Whether you already have brick-and-mortar locations or have considered one, you know all too well how expensive and high-maintenance large retail spaces can be.
One creative alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts is setting up a showroom. As the retail industry continues to changes, showrooms have become more and more popular. Showrooms have always been popular with certain industries (think car dealerships or bespoke clothing retailers) but the model is taking off with online and larger retailers as well.
The New York Times article, Retailers Experiment With a New Philosophy: Smaller Is Better, offers an apt description of showrooms: “In intimate salons, some the size of a cafe, shoppers can examine a limited selection of merchandise and place orders for products to be delivered or collected later.”
Showrooms can be set up temporarily to test markets or introduce new audiences to your brand or can be permanent setups to encourage customers to consistently interact with your products and place orders. Now, let’s take a look at 10 examples of brands using showrooms to successfully sell their products.
Nordstrom’s new concept store in California, Nordstrom Local, delivers a new kind of shopping experience to their customers. The New York Times described it, saying the shop “was designed as a kind of neighborhood hub, where customers can get manicures, have a shirt altered, pick up parcels purchased online or sip rosé from the well-stocked bar. They do not come to shop — at least not in the traditional sense.”
Customers work with personal shoppers to find items that work for them, then those products are brought in from larger department store locations that carry inventory. This setup lets Nordstroms leverage their existing retail space to deliver a customized, luxury experience to a new audience. The Nordstrom Local showroom requires a higher staff to customer ratio than their traditional box stores, but the personal shopping experience may bring in new customers that prefer the one-to-one service over browsing the shelves for themselves.
Online glasses and contact provider Clearly Contacts started as an ecommerce retailer where customers could find high-quality products at a much cheaper price than traditional optometrists.
Recently, the ecommerce retailer has expanded with showrooms in major cities where customers can meet with optometrists, get eye exams, get contact fittings, and try on glasses. If they choose to order frames and/or lenses, the glasses are mailed directly to their doorstep.
Once they place an order, shoppers can also return to the store to get their glasses fitted or adjusted down the road, giving Clearly Contacts the opportunity to provide ongoing customer service to shoppers.
For an online retailer like Clearly Contacts, these showrooms provide a chance to reach customers that wouldn’t normally purchase glasses online without trying them on, or those that prefer to have a place to walk into to get their glasses fixed instead of having to deal with an online return.
The mattress-in-a-box industry is booming. These retailers offer comfortable mattresses at a huge discount compared to traditional mattress box stores by shipping directly to consumers from online stores.
Even though most of these ecommerce retailers offer 100-day easy returns, many mattress shoppers want to physically feel the fabrics and lay on the mattress before making a large purchase.
With this in mind, Canadian retailer Endy has partnered with furniture stores to open a series of showrooms where customers can try the mattresses firsthand. They can pop into any of the furniture stores to take the mattress for a spin before placing an order, which allows Endy to address any pain points or queries in person.
Cult favorite makeup brand Glossier has a loyal following of customers all over the world. The ecommerce brand does the majority of their sales through their online store, but they also operate two permanent showrooms in New York and Los Angeles where visitors can try the products, talk with consultants, and purchase makeup and skincare items in-person.
In addition to these two locations, Glossier runs pop-up showroom locations in other major cities throughout the year, often to huge crowds and line-ups.
In an effort to make shopping for work clothes less painful, women’s clothing company MM.LaFleur sends shoppers customized clothing bento boxes from their ecommerce store whenever customers need new threads.
For anyone hesitant to commit to clothing without trying it on, MM.LaFleur operates permanent showrooms in select U.S. cities, as well as temporary pop-up shops in other major cities.
In these high-end boutique showrooms, customers are paired with a stylist, where “your stylist will put together looks from our collection that works best for you” during hour-long appointments. When shoppers schedule their appointment, they fill in a short survey about their style and size, so once they arrive their stylist has already pulled items they think will work for them to try on.
This kind of luxury customer service gives customers the chance to get to know the product range and fitting so they can more easily place an online order in the future.
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Similarly, Bonobos offers men personalized fitting and styling from their ecommerce clothing store. Understanding that some customers will want to try clothes on in person, they also offer appointments at their many guideshops: “Style is opinion, fit is fact. Find yours at one of our Guideshop locations. One-on-one service. Complimentary style advice. Plus the perfect fit, delivered right to your door.”
They also offer simple returns to their showroom locations, helping save their customers the hassle of shipping back items that didn’t work for them.
Women’s clothing company Modcloth offers shoppers unique, retro-inspired items in a variety of sizes.
While the company, founded in 2002, began as an ecommerce store, the retailer now offers customers a few concept stores where they can try on all of the sizes and work with a shopping assistant to find their personal style. These ModStylists are also available online to assist customers with their shopping needs if they can’t make into a showroom.
Discount retail giant Target used a showroom model to help walk customers through new technology in an inviting, home-like environment. Street Fight Mag describes the showroom as, “[a] space in San Francisco was dubbed the Target Open House, serving as a laboratory for selling one specific category of products — smart home devices. Designed like a model home, the Open House showcased connected devices like light bulbs, baby monitors, sprinklers, and doorbells working in a setting that simulated the real world.”
This model allowed people walking through to interact with the new products and experience what it would be like in their own home, as well as better the relationship between Target and the tech brands offering smart home devices.
Department store chain Sears also used the showroom model to introduce new technology to their customers. The retailer used a “pop-in” model to simulate a smart home experience for their customers. Street Fight Mag reports that the retailer set up a Sears Connected Home in an existing box store location that “was designed to look like a traditional home, complete with a living room, bedrooms, and a faux backyard.”
Unlike smaller showroom models that often ship purchases to customers’ homes, the Sears showroom being set up in an existing department store allowed customers to purchase items on the spot and take them home.
Customers can buy Nike products all around the world, online, at Nike stores, and at a variety of department stores. Recently, Nike launched specialized Nike+ Trial Zones to large cities that focus on individual sports — basketball, running, and soccer.
Nike describes these large, interactive stores as “immersive experiences” that “provide one-of-a-kind opportunities to showcase product benefits that answer each consumer’s individual sports needs, with the help of in-store certified athletes.”
It’s one thing to try on a pair of soccer cleats in a store, but it’s another to test drive them on a real turf field inside the store. These specialized showrooms bring in the most devoted Nike athletes and shoppers wanting to improve their sport with the best equipment available.
Moving Forward With a Showroom
While some of these retailers have large budgets to spend on test concepts, it’s possible to set up a showroom without shelling out serious cash. For example, you can test out the idea with a pop-up shop, see what traction it gets, and take the idea from there.
Learn more about why more retailers are ditching shopping bags for showrooms>
Have you tried a permanent or pop-up showroom for your retail business? If so, tell us about it in the comments.