The evolution of digital has changed not only where we shop, but how we shop. The battle for retail sales is being fought from the sales floor to the digital device and, more often, in-store while online. This is what is known as showrooming; the practice of checking out products in-store but then purchasing online, typically for a better deal.
Showrooming is a battle that retailers are being forced to confront. As a result, new retail models are forming that are re-defining what the in-store experience is. As stated by Piers Fawkers, founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK, “The most successful retailers will integrate their online and offline businesses and understand how these two different channels drive sales in tandem. Some will turn their stores into showrooms, others into delivery spaces, some into lifestyle experiences. There’s no right answer.”
While there is no right answer, there is some semblance of direction. It is expected that by 2020 many brands will seamlessly integrate across online, social, mobile and physical stores. This integration will morph many stores, within a variety of segments, into showrooms where consumers can select and order products.
Where showrooms begin is with the integration of technology. The reason- technology allows personalized consumer interaction. Methods are already being integrated by retailers including beacons and RFID tags, which communicate to consumers in tandem with their shopping journey. And, more often store associates are being armed with smart devices that act as another catalyst in enhancing the in-store buying process. All of this technology allows retailers and brands to engage with consumers with relevant information and timely personalization to enhance their buying experience. It also promotes store preference through a top-of-mind approach.
While technology plays a key role in generating consumer to retailer preference, it is ultimately still about the product. In the retail showroom environment, interaction with product is encouraged. According to the TimeTrade survey titled The 2015 TimeTrade State of Retail Report, 85% of those surveyed said they prefer to shop in stores because they like to touch and feel products before they make a purchase decision. Retail showrooms strategically integrate this hands-on approach and pair it with knowledgeable staff to enhance the buying experience while limiting showrooming practices.
The manner in which all of this interaction occurs relies heavily on the physical design of the retail showroom. This is the opportunity to create an emotional outlet for brand engagement, which is crucial to retailer connection and showroom success. Kate Shepherd explains it like this in her article Multi-dimensional storytelling: Brands should follow Hunter’s lead and design sensory retail experiences, “The most effective spaces have layers of detail; each with their own narrative. This approach engages all of the senses, stretching far beyond the obvious methods of communication to include touch, sound and smell; all of which evoke a deep emotional and intuitive understanding of the brand.” By integrating architecture and materials throughout the environment that leverage this sensory approach, the retailer turns from store to experience center which creates a deeper level of connection with consumers.
If a retailer can interact, entice and engage within a store environment then the connection to consumers will thrive. Combined, technology, product interaction and store design play significant roles in the future of retail. The showroom experience may seem far off, but 2020 will be here before we know it. As Linda Peterson states in her article What’s next in retail: showrooming and the new role of physical stores, “The basic assumption for the future of physical retail is that if the experience in the physical store is so good that you actually want to visit it again, the store will survive. Not only survive, but thrive in their new (and key) role in the retail of future.”