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The web-to-store: everyone is talking about it but...

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The web-to-store, everyone is talking about it without really mastering this new concept. Ropo, Robo, Solomo, Hylomo... before reaching puberty, he is already a victim of the little nicknames given by Web fashionistas. What's really behind this concept? Jérémie Herscovic, market expert and president of SoCloz, proposes a deciphering to better understand the stakes of this new trend.

The web-to-store: back to the future...

First of all the definition of the concept: web-to-store describes the behaviour of Internet users who search for information on the web before buying in a store. Yet another fashion effect from the web world? No, on the contrary, it is a lasting trend.

In the 90s, when e-commerce emerged, we saw it as a new purchasing channel allowing us to buy without moving. In fact, many sociologists panicked at the idea of a social cataclysm and described the risk of streets and shops being completely deserted. Fifteen years later, the cataclysm has not happened and 92% (1) shopping is still going on in stores. Indeed, there are many structural obstacles to online shopping: delivery cost, no possibility to touch and view the product, to get it quickly or to benefit from advice ...

At the same time, the Internet has become a way of life as 86% (2) of Internet users are in favour of the network that allows them to find information in two clicks. The emergence of the web-to-store is explained by the fact that although consumers consult the Internet to search for information, the majority of them make their purchases in stores. It is a logical evolution of e-commerce towards its maturity phase, a kind of e-commerce version 2.

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For nearly 77% (3) of Internet users, the Internet has now become an indispensable research tool before going to the store.

And this is just the beginning...

In 2011, all French brands and retailers were talking about web-to-store without ever really knowing how to integrate it into their strategies. Since then, the situation has changed.

Why such an awakening? The answer is simple...

Internet users looking to buy in stores cannot easily find store information (such as stock availability) on the web. Often, he or she comes across price comparators or e-merchants, but :

- How do you know if the product you are viewing is sold in store (some stores have exclusive Internet offers online without specifying it)

- How do I know if the price displayed on the Internet is the same as the price in store (29% (4) stores display different prices on the web)

- How do I know if the product is still available in the store's inventory?

As an example in the fashion industry, and according to some brands, a majority (about 70%) of visitors do not intend to buy online, but do what could be called pre-shopping. In other words, they retrieve information before going to the store to view the product. The absence of dedicated store information erects a barrier to a possible move. Similar behaviours are observed in other sectors such as furniture, DIY...

Percentage of Internet users who do a search on the Internet before going to the store (Source Kantar Media) :

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In fact, by displaying dedicated store information, this barrier collapses since some brands have seen their store traffic increase from 5 to 8% (example of Nordstrom in the United States)! Hence the growing adoption of a "cross-channel" approach. Having said that, we are still far from a tidal wave. Proof of this is that only 33% of the signs mention on their website whether the products are Internet exclusives and only a handful display the availability of the product in stock.

In the end, the barrier to travel generally remains high, since retail sales are only influenced by 20% (5) by research on the web (very far from the 40% in the United States, where the distribution market is 5 years ahead). Nevertheless, awareness is on the rise and, in 2015, 45% of retail sales (6) in France will be influenced by research on the Internet.

Players with different positions

There is not ONE web-to-store approach but several approaches. Proof of this is the existence of two types of players in the sector: "internal" who offer turnkey solutions to retailers for their web and mobile media and "external" to the retailer's web and mobile media and whose mission is to bring traffic to the store.

The former provide solutions:

- Blinds locator: improves the visibility of a brand's stores in search engines.

- product locator": allows a web user to discover, on the company's website, the stores with the product he is looking for.

- " click & collect ": allows an Internet user to reserve a product before going to the store.

The latter refer consumers who do not know which store to go to. This is an opportunity for them to discover new brands and new stores:

- Geolocated social networks: they generally do not show the products sold in stores. Reviews are often the main interest.

- Specialized couponing actors: they focus only on products on special offer in stores without mentioning the availability in stock.

- Pre-shopping wizards: this is the strongest promise for a web-to-store surfer ("I look for stores with the product I'm looking for - the closest, the one with the best service, the cheapest, etc."). ") but the most complicated to implement because of the "interfacing" with the brands' information systems. Their added value is based on the possibility of knowing the availability of each store.

For retailers, it is clear that the implementation methods of a web-to-store strategy are still unclear. Currently, they are testing the first available modes without having yet defined a clear strategy. And yet developments are already underway with new solutions. More than a simple return to in-store shopping, web-to-store is already pushing towards a transformation of the in-store experience which is becoming increasingly digital. One thing is sure, we haven't heard the last of the web-to-store which is set to be the new trend for the next 10 years!

1 Figures Precepta / Xerf (2012)

2 Figures Fevad / Médiamétrie / netrating (2011)

3 Figures Medimetry (2012)

4 Diamart study (2012)

5 Figures from Forrester Research (2012)

6 Figures Cabinet Forrester Research (2012)

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