What Retailers Can Learn from the Showroom Model

While much has been made of in-store pick up and same-day delivery, retailers are implementing a new way of business that may change the consumer shopping experience once and for all. Known as the "showroom model," this unique strategy offers consumers the opportunity to browse through a limited selection of items that represent the retailer’s inventory. Shoppers try on different styles before choosing which specific size and color they want delivered to their home.

Unlike popular fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara, which carry large inventories at all times, proponents of the showroom model encourage customers to peruse apparel without stocking any for sale. Despite serving as a departure from the traditional shopping experience, the showroom model has proven successful for a number of retailers, including men's wear brand Bonobos. Since opening brick-and-mortar locations in 2012, Bonobos has launched more than 20 showrooms, which it has dubbed Guideshops, including two in Chicago.

By carrying a curated selection of items and offering free shipping, Bonobos allows shoppers to quickly make purchase decisions that meet their specific needs. Taking a closer look at the showroom model could help retailers provide their customers with a similarly rewarding shopping experience.

Three reasons why consumers buy
In our new Pay That Way retail study of 20,000 consumers worldwide, Worldpay found that shoppers make purchases based on three key factors – availability, speed and convenience. By mimicking some aspects of the showroom model, retailers may be able to provide shoppers with just that. For example, the curated selection of items at stores such as Bonobos and Rent the Runway enables shoppers to try on different items without sifting through multiple racks of clothing. When compared with long wait times at other stores, the speed and convenience of such a feature could be enough to keep shoppers coming back for more.

Even though showrooms may not carry large stocks of apparel, the number of sizes, styles and colors they make available for delivery is similar to – if not greater than – traditional brick-and-mortar stores. That widespread variety allows shoppers to craft a customized experience that fits their personal needs and builds loyalty in the process.

When it comes to payment options, retailers could learn a thing or two from the showrom model. Inspired by changing consumer preferences, the showroom model gives customers the opportunity to shop and pay however they'd like. Rather than settling for a specific payment option, shoppers are able to choose which method is most convenient for them.

The absence of a preferred payment method can actually cause shoppers to look elsewhere. In fact, Worldpay's Pay That Way study found 52 percent of shoppers will buy an item from another website if they are unable to use their preferred payment option. By offering shoppers the chance to make purchases on their own terms, retailers can avoid losing out on sales to competitors that are more accommodating at checkout.

Mobile becoming preferred way to pay
As shopper payment preferences change, so should retailers. The rise of mobile shopping is the latest trend that retailers need to stay on top of in order to meet consumer demand. According to Worldpay's Global Payments Report, e-commerce sales are expected to reach $2.4 trillion by 2019. Nearly 25 percent of those sales will take place exclusively on mobile.

Steady improvements in mobile technology mean consumers are no longer restricted to in-store or desktop purchases. But despite being able to effortlessly make purchases from just about anywhere, shoppers still want the reassurance that they are purchasing a quality item. By striking a balance between the ease of e-commerce and the convenience of brick-and-mortar stores, the showroom model can help retailers offer consumers the best of both worlds.

Sonos – a wireless audio product e-retailer – recently created a listening boutique where shoppers could test some of their most popular speakers. In the same way that Bonobos allows customers to try on apparel before shipping an item in their preferred color and size, Sonos removes the hassle of carrying big-ticket items out of the store. Rather than spending time trying to figure out how to get a sizable speaker across town, shoppers can rest assured knowing their purchase should arrive at their home or business in just a few short days.

Customization is key
Today’s consumers aren't short of options. With laptops, tablets and smartphones, finding the same product at another retailer isn't much of a challenge. While this may be good news for shoppers, retailers face a greater risk of abandonment. Failing to offer the shopping experience or payment method that a consumer is looking for can often be enough to drive them to a competitor.

Rent the Runway's new Style Studio is one example of how the showroom model has helped retailers introduce unique experiences that cater to each shopper. With personal appointments designed to help individual shoppers pick out items that fit their body, budget and style, potential customers get all the attention they can handle. By offering customized deals of their own, retailers can begin building lasting relationships with shoppers who might have otherwise turned toward a competitor.

The advent of new retail models such as the showroom has made it easier than ever before for retailers to meet growing consumer demand for omnichannel options. By ushering in flexible, convenient and personalized shopping experiences and payment methods, retailers will have the opportunity to more quickly drive sales.

Mark Bergner is director of product strategy at Worldpay US, a global payments company for all channels: in-store, online and via mobile.