in-store a better price found online. Shoppers are increasingly looking up the cheapest price online for a product, and then heading to a store and ask for a better deal.
  • 37% want to be able to return the item if needed. Returns and exchanges need to be quick and convenient.
  • 23% don’t want to wait for the product to delivered. Even if the product isn’t urgent, shoppers seek instant gratification

How can e-commerce businesses fight webrooming in retail?

Some of the main reasons why people browse online but end up shopping offline are essentially matters of logistics and pricing strategy. Keeping shipping costs at the minimum level, quick deliveries, and easy and convenient return policies, similar to what ASOS does can help online retailers better compete.

Being able to cater to shoppers needs to better experience the products is a trickier challenge. However, with the help of technologies such as Image Recognition and Artificial Intelligence, you can tackle this issue in an innovative and customer-centric way.

1. Offer an in-home product experience

Online retailers may not be able to offer an in-store experience, but they can offer an in-home experience, and Augmented Reality (AR) tech can be really useful to remain competitive by enabling product visualization. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Apollo Box is a US-based online marketplace that sells cool design items, from jewelry and apparel, to gadgets, toys, and more. They recently implemented AR technology that allows mobile users to browse and interact with virtual 3D products in their real environment, visualizing them in their own home before buying.

It has been only a few months since the company started testing the AR feature, which is already being credited with a 25% conversion rate boost. Customers find it fun and rewarding, and are spending  10 minutes more on the app compared to those who are not using the AR feature.

Converse was a pioneer in Augmented Reality
, too. Back in 2010, they developed a mobile app under the premise that people like to try things on before buying.

The app encouraged users to pick any shoe model from the catalog and hover their phone over their right feet to see how it would look on them. After sharing it with friends, they could buy a pair straight from the mobile store.

2.  Offer relevant product recommendations to increase conversion

When buying online, the site’s functionality and product information is critical, as they can hinder  product discovery. There are two problems that must be addressed:

  • “Choice overload”
  • Lack of personalized help

Retailers can simplify the whole buying process and tackle these issues by analyzing customer behavior, predicting what visitors want and offering customized shopping experiences thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

By combining natural language interface and machine learning with big data, AI is expected to manage 85% of customer interactions in retail by 2020, according to a study by Gartner.

The role of Artificial Intelligence is to make online shopping smoother and more gratifying,  by assisting consumers in finding what they are seeking ‒ like a store assistant would do ‒ and narrow down their potential choice to truly relevant options.

Research from Sonar reveals that already 72% of millennial shoppers believe that as technology evolves, brands that use AI will be able to accurately predict what they want.

Such solutions help raise conversion and engagement for e-commerce businesses or even increase the average revenue per user by showing higher value items that look similar to what the shopper has been looking at. Or, they can show relevant alternatives based on the looks of a product that is out of stock — everyone’s pet peeve in online shopping.

Visual search allows users to search by images instead of keywords, and recommends items based on relevancy rather than buying behavior. At the department store Neiman Marcus, for instance, customers can take a picture of any item they like and the store’s app will pull out visually similar items from the retailer’s own inventory. Additionally, if they look at a product online, they will receive suggestions that are visually alike.

The North Face has also recently implemented AI
 in their website in order to help users find the perfect jacket for any specific occasion. With the help of IBM’s Watson, it asks users a few questions to know them better and suggest only the options that are relevant to them.

Catchoom is working on exciting new solutions for the Fashion eCommerce space to facilitate more relevant product recommendations and better catalog management. Contact our team if you would like to learn more.


3. Make all your touchpoints count

Customer service must be spectacular, regardless of the channel. This can be done by developing mobile apps that accompany the customer through the whole process, including the post-purchase experience.

The moment a customer uses a product for the first time is as important as the moment they purchased it. It’s not the end of the shopping journey, but the beginning of the relationship between the brand and the consumer.

Therefore, it is important to build interfaces through which online retailers can continue the conversationwith their customers. Mobile marketing allows retailers and brands to perform follow-up actions such as push notifications, personalized promotions or additional content  that keep the conversation going.

Makeup Forever has an app called Teach Me Makeup that links products and additional content  by scanning the package with the app. It provides tutorials that can be easily saved by users and shared on social media, as well as an online shop, to keep customers engaged after the purchase.


Hyundai also developed a ‘virtual guide’ app that uses Image Recognition to trigger interactive experiences when pointing a mobile device towards a specific part of the vehicle. It includes information about the key components, 50 guides, and 82 how-to videos.

On a final note, polls show that 69% of online shoppers want to see more reviews on e-commerce sites, so it is important to master the last touchpoint in order to collect the best feedback possible.