ROPO effect: Why customers inform themselves online but buy offline

ROPO effect: Why customers inform themselves online but buy offline

Andreas Kraus
Andreas Kraus
published on June 3, 2020   
updated on June 20, 2023

ROPO effekt – The most important in a nutshell

  • Customers often find out about products online first, compare prices or read reviews before making purchases in stores.

  • Our need for information has increased because the Internet means we have all the information we need at our fingertips.

  • Affected industries are mainly health, insurance, furniture, automotive or the B2B sector as most of your products are explanation and consulting intensive.

  • Retailers should pay attention to a positive online presence these days.

As the popularity of the World Wide Web has increased, so has the fear that e-commerce will one day replace brick-and-mortar retailing altogether. Contrary to many predictions, however, brick-and-mortar retail is far from extinct. Consumers often use the Internet for research, but only decide to buy on site. This phenomenon – also known as the ROPO effect (research online, purchase offline) – has become particularly important in recent years. But how can brick-and-mortar retailers take advantage of this shopper behavior?

Definition: What is the ROPO effect?

ROPO means “research online, purchase offline”. Users first find out about the product online on the company’s own website, social media channels or in independent forums. Prices are also compared, reviews are taken into account and products are preselected. Only then does the prospective customer decide for or against the product directly in stationary retail. This phenomenon is also called webrooming, in contrast to showrooming, where the prospective customer informs himself in the stationary trade but buys online.

ROPO stands for "resarch online, purchase offline" and describes the phenomenon that customers first inform themselves online and then buy offline (in stationary retail).

Why customers inform themselves online & buy offline…

One thing is clear: this phenomenon has only existed since the Internet became accessible to everyone. But why, of all things, has this form of behavioral change taken hold?
Thanks to the Internet, we are all used to being able to find out about anything at any time. Regardless of whether we want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow or which item of clothing is currently in fashion, we have all the information with us at all times. This possibility has also increased our need for information more and more. After all, we are simply no longer used to buying products without first knowing what other people think of them.

At the same time, globalization has flooded the domestic market with low-quality products. Hardly anyone has not bought a product that was thrown in the trash after the first use because quality was clearly skimped on in production. And even though these products are often priced far below what domestic companies charge for comparable products, it annoys consumers when a product can no longer be used after its first use.
The combination of these two factors is clear: in order to find the best quality product at the lowest possible price, users first turn to the number one information medium, the Internet, so that they can then get an even better picture of the product on site, look at it live and touch it.

Which industries are particularly affected by the ROPO effect?

The greatest occurrence of the ROPO effect can be found in the healthcare, insurance, furniture, automotive or industrial trade sectors in the B2B area. A major commonality here is probably that most of your products are high-priced and require a lot of explanation or advice. Here, more emphasis is often placed on personal advice on product details and functionality, so that questions can be clarified in more detail. The feel and look of some products also play an important role, which is why a live test on site can be crucial.

What other reasons are there for the ROPO effect?

  1. Customers want to see or touch the product.
  2. Customers want to take the product home right away.
  3. Customers want to find out about product features.

The significance of the ROPO effect for brick-and-mortar retailers

Back in 2011, Google published a study according to which just under 38 percent of respondents said they would find out about a desired product online but purchase it offline. Considering the fact that nowadays even significantly more people use the mobile Internet and information about desired products is thus even more easily accessible, this suggests that the percentage of users with this behavior has increased rather than decreased.

And this is exactly what leads to the fact that dealers – regardless of whether they sell online or offline – have to pay attention to a positive online presence nowadays. After all, if a retailer’s online rating is poor, this can lead to significantly fewer in-store visits offline as well.

ROPO effect: Why customers inform themselves online but buy offline
Read another blog post about the importance of online reviews, why you shouldn’t neglect them, and how you can collect reviews from your customers.

How do you strengthen your online presence?

To keep it simple: Potential customers need to be able to find out everything they’re interested in as quickly and easily as possible. This starts with the address and opening hours and extends to the availability of the desired product. The important thing here is: it’s better to admit openly on your website that the product is currently not available. Most customers are willing to wait a few days until the product can be purchased again. However, if the customer only finds out in the store that the desired product is sold out, this could lead to a negative association with the company – and ultimately to fewer sales.

Another important factor is complete product portfolios. Should you only showcase a few of your items online, the customer might think that these are all your products and look for a store that is sure to carry their desired product. This is also an important factor for restaurants; after all, many people have already made up their minds regarding your food selection before entering the restaurant.

Online Shopping during Offline Retail

Nowadays, every customer in a brick-and-mortar store also carries a smartphone, which allows them to compare in-store prices with online prices while shopping. They can also browse for similar items or check if the same product is available elsewhere in a different color or size, even finding out if a competitor nearby offers the same item. Take advantage of this situation. Offer Wi-Fi in your store to give customers the opportunity to gather optimal information before making a purchase. Some stores even provide stationary tablets for customers to access the internet. However, make sure that your own online presence is the homepage displayed. If your online presence meets the criteria mentioned above and your prices are competitive, customers will choose to buy the product from you on-site. Even if the product is slightly more expensive than online, the benefits of having it immediately and avoiding shipping costs outweigh the difference. And if the customer prefers to make an online purchase, you have already drawn their attention to your online presence. The likelihood is high that they will add the product to their shopping cart or wishlist right away.

The New Dimension of the ROPO effect

By simultaneously using smartphones during offline shopping, a new temporal dimension of the ROPO effect emerges. The utilization of online and offline offers is no longer sequential but occurs simultaneously. Utilize both strategically to secure the highest revenue. Two-thirds of all retail companies in Germany now sell their products both in-store and online.

ROPO effect: Why customers inform themselves online but buy offline
Is online advertising worth it for your business?
Find out how local businesses can also benefit from online marketing measures.