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The Rise of Showrooms in the Omnichannel

by simon
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Changes in technology, consumer behavior, and commerce have placed a new importance on showrooms. While some verticals have long used showrooms to demonstrate products, signs point to wider adoption.

Showrooms may not just be for furniture retailers anymore. Furthermore, they may not just be for brick-and-mortar. Showrooms may be omni channel solutions and the next logical option for otherwise online-only retailers.

Take Made.com, for example. The London-based furniture and home products brand launched in 2010 largely as an eCommerce business. As with many online-first companies, Made began using showrooms for several reasons.

First, customers, especially those shopping for furniture or fashion, want to try on products for size. Second, as online-first companies grow, they often find it helpful to set up showrooms or flagship stores as omni channel retail solutions to broaden their customer base. Ultimately, it’s about helping more and more customers choose to purchase from you.

Made took its showroom experience one step further. The brand trialed omni channel retail software to allow customers to conduct live chats with Made sales representatives from the showroom floor. As Retail Dive points out, these are employees who actually have the experience to offer online customers valuable insights.

This experiential fusion illustrates how a lot of retailers tackle omni channel management. In the omnichannel, traditional stores can be less important than showrooms.

Showrooms Aren’t Stores

As eCommerce changes the retail landscape, many brands are experimenting with brick-and-mortar and omni channel services. Made.com illustrates how showrooms function in the omni channel.

Again, as reported in Retail Dive, the showroom is a place designed to allow customers to try and test products in their “journey to transact.” Because that transaction will happen online, showrooms are truly distinct from stores.

There is no inventory to move in a showroom, and the cost justification is shifted to the overall sales cycle.

Showrooms appear to be the logical evolution of retail because customers have been using stores as showrooms for years.

The concept has always been a natural fit for furniture and, though it’s new to apparel, fashion companies are also trying out the concept.

For companies new to the idea, use showrooms to manage customer expectations. If they don’t know already, a showroom is about conceptualizing and experiencing the product and that showroom inventory is not for sale.

Consequently, the showroom has to offer a compelling, hands-on experience to encourage the customer to follow through with the transaction. Additionally, omnichannel showrooms should be prepared to track orders and inventory across multiple channels and to dispatch orders from warehouses and 3PL providers.