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Blurring the Lines: The Rise of Omni-channel Retail

We all know shopping has changed now that digital and mobile access provide close to real-time price and product information. When we took a look the latest retail stats, one thing stood out: the line between online and in-store shopping is blurring.

At the same time, the whole idea of shopping has expanded to include a heavy helping of research conducted before heading out to a store or hitting the buy button. In fact, shoppers may toggle back and forth between research, product comparison and price-shopping multiple times and on multiple devices before they open their wallets -- real or virtual.

Part of this trend is due to the adoption of mobile devices. With a mobile device usually at hand, consumers have immediate and constant access to information, pricing and the buy button. That's why one out of five consumers turn to search while shopping.[1]

The omni-channel approach to the shopping process does not mean, however, that digital is always the end point for buying. While e-commerce grew much faster than offline retail spending last year, 80 percent of shoppers made their last purchase in a store. [2] In addition, three out of four purchases resulting from a mobile search still take place in a physical store.


You've heard about showrooming, when consumers go to a physical store to experience a product hands-on and then go online to buy it at the best price. Well, a recent study showed that the opposite practice -- tagged webrooming -- is just as prevalent. Webrooming shoppers check prices and/or availability online and then head to a store to get the product immediately without having to pay for shipping. Close to nine out of 10 showroomers have webroomed, while six in 10 webroomers have showroomed.[3]  Forrester research estimates that webrooming will result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017, up from $1.2 trillion in 2012.[4]

As the line between online and in-store shopping blurs, search has become the bridge uniting digital and traditional retail. Consumers may turn to search at any time during the expanded shopping process to validate that they’re getting the best product, at the best price, from the retailer that will give them the best shopping experience. Search becomes their personal shopper, helping them navigate through the physical and online shopping worlds simultaneously. Retailers who embrace every part of this complex shopping process will be able to connect with shoppers no matter where they are or how they're shopping.

In this omni-channel world, Bing Ads is a prime way to get shoppers' attention and increase sales -- no matter what channel consumers use to buy. There are 31 million consumers who shop exclusively on the Yahoo Bing Network -- and they spend 31 percent more online than the average internet shopper.[5]  Moreover, for every dollar spent in e-commerce revenue from paid search, you can expect to gain another $6 from in-store sales, thanks to the trends we've talked about.[6]

To find out more about how Bing Ads can help you connect with shoppers everywhere and all the time, with more intriguing stats about the expansion of the shopping process, check out our latest insights.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below, or ping me on Twitter.

[1] Microsoft, “The Consumer Decision Journey: Retail” September 2013

[2] IBM Survey: Shoppers Poised to Dramatically Expand Purchasing Power Beyond the Store. 15 Jan 2013

[3] "Making Sense of Complex and Contradictory Ecommerce Metrics" Jason Goldberg, VP of Commerce Strategy, Razorfish, January 29, 2014

[4] Adweek, "Study Shows Prevalence of Consumer Webrooming." May 9, 2014

[5] comScore Explicit Core Search (custom), March 2014

[6] Revtrax, "Measuring the True ROI of Paid Search: The In-Store of Paid Search", August 2011