Many retailers and brands think of eCommerce primarily as a sales channel. This is no surprise; data from comScore suggests that, in the US, eCommerce now accounts for 12.4% of all retail sales—and online retail sales growth outpaces total retail growth by 3-4X.
But more and more retailers and consumer brands are awakening to a potentially even more profound trend: the influence that digital touchpoints have over brick-and-mortar retail purchases.
The evidence is growing that, beyond the rapidly-rising share of purchases that actually take place online, an even larger percentage of sales is influenced by online product content, ratings and reviews, and more.
What is ROPO?
ROPO, a.k.a. webrooming, stands for “Research Online, Purchase Offline.” After initial anxiety over the threat of “showrooming” (shoppers researching in-store and purchasing from online competitors), many retailers and brands have discovered that the reverse behavior is perhaps even more prevalent; shoppers are researching where to shop and what to buy online, both before a store visit and in-store.
According to a May 2015 Deliotte study, digital influences 64 cents of every 1 dollar spent in-store.
Source: Deliotte, May 2015
Here are some additional statistics demonstrating the growth of ROPO:
- 72% of Millennials research and shop their options online before going to a store or the mall (Forbes, April 2014)
- 36% of the consumers with smartphones ask stores to price-match (Merchant Warehouse, May 2014)
- 37% of the consumers like the option of being able to return products to the store if needed to (Merchant Warehouse, May 2014)
- 42% of in-store consumers research online while in-store (Google, December 2014)
What does ROPO mean for you?
Considering the prevalence of consumers using online channels as a primary research platform, here are 3 ways ROPO can impact your business:
- Search rankings—especially at online retailers’ sites–can fundamentally impact ROPO traffic for your products. According to Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, Amazon is Google’s biggest competitor in Search. (Notably, Google recently launched a Manufacturer Center to help standardize product data.) Discoverability is key in clueing shoppers into researching your products, whether they search for product keywords or browse specific categories.
- Complete and compelling product content is essential for building and protecting brand equity. As described in our previous guest post by Patrick Miller of Flywheel Digital, Amazon can be a highly scalable channel for brand building as well as sales.
a) Product title and primary product image play a key role in driving traffic from search result and category pages to product pages. Read our recommendations on how to construct a high impact product title and primary product image.
b) Comparison matrices in A+ content help shoppers compare related products side-by-side, and make well-informed purchasing decisions. For example, Amazon’s Kindle e-reader product page includes a comparison matrix that compares different Kindle offerings by price, lighting, connectivity, and other features. Comparison matrices can also showcase your product against competitor products. Chromecast’s product page includes a comparison matrix that includes competitor products, such as a Roku streaming stick, or an Apple TV.
c) Instructions for Use can be leveraged more flexibly online than traditional brick and mortar experiences. For example, product pages can include instructional videos, images demonstrating use in different settings, and links to other instructional content.
- Ratings & Reviews, which are inaccessible in a brick and mortar experience, can serve as valuable peer feedback for shoppers, as well as free focus groups experiment for manufacturers. Check out our 3 Tips for Brand to Benefit from Ratings & Reviews.
How can you leverage ROPO?
- Monitor your share of page 1 results regularly for key category search terms and brand search terms
- Invest in creating and syndicating complete and compelling product content, and audit the digital shelf to ensure that your brand is being presented to your standards
- Consider investing in ratings and reviews seeding services for major new product launches, and continuously monitor your ratings and reviews for negative ratings
Digital’s Influence is What Meets the Eye
The bottom line is that more shoppers are discovering, considering, and selecting what to buy using digital content. Do you know what shoppers see at the digital shelf?