The stationary trade has long feared that due to the growing number of digital channels customers will turn their back to traditional brick & mortar stores. But many customers use online channels as starting point for all their product researches.

What does ROPO mean?

„Research online, purchase offline“ means that a customer gets information on a product online and then buys it in a store. According to a study from 2014, even back then nearly 90% of all customers went ROPO.

ROPO vs. Showrooming

Pretty much contrary to ROPO-behavior is the so-called „Showrooming“-behavior. Showrooming customers visit a store to look at, try on or test a product and then buy it cheaper elsewhere (usually online). Even in this case, though, online research can influence the decision. Every fifth customer leaves a store if they see on their smartphone that the product can be purchased cheaper somewhere else.

The internet and especially smartphones have changed the (digital) shopping behavior massively in the last years. According to the Google Consumer Barometer, every second German customer gets inspired by internet offers to purchase something. 54% compare products and nearly every third customer prepares for their shopping via online research. Especially the first contact with any product is usually initiated online. According to Google, nearly 60% of all customers find out about a product online (only 40% do so in a store).

ROPO in Germany

In Germany, every third customer is a ROPO customer. Showrooming is less common with only every sixth customer testing a product and then leaving the store to buy somewhere else. In comparison to many other European countries, Germany is far ahead when it comes to ROPO behavior.

ROPO in European countries

  • Germany: 33%
  • Greece: 32%
  • Norway: 29%
  • France: 28%
  • Denmark: 27%
  • Italy: 23%
  • Hungary: 14%
  • Czech Republic: 12%

It can be interesting to ponder why some countries have such low acceptance for ROPO shopping. In the Czech Republic, for example, it’s common for more than 70% of all customers to do research and to purchase offline. On the other hand, more than 60% research and purchase online. A possible explanation might be that products and shops only offer either online or offline and don’t have different channels for purchase.

What does a ROPO customer need?

The modern customer wants to make an informed decision. To prepare for a purchase, they need certain information. Amazon – as often – is a prime example for these needs and is rightfully one of the first stops (next to Google) for product research.

Comparing prices and products

Do you have similar products or offers or does your product is better than competing products? Give your customers the possibility to compare (easily).

Customer reviews

Customers trust in other customers more than in companies. Customer reviews – especially text-based – can offer a lot of information on a product for your customers.

Product information

What is your product made of, which color(s) does it have, which measurements, etc. Especially since your customers can’t touch and hold your products, they need ample information to get an „image“. This also includes enough product images that show it from different perspectives, in use and up-close.

Availability in your stores

The German High-Tech chain Media Markt knows its ROPO customers and gives the option to check availability of a product per store. No customer wants to go all the way down to a store and then find out that the branch doesn’t stock it. Other chains like IKEA and H&M meanwhile mark products that are only available online or in store, so the customers can make their decision where to purchase them.

Coupons, sales and discounts

Especially chains love to offer coupons or discounts. However, in Germany, most stores only offer customers saving tips after they purchased their products. German stores could learn from American and British chains who perfected the point of sales by offering sales coupons and discount codes before payment.

Mobile first

Most customers do their online research while they are in a store which means that stores have to create online experiences that are easy, fast and fun on the small screen of a smartphone.

This means responsive design but also different mobile journeys than for the desktop experience where the customer might have more time to browse and discover. Try using customer journey mapping-methods to find out what an in-store customer might want from your mobile online-experience to make a purchase.

Click & Collect

Click & collect offers customers the opportunity to purchase online and pick the product up in a nearby store, therefore saving potential delivery costs and avoid problems with missed deliveries, etc. It’s basically an in-between-solution for online purchases and ROPO customers.

However, in practice, customers are on the fence when it comes to click & collect. Often, this is a result of bad information practices from the offering stores. According to a German study, only one third of German customers is aware of click & collect practices. Especially younger customers (20-35 years old) know about this method. However, teenagers and older customer groups usually don’t know about click & collect and therefore can’t choose it.

A consistent customer experience

Rob Beirne writes on the MOZ-blog that chains who have both stores and web-shops face problems because store managers see the digital channels as competition. This means that in-store customers are less likely referred to the web shop, online discounts or research options. But for customers, a consistent experience across all channels needs to be positive and informative.

This starts with the look & feel and ends with customer service. Companies therefore need to make sure that store personnel gains from including the online experience in their in-store service. That way, they can give more information, refer customers to newsletters or advise on online discounts or specials to further create loyal customers.

Find out more about ways to create amazing customer experiences and find out what your customers really want.