Image source: Dtail
COVID-19 forced brands and retailers to adapt to a new way of working, including how they wholesale their products.
Digital showrooms let you share your collections with a click of a button and schedule virtual appointments or set up virtual fitting rooms with retail buyers. Depending on the software, you can share 3D product images and product videos and accept purchase orders, all within the same platform.
We’ve all been to more Zoom meetings over the last year than we ever thought possible. But the pandemic has accelerated the digital revolution—and the adaptation of digital showrooms.
In this article, we’ll look at what a digital showroom is and digital showroom platforms to consider using. Plus, virtual selling best practices and how brands are getting this new way of selling right.
Table of Contents
What is a digital showroom?
Digital showrooms—also referred to as virtual showrooms—are an innovative solution that lets brands and retail buyers engage and sell products through an online platform.
It replaces physical showrooms and trade shows, eliminating the need for a physical location and physical samples to show new collections. Virtual showroom software bridges the gap between the digital and physical worlds.
Brands create and organize new collections, including product photos and details, pricing, and delivery information. Some digital showroom platforms have 3D virtual sampling functionalities, which entirely eliminates the need for physical sampling.
Retail buyers are invited to visit the showroom at a time that suits them. They can explore your new products or collections digitally and then make purchase orders directly in the same platform.
Digital showrooms aren’t completely new. But with trade shows on hold, the adoption of this new technology has accelerated. And is likely here to stay.
Image source: McKinsey & Company
According to McKinsey, both B2B buyers and sellers prefer the new digital reality. Around 70%–80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service.
There are many benefits to using digital showrooms for both retail buyers and brands, including easier scheduling, saving money, sustainability, and safety.
Digital showrooms are used in a variety of industries, such as fashion, beauty, home goods, automotive, and more.
How brands and retailers use digital showrooms
Brands and retailers in the fashion, beauty, and home design industries use digital showrooms to bring the entire sales and buying process online. This makes it easier for everyone involved.
Rather than scheduling numerous physical appointments with retail buyers, brands add seasonal collections to the digital showroom platform. This way, retail buyers can visit at their convenience, view the entire collection, and place orders at the same time.
Traditionally, this would happen at a trade show or a brand’s physical showroom during a set period of time, also known as market week. In-person showroom sales require tons of scheduling, and you can only accommodate so many people in one week.
Brands use digital showrooms to expand their reach and streamline the B2B sales process. When the buying process happens online, multiple buyers can view your collection and submit their purchase orders at the same time.
Retailers use digital showroom platforms to discover new collections and complete purchase orders. With this virtual experience, buyers can view and order from various brands without spending an entire day running between showroom appointments.
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Digital showroom platforms to consider
There’s a range of digital showroom software and platforms available to retailers and brands today. Some have more advanced features and functionalities than others, but they all help streamline the B2B ecommerce sales and buying process.
Let’s take a look at a few here:
JOOR is a wholesale and data exchange platform for beauty, fashion, and home goods retailers.
Its digital showroom also serves as a marketplace, as it already has thousands of users. Brands use JOOR to simplify their B2B sales process and to reach new retailers who are already using the platform. The same goes for retailers. Buyers can discover new brands to stock in their store via Joor.
Image source: JOOR
You can show off your products using dynamic video, 3D interactive images, and audio. For example, share a video of your runway show, a video of you explaining the collection, and product performance reviews.
You can also schedule virtual appointments with retail buyers to share details about the collection you’re selling. It also has a style board feature so product assortments can be personalized to each buyer during online showroom appointments.
You can arrange your products into specific collections depending on the buyer’s past purchases, their region, and other factors to help simplify the process for them.
Creating unique virtual showrooms and curated shopping experiences for retail buyers builds the buyer’s connection with the brand. It also leads to more productive buying appointments.
JOOR’s new tool, JOOR Passport, centralizes and digitizes trade show experiences across multiple global fashion events.
Its real-time dashboard gives you flexibility and visibility into performance and insights of your business. You can collaborate with your buyers on orders, visualize assortments, and share information with your team, all in one platform.
BrandLab360 recreates brand showrooms and retail spaces using immersive technology and virtual reality. With its platform, you can create any physical space in a 3D digital format,. Iincluding integrated live voice and video communication that links seamlessly to transactional ordering platforms.
Virtual reality removes many limitations of using a physical showroom or store environment. You can minimize restraints, challenges of space and configuration, and the significant costs related to maintaining a physical showroom.
Image source: BrandLab360
Each virtual showroom environment can host unlimited users, allowing you to show your products to multiple buyers at the same time. You can also invite consumers and friends to their own private shopping experience.
The advantage of live and interactive virtual showroom appointments is the ability to maintain customer relationships and provide continuity in the sales process.
“The fashion industry has been transformed over the past few years by advances in ecommerce and digital marketing, and we will see further significant growth with the introduction of VR technology,” says Jennifer Drury, founder and CEO BrandLab360. “Brands have an instant global reach with minimum investment to new markets. And time-poor buyers are able to view more brands and collections than ever before without the need for travel.”
Dtail is a 3D fashion platform developed by PixelPool. In addition to Dtail software, PixelPool offers professional services such as virtual sample production, virtual environment creation, and one-off virtual selling experiences.
Dtail lets you use 3D virtual samples in the key phases of fashion product development. Its end-to-end solution means that the same virtual sample evolves with the planning, merchandising, and sales process. All product updates are synced.
Image source: Dtail
The purpose of Dtail is not to receive purchase orders but to generate them using the Dtail virtual showroom. Those purchase orders can then be forwarded to existing order intake systems.
Once you configure Dtail, it shows up-to-date synchronized product data from your product lifecycle management (PLM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. You can track updates to your 3D library and add new virtual samples immediately to your digital showroom atmosphere.
“The benefits of virtual samples are documented far and wide and are being embraced by the fashion industry at long last,” says Joost Alferdinck, Chief Product Officer at Dtail. “Brands are seeing the true potential of working digitally, especially in these times of lockdowns and closed showrooms. Virtual samples offer great cost and environmental benefits. There is no cost for logistics, no photography, no carbon footprint, and there are infinite available items.”
You don’t have to wait to photograph samples and update linesheets with Dtail’s virtual sampling capabilities. Product samples are available globally in the cloud and usable in a range of connected 3D solutions, like CLO 3D and Browzwear VStitcher. This drastically increases your speed to market.
HATCH is a digital showroom that helps you leverage your brand story—something it calls “storyselling.” With its platform, you can build relationships and connect with buyers from anywhere. You can streamline selling your brand and telling the story behind each product or collection for more focused and efficient wholesale appointments.
Image source: HATCH
HATCH helps you create engaging B2B experiences while also tackling the inefficiencies and waste of wholesale selling, making it smarter, faster, and more sustainable.
“Sustainability is key for HATCH,” says Álvaro Pin, the brand’s head of growth. “We’ve seen the general waste we create around wholesale in order to simply conduct business. Our focus on storytelling and change management is not trivial.”
Popular fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Clavin Klein, and Havaianas use HATCH to achieve sample reduction targets.
Launchmetrics is a Brand Performance Cloud used by fashion, luxury, and beauty businesses to connect with consumers in a constantly changing landscape. It helps you optimize the use of creative assets and engage with retail buyers, editors, and influencers to amplify your brand and measure performance.
This is done with its proprietary Media Impact Value, an AI-driven technology that lets you benchmark your performance against 2,000 competitors worldwide.
“Physical experiences will remain a major part of the industry,” says Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer at Launchmetrics. “However, the true success in the long term will be found in how brands merge both the digital and physical—to create impactful, share-worthy moments both on- and offline."
Image source: Launchmetrics
Launchmetrics’ digital events let you create inspiring and engaging experiences that go beyond fashion week or showroom presentations. And its Galleries app helps you continue engagement. Buyers, editors, stylists, and influencers can zoom into products and download the high-res images and videos they need.
Launchmetrics’ event data lets you see how many people attended the event versus how many people sent RSVP emails and didn’t turn up. You can also monitor who was talking about your event. This helps you understand what worked and what didn’t, in order to improve future events and business strategies.
Use the Brand Performance Cloud to package and distribute digital assets to media, influencers, and buyers.
And—if they need them—visitors can request physical product samples directly in the platform.
NuORDER’s digital showroom helps buyers and brands collaborate online via its B2B platform. You can showcase products, customize buyer appointments, and digitize your selling process to boost sales.
Buyers can view your interactive virtual showroom by clicking a link that takes them straight to the assortment you want to show. You can share 360-degree product imagery and dynamic videos, and buyers can zoom in for more detailed views.
Image source: NuORDER
Use its shoppable hotspots to drop a product hotspot on top of a video or image and the page will be instantly shoppable.
NuORDER’s digital planning boards let you collaborate across teams, share ideas, and plan assortments. This way, you and your buyers can visualize collections before creating purchase orders.
6 Examples of digital showrooms done right
1. Tommy Hilfiger
In 2015, Tommy Hilfiger launched its first digital showroom in Amsterdam with the help of HATCH. Its mission to improve sustainability and minimize its carbon footprint meant it had to find ways to reduce physical sample making. Using a digital showroom helped Tommy Hilfiger transform the buying journey and retail value chain through remote wholesale selling and digital product creation.
Image source: HATCH
Since launching its first digital showroom, Tommy Hilfiger has immersed hundreds of customers globally into the world of digital selling. Physical samples have been reduced by at least 65% in most locations and by 80% in its Amsterdam flagship showroom. Now it’s easier to create, edit, and buy collections with the click of a button.
Italian clothing brand Diesel launched its own digital showroom, HYPEROOM. It’s a 360-degree digital platform created to engage with fashion buyers online and streamline the purchase order process.
Image source: retail-focus.co.uk
Diesel’s parent company, OTB, was involved in bringing HYPEROOM to life and helping to accelerate the digitization of the fashion industry. All of OTB’s brands have their own virtual showroom within HYPEROOM. Each keeps its own personality, values, and style in a customized area of the platform.
Retail buyers can immerse themselves in engaging remote buying sessions rather than traditional showroom appointments. 360-degree displays and 2D closeups let them view the products as if they were there in person.
There’s a dedicated virtual space for Diesel’s denim collections, including videos and high-quality images to show the look and feel of the products.
3. Laude the Label
Sustainable brand Laude the Label used JOOR to power its wholesale growth. Showrooms alone weren’t getting the brand’s mission across to buyers.
“Laude the Label needed a way to consistently communicate its brand story,” says Kristin Savilia, CEO at JOOR. “After moving their wholesale business online with JOOR, the brand saw 200% company growth and 138% retailer growth.”
By using a digital showroom, Laude the Label was able to effectively convey the sustainable nature of its products, including how they ethically create fashion.
90% of Laude the Label’s wholesale growth was reinvested into the alleviation of poverty and long-term social and economic benefits around the world.
4. Westport Group
Westport Group is a New York–based multi-brand organization. After joining BrandLab360 in 2020, it now operates its entire wholesale sales operation via BrandLabs digital platform.
Westport Group manufactures and licenses for brands such as Timberland, Steve Madden, and Nautica. Since linking its showroom to a completely tailored bespoke B2B ordering solution, Westport has seen a 10% increase in sales from many key customers.
Image source: BrandLab360
“Feedback from key clients, including large retailers such as Walmart and Saks, is one of the most rewarding outcomes for Westport,” says Drury. “Retail buyers commented on how refreshing it feels to meet in a replica of the physical showroom rather than using video conferencing facilities such as Zoom.”
HATCH helped Havaianas launch its digital showroom, create seasonal content, and train all sales teams in the EMEA region to sell digitally with almost no physical samples.
“It wasn’t easy, but the communication, commitment, and drive on both ends made it possible. We’re excited that Havaianas had a successful season. This way of selling will be valuable beyond 2020,” says Pin.
By going digital Havaianas experienced a 70% decrease in sample costs and a 25% uplift on its future order target compared to last year.
Image source: HATCH
“2020 has been a year of reevaluation and adapting to new ways of working,” says Merel Werners, marketing director EMEIA Havaianas.
“We were already considering improving how we use samples for sell-in purposes, but the pandemic was the catalyst for us to go totally digital. Although some physical samples will still be required in certain circumstances, such as innovation, the virtual showroom provides an infinitely more immersive experience and streamlined sales tool.”
6. Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode
In July 2020, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode hosted digitally its Haute Couture Week and Paris Fashion Week Men’s. Launchmetrics developed a digital hub to bring the industry event online to press, retail buyers, and consumers worldwide. The virtual showroom even accumulated over 19.4 million views on all channels including YouTube, Weibo, and Tencent Video.
Image source: Paris Fashion Week
“Launchmetrics estimated that the Media Impact Value of the seven days is to be valued at $65.1 million,” says Bringé. “The partnership was so successful that it continued in September as well as with Paris Fashion Week Men's.”
The benefits of using a digital showroom
Adapting to selling virtually can help you reduce costs, minimize waste on sample making, and boost sales.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using a digital showroom:
Reduce costs and improve sustainability
Digital showrooms reduce and sometimes eliminate the need for product sales samples. This is better for the environment and your bottom line.
Traditionally, a brand would make two to 20 sets of salesmen samples. With physical samples, total sampling is dependent on factors like:
- The number of regional sales people
- Trade show attendance
- How many wholesale accounts wanted to hold samples for a few weeks before finalizing their purchase orders
Now that retailers can log in to a virtual showroom and review collections, the need to create physical samples is nearly obsolete. I say nearly because sampling is still required during the development process to fit, test, and approve designs and workmanship of new products. And some retail buyers may still request to see (at least some) physical samples before ordering.
“Virtual samples reduce time to market,” says Alferdinck. “They allow for a shorter development cycle so brands can react faster and reduce waste by developing products with a superior market fit. Isn’t that what sustainability in fashion should be about? Produce only what actually sells.”
Digital showrooms also reduce costs, for buyers and brands, associated with travel to trade shows and sales appointments and with maintaining a physical showroom.
Level up your product assortment planning
Once you’ve built a digital library of products, whether it’s via product photography or 3D images, it’s easy to start planning product assortments.
Depending on the digital showroom platform, you can search and add products from your library to build assortments that retail buyers can view. Unlike a physical showroom, with a virtual showroom you can do this planning from anywhere and on a range of devices. Then you can collaborate on assortments with your team or present them to buyers.
The major advantage of this is that you don’t have to wait for physical samples to start selling your products. You don’t have to deal with incomplete sample collections. The days of having to pull together a combination of samples, print outs, and other last minute props to help sell your new collection with buyers is over.
Instead, you get a quick overview of your product assortment and can easily share it.
Go to market faster
Salesman sample shipments are oftentimes delayed from the factory. With virtual samples, you and your retail buyers have full access to your collections right away. You don’t need to wait for physical samples to introduce your new collections to the market.
“When samples are less relevant in the process, more and more value unravels across the value chain,” says Pin. “This shortens a brand’s time to market and eventually helps to solve the imbalance between supply and demand in the fashion world.”
Simplify the wholesale buying process and make ordering more efficient
With digital showroom software the entire ordering process takes place within the platform. You can streamline the purchase order (PO) creation process and avoid getting POs in various different formats from each retail buyer. Aggregating orders for production also becomes easier.
It’s all in one place.
Virtual showroom software also makes the ordering process easier for buyers. All they need to do is select the products from your product library and add them to their PO. It centralizes product details, letting buyers easily look up style or SKU numbers, color names, fabrics, size range, or delivery dates.
“By selling virtually, you are able to sell to more buyers in a shorter amount of time, and you can bring down the length of your sales window as well,” says Alferdinck.
More efficient ordering leads to higher order values, better customer experience, and more time to schedule additional virtual appointments, so you can sell more.
No more rushing from one showroom to another (for you or the buyer) to view collections and make notes. Reduce your average appointment time with a digital showroom.
Use data to boost sales
Most digital showroom platforms organize all of your sales and order data in a user dashboard.
This way you can quickly see which products are selling more than others and which products might not make the cut. You may decide not to produce certain products if there is not enough demand.
Traditionally, in a physical showroom, you’d take notes during each buyer meeting to keep track of the assortment they planned to buy. Then, at the end of the day, you’d see which styles had very little interest. Products with no interest would get dropped from the collection. Or you’d wait to decide after a few more appointments.
Real-time updates in your virtual showroom allow you to act faster and direct buyers to products and assortments that already have proven demand.
Expand your global reach
Many digital showroom platforms also act as a marketplace to help brands and retail buyers connect. More than 12,500 brands use JOOR and over 300,000 fashion retailers across 144 countries connect on the platform every day.
By using a virtual showroom platform, you’re able to share your collections with buyers anywhere in the world. You don’t need to spend money to set up physical showrooms in their region. This is advantageous when you’re looking to expand into new markets and can be beneficial to increasing international sales.
For example, if you’re based in California, a buyer from Amsterdam can view your products and make an order from the digital showroom platform.
Your doors are always open
Using a digital showroom platform lets you stay open for business. Your doors are always open to any buyer who has a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
“Editors, buyers, stylists, and more can connect with their favorite brands at any time and any place, says Bringé. “No more needing to wait for office hours or email replies to get your last-minute collection content needs. As the industry knows, what is seen, sells.”
Adapt to the times we’re in and stay competitive in the future
The pandemic has accelerated the need to go digital for many industries. However, this new way of working has proven to be efficient across many sectors. If you adapt to digital showroom selling now, you’ll be in a better position to succeed today and into the future.
“For brands, these efficiencies result in the increase of individual order values and a more efficient and cost effective route to market,” says Drury.
“VR not only provides a solution for those faced with the current global health situation, but it has clear potential to improve the industry’s environmental impact. Viewing items virtually means less carbon footprint and clothes wastage, with many large brands aiming to eradicate physical samples over the next five to 10 years.”
💡 PRO TIP: Ship-to-customer order fulfillment is the easiest way to turn your store into a showroom. Rather than being limited to selling products you have in stock, you can sell products in-store and ship them to customers from your warehouse or another store location that has inventory.
Digital showroom best practices to drive revenue
Pricing structures per digital showroom platform vary, but many have a monthly subscription fee. Some have extra fees to unlock more features. To make sure you get the best return on your investment, keep these best practices in mind while selling virtually.
Set KPIs for your digital showroom
“Brands starting their digital transformation journey should first decide which objectives and KPIs they want to target—what do you really want to achieve?” says Alferdinck.
A few common goals you can consider are to:
- Lower the number of physical showrooms you have
- Spend less money on trade shows
- Decrease the production of physical salesman samples
- Reduce development time so you can go to market faster
- Increase order values
- Reduce unsold stock
- Shorten design, sales, and production cycles
- Decrease carbon footprint
Define your primary objectives so you can build your digital strategy around them.
Embrace a digital mindset
Changing the way you do business is hard. But adopting new practices to increase productivity and evolve with your industry is key for growth.
“Embrace a digital mindset,” says Pin. “There’s nothing more powerful to drive smart, sustainable change through great software than believing you can do it. Both as individuals and companies, this is the biggest asset for success.”
Invest in brand content
One of the key benefits of a digital showroom is reducing sample making and the costs and waste associated with samples. But you still need to show your collections to buyers.
High quality and detailed brand content is crucial to the success of your virtual showroom.
“Brand content has a direct impact on buyer behavior, so brands should invest in the very best imagery, video, and marketing content, including 360 digital media and 3D assets,” says Drury. “Our experience has shown that the more engaging the experience the longer the buyer will spend in the environment, in turn providing higher order values and increased customer retention.”
Make your content and the experience engaging by ensuring that buyers can view your merchandise from different angles. Write detailed product descriptions that answer all the questions a buyer may have. Include information about product materials, color options, price, where the product is made, size range, fit, and delivery dates.
Create assortments to spark ideas
Use your digital environment to merchandise collections that retail buyers may not have thought of otherwise. Test different product assortment strategies and share them with buyers and your team to get feedback. The benefit is that you can sort and arrange items easily from anywhere and share and spark ideas immediately.
Let buyers request samples
Many buyers will be OK with adapting to an entirely virtual buying process. However, some—especially those who have not purchased your products before—may still want to see samples up close in person.
Depending on the digital showroom software used, visitors can make sample requests directly in the platform. This is also helpful for press opportunities to increase brand performance.
“By enabling this link between the digital showroom and sample management solutions, brands are able to improve their efficiency and capture the editorial opportunity,” says Bringé.
Make the digital showroom experience interactive and immersive
Give retail buyers the same personalized experience consumers now expect from ecommerce.
Use your digital showroom platform to schedule virtual meetings and share assortments with buyers. Let them also share the content with their team.
Dynamic video, 3D images, and virtual samples are used to show clear, stylistic views of your products.
“Rich content captures buyers’ attention and allows them to finalize their product selection with confidence,” says Savilia.
Integrate with a chatbot or live chat function to make sure you’re always available. This allows buyers to reach out if they have questions while they’re viewing your collections.
Create an avatar and dress it
While the avatar feature is not yet widely available, once it is, the use of digital models to show your collections can help create a more engaging experience for buyers. For example, if you have a clothing brand, dress your avatar in digital garments to better represent the fit and drape of the products.
Consider regional differences and simplify choices for buyers
Using a virtual showroom helps you expand your reach to new markets. But not all regions are the same and products that sell well in one area may not work in another place.
As you expand to new territories, you can localize product assortments. Create edits and divide products into different categories or themes so buyers can quickly navigate through collections that are relevant to them.
Create engaging presentations around bestsellers, seasonal focus, and your personal favorites to help guide buyers and make the buying process easier.
Moving forward with your digital showroom
With travel restrictions and social distancing measures still in full swing in many regions, digital showrooms are the best way to keep your business moving forward.
They are a way for you to incorporate tech into your marketing and sales strategy and improve the customer experience while you’re at it.
The sales and purchasing process is streamlined for both brands and retail buyers, and digital showrooms are advantageous to both retailers and brands respectively.
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