The Showroom Store and Customer Experiences

Showcase retail locations typically have high profile and high levels of patron traffic. Whether in Times Square, a premier mall or other upscale location they offer many benefits to brand building, in particular as the importance of the customer experience grows. The showroom store offers big public relations value and the ability to test ideas, innovations and assess their impact on patron behaviors.

Raj Shroff, Vice President, Brand, Strategy & Design at WD Partners says ‘the showroom is the Store of the Future (SOTF) for the digital native. “With shifts in consumer shopping behavior and expectations, new spaces and valuable in-store real estate need to be freed up for reinvention and innovation. Enter the Showroom Store. It is the end of old school checkout, which makes room for a more emotionally satisfying shopping experiences – something the digital native craves. Space devoted for decades to the endless, mind numbing design conformity of register lines can now be made available for more influential purposes”.

“67 percent of the post-millennial, “Generation Z” population prefers to make purchases in a physical store most of the time. Since this generation holds an estimated $44 billion in buying power, that’s something retailers should be considering now” notes Chris Wong, VP, Strategy and Ecosystem of IBM Global Consumer Industry.

“It’s been proven consumers buy more impulse items in a retail store versus online. Digital is a pivotal tool when used effectively in building these emotional impulse sales…driving discovery, engagement and trial,” notes Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix Design. He adds, “Digital should not be an afterthought and more importantly it should be integrated as part of the customer experience.”

Lee Summers, CEO of Reflect Systems and Reflect Media notes “the market value on in-store experiences is still being established”. 2017 is the year to gain ground on your competition. The industry has been discussing the upcoming wave and we are all finally in the middle of it.

A key to success says Summers “Getting to the right team at the brand level that hold the out of homo media budget will get you past the in-store marketing dollars and allows a broader effort. Sometimes this can be difficult as the industry is still trying to set the market value on in-store experiences. If a retailer can capture additional marketing funds and retain the in-store coop funds from the brands it should allow the retailer to increase sales without pulling from another source that relies on those marketing efforts”.

Temkin Group has predicted a Federated Customer Experience. We expect many companies to shift to a federated CX model by developing CX Centers of Excellence, Enterprise CX Coordination, and Distributed CX Skills and Mindset.

As the showcase location is used to test and validate improved customer experience and engagement, the brand or retailer should assess individual elements of engagement within the overall showcase experience, including;

  • How does an experience integrate into and advance omni-channel?
  • Does it integrate well into the physical environment?
  • What is the impact on the elements of discovery, selection, purchase and fulfillment?
  • How does it impact in-store traffic flow, visit frequency, dwell time, conversion, cross selling and up selling?
  • What is the impact on staff contributions to the customer experience?

There are some excellent award-winning examples of how showcase stores provide digital experiences that become highly immersive and engage patrons and staff in new ways. Sport Chek locations in both Toronto and Edmonton have been acknowledged for their innovation. The AT&T store in Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile district has served as an innovation lab and provided many valuable lessons in retail.

In the case of these and many other showcase store initiatives, which are sometimes called the store or branch of the future, a core benefit lies in designing experiences, engaging suppliers and building the analytics framework that allow the innovation to be applied in other high priority locations. A benefit of a digital experience is that it can be customized through relevant content to apply most successfully in other stores and communities.

In a National Retail Federation ’17 presentation, Chis Riegel, CEO of Stratacache which has served many showcase store initiatives, advised caution in what he called “the trap of building museum-like experiences that apply approaches that are not applicable or cost-effective to many locations. Flagship and spectacular installations of media experiences may be good for public relations but they can consume time and money in approaches that do not speak to the vast majority of customers”.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon.) is an analyst, advisor and educator related to dynamic signage and place-based media. He is a member of the RetailWire Braintrust and other advisory boards. Among other recognitions her has been named of the 11 most influential people in digital signage. He was recently named Chair of the Center for Digital Engagement.