Guide shops. Neighborhood hubs. Showrooms for retail. These show-and-tell centres, whatever you call them, all lead shoppers to the same destination: an experiential and interactive in-store visit. Retail showrooms are having an impact on all aspects of the retail industry.
In the past, bigger was always better. Macy’s, the grand dame of retail, proudly declared its flagship store in NYC’s Herald Square as the largest. Tourists may be amazed at the store’s enormous size but everyday shoppers don’t have the luxury to browse endless departments for hours. They know exactly what they want and want it right away. Go to the showroom.
Customers can get to know the products and try them out in showrooms. Showrooms can be used to view how a couch might look in a space, or even have a personal shopper pick the season’s look. They are a lifesaver for brick-and mortar retail and an affordable option for e-commerce.
Although fashion has been the most popular area to adopt showrooms, the concept can be applied across all retail sectors, including home decor, technology and food. Forbes predicts that 2018 will be a year when retailers develop new operating models that are less focused in their stores than the web, and more focused on providing customers with more control and convenience to shop.
PwC also contributed. PwC also contributed to the conversation.
Shopping with genius
Let’s begin with the most important aspect of shopping: fashion. Shopping for clothing and accessories can be a social activity. Shopping is an essential function for time-pressed consumers. Customers would rather spend their time browsing racks and walking from one store to the next, than spending hours on the road. Instead, they could browse the internet from their home, train station, or airport lounge. Or would they?
Retail has found a middle ground. Online shopping is easy. You can complete a form and set up an appointment to visit a showroom. The showroom will be filled with carefully selected items.
Both my husband and I work full-time. Our family is active with a full professional and personal life. It’s not just us: almost everyone with whom we socialize or work is in the same boat. Time is valuable.
It’s so satisfying to be able use an app to select the item, color, fabric weight/season and occasion I want, and then arrive to find a dressing area with many options, overseen by a sales associate. It’s amazing that a garment can be customized on-the-spot! You can also get a manicure and a blowout on-site. This saves you time for exercise, attending a child’s game, or just catching up with friends.
It is also a boon for retailers caught between sluggish foot traffic and increasing e-commerce returns. With their intimate, smaller feel, showrooms can be very cost-effective. The sales per square foot can be very impressive.
Mm.Lafleur is a brand that makes it easy for me to find the right dress for me, whether I’m looking for something to wear to work or a dress for a party. 99 percent of the times, I don’t need the item immediately. It takes 48 hours for me to get it delivered to my house. It’s actually a blessing that I don’t have to take the shopping bag back home from work or carry it around with me.
Take a run for a demonstration
Brands of sporting goods are taking advantage of experiential showrooms to their fullest. Today’s customers want to run or play in their sneakers before spending $150+. Although it is a great way to be noticed, they don’t always put their best foot forward. They want to know “What’s in the deal for me?” Adidas offers a track where you can try out the sneakers and have an expert evaluate your gait to ensure you purchase the right running shoes for you. Nike’s basketball court will give your potential basketball shoes a workout.
Casper is an e-commerce brand that sells mattresses. It discovered that customers care about the way a mattress feels…before it gets delivered. Instead of following traditional mattress-selling strategies (could anyone ever feel really comfortable lying on a mattress under fluorescent lights in public?) Casper recreates the comfort of a bedroom. The miniature “houses” are secluded and have low ambient lighting. You can also close the curtains to keep your privacy. Talk about maximising sales per square foot! It’s not hard to find these cozy nests with soft sheets, blankets and pillows for sale.
Showroom appeal is also a feature of tech gadgets. Dyson, the preferred brand for home geeks recognized that consumers need to see proof of effectiveness before they pay premium prices. Although you can see a vacuum cleaning up dirt and a blow dryer drying hair quickly, many people are still curious about the effectiveness of these machines. The Dyson Demo Store encourages experimentation and has experts to match shoppers with products based on their lifestyle preferences.
As hands-on and personal as possible
Virtual reality is being used by some retailers to allow for experimentation. Lowe’s Holoroom experience allows consumers to try before they buy or decide to DIY. On-demand virtual reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) allows shoppers to participate in a clinic that covers everything from bathroom tiling, to laying a wood floor, and more. Lowe’s understands that empowering customers creates loyal fans and increases revenue per sale. Shoppers can feel the drill’s weight, learn how to drive a screw, and even measure the exact way. With knowledge and confidence they are ready to buy, make, and return for more the next time a project arises.
They can experiment, inquire, and interact. All of this leads to the ultimate sign that there is a connection: the purchase. The shopper will feel more in control when they have the chance to learn about all aspects of the product, including how it feels, looks and works. A stronger and more confident relationship between the shopper and the product increases sales and decreases the chance of return.
The experiential supporting player
The success of experiential design depends on two other elements. One is the sales staff. It is no surprise that experiential stores have replaced “salesperson” by “consultant”, in order to emphasize the emotional and educational aspects of their role.
Too often, brands get too caught up in product innovation and neglect all aspects of the buying experience. It is important to eliminate pain points and simplify the in-store experience. Your on-the-floor advisors are the best to identify areas of friction. They witness it firsthand, as they observe shoppers’ journeys with your product. Customers also tell them about it. They witness vocal frustration as well as deep, contented breaths.
It is not enough to create an experience. Customers must be informed about the product features and their usage. Great consultants are brand ambassadors who help create shopper moments (r).
Signage and display can help floor staff in many ways. Signage is essential to educate the shopper about products and enhance experience. It’s the heart of retail theater. Display and signage guide customers through the store and provide useful information. The end result is the customer’s delight at the unexpected entertainment.
Joy is the ultimate experience.