Still, Bufano emphasized that “Let us find it” is only one way that Bon-Ton is trying to navigate the ongoing sea change in American shopping habits. Bon-Ton chains will begin their own “click-and-pick-it-up” programs next year, for instance. “And we need to be competitive in terms of our capabilities for servicing our customer,” she said. “We don’t feel our customers are exclusive to the department-store channel. They shop at different channels for different things so we need to have the capabilities to match what their needs are.
“Now, more than ever, the customer comes first, and the customer wants to shop when and how she wants, and we want to make sure we connect with her in many different ways.” It appears, however, that Bon-Ton and other retailers may not have to worry as much about one factor as the e-commerce revolution proceeds: “showrooming.” It was thought that this practice—in which consumers visit stores only to research articles and then order them online—helped lay low Best Buy. But new research suggests that actually a reverse phenomenon of showrooming is becoming more prevalent.
It’s called “webrooming,” or choosing and comparing products online but buying them at a physical store. An Accenture study showed that 78 percent of shoppers surveyed said they had webroomed during the previous 12 months. And it showed that the number of U.S. shoppers planning to visit physical stores rose from 9 percent a year earlier to 21 percent now.
Bufano and Bon-Ton will be doing their part to nudge that number higher.