Imagine a shopping spree where you purchase the perfect pair of jeans (with the matching shoes and belt of course) but return home empty-handed. Instead, your chosen discounted items will be sent straight to your home free of charge. Five years ago, this may have seemed too good to be true but with the digitisation of shopping, this trend of ‘showrooming’ has become the norm for customers of all ages.
Showrooming converts conventional brick-and-mortar retail into a sleek, minimalist store that’s centered on customer experience. American companies are currently pioneering the shift, with retailers across everything from cosmetics to automobiles boasting lower overheads, more sales and loyal customer bases - proving that showrooms are not just beneficial for customers, but businesses too.
Showroom-style retailers offer only a small selection of stock on display, and ship product to shoppers directly from their warehouses rather than holding it in-store. For example, while traditional apparel stores can easily stock thousands of items in various sizes, colours, and styles, US menswear retailer Bonobos needs only enough space to display a selection of representative products for customers to examine. This approach to stock allows for smaller stores with cheaper utility bills and less need to move masses of inventory between shops and warehouses.
The first retailer benefit is space and as all retailers know, space is money. But reduced down to its bare essentials, what’s different about showroom stores isn’t just a lack of inventory, but the intentional focus on customer experience. With less stock, employees spend less time in the stock room trying to find that shirt in a larger size, tidying displays and checking the impatient line of people as fast as possible, and more on giving personal attention to the shoppers.
Shifting to selling exclusively through its own showroom-style dealerships has allowed Tesla to control the customer’s experience of its brand.
From giant cosmetic brands like Glossier to small accessories companies like Clearly Contacts, retail showrooming is a trend that has seen many businesses thrive but it’s by no means a one-size-fits-all approach. As efficient as it is, we all know that online shopping will never quite measure up to the instant gratification of a cheap deal.