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What will the showroom experience of the future be like?

Retail is changing. The way we shop is unrecognisable today from where we were even five years ago.

That means of course that the way we design our showrooms also must change. Consumers no longer want to simply ‘shop’ for a new bathroom when they visit an independent retailer. That can quite easily be done online. Instead, they are looking for a retail experience. And when you consider just how much of an investment a new bathroom is, who can blame them? Ultimately, it is this ‘experience’ and how it is presented to the consumer that will ensure independents stand out from the crowd and remain importantly different from competition on the internet and elsewhere.

So, what will the showroom ‘experience’ of the future look like? Could it be that a showroom space will be less somewhere to come and have a browse before moving on, and more of an immersive and experiential event? If that were to be the case, then potentially a bathroom showroom would not need lots of different displays and products from lots of different manufacturers. The showroom experience would be more focused on selling the design expertise of the team, through a vehicle such as Virtual Worlds 4D Theatre.

Experiential retail showrooms are designed to provide a memorable experience for their customers; they are focused on creating an enjoyable atmosphere for staff members as well as the public, by offering an appealing mix of products and services, and using technology to enhance customer interactions. For years we’ve heard about the decline of physical retail and the rise of the internet. However, the desire for retail experiences is on the rise, with the term ‘retailtainment’ even being coined. The difference between retailtainment and experiential retail really lies in the technology, with the latter focuses on creating a lasting impression and emotional connection with customers.

Perhaps then, the showroom experience should be about creating a sense of drama and excitement, where your customers completely bypass the computer and the usual way of presenting a design. Instead, retailers deliver a performance, literally as if they were on stage in a theatre, welcoming the customer to their dream kitchen or bathroom before leaving them to walk around it and interact with items in an act of showmanship

In this way, the sales process becomes more a form of storytelling, done in such a way that appeals to appeals to all the senses, whether that’s through spatial awareness, lighting effects or the feel of your hands getting wat when you run them under a tap in 4D.

Imagine too, that experience being shared on a big display screen for others to see, generating interest and awareness of the USP that the showroom offers. And, importantly, enabling the design to be viewed remotely later, so the consumer can share it with family members who have also may have an influence over their purchasing decision.

This is how independent retailers can also combat online competition, by offering this type of immersive, experiential showroom experience, and giving consumers the confidence to purchase without fear or buyer remorse.

Of course, online retailers are online for a reason – they don’t have the challenge of ever-rising rents and utilities to deal with, for one, and are not restricted in the number of products they can offer due to physical limitations of floor space in store.

So, could the showroom of the future be less about your physical space and more about taking your showroom to where the people are? Might we see pop-ups appearing at key venues without the constraints of a need for physical displays?  Could the technology described above be used in such a way for independent retailers to find their key demographic more accurately, by targeting events with like-minded people, rather than by being determined by what real-estate is available on the high street? Perhaps with declining footfalls and the changing face of our high streets, taking the proverbial mountain to your customers in this way is this answer.

One thing is for sure; to be successful, retailers must offer consumers a desirable retail experience that in turn drives sales. So, what does that mean for the showroom of the future? We’d love to know what retailers think.

Guest blog provided by #MemberMonday Virtual Worlds

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