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High street showrooms

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In the (not so distant) past, when you needed to buy something you went to your local high street, found a few relevant products, picked the one you liked best and bought it. Simple.

How things have changed.

We’re all used to hearing reports about how high street sales are falling as more and more people prefer to shop online.

A 2017 report by the UK Cards Association showed that UK shoppers spend more online per household than consumers in any other country (£4,611). They suggest that the number of debit and credit cards as well as the ease of delivering items has driven up online spending.

Shops are increasingly seeing customers who are displaying ‘showrooming behaviours’. This is where price-conscious customers use shops as a showroom to view products and then buy them cheaper online.

As a result, high street shops have had to rapidly embrace digital technologies to stay afloat, many of them now employing such innovations as iBeacons – a beacon which delivers location-based information to mobile devices.

Although iBeacon technology has been around for a while it’s becoming more and more sophisticated. Walk in to a shop and, so long as you've enabled Bluetooth and location services on your device, you could be greeted with anything from promotional codes to personalised content. These are often time-sensitive, pressuring you into making a decision to purchase something there and then.

iBeacons can also track whereabouts you are in a store and send you alerts about nearby products, linking you to reviews and offers.

In addition to this, many shops also offer free wifi to customers. To use this, you usually have to enter your email address, which can sometimes be used to send you future promotions, and there is the opportunity to greet you with an online landing page of in-store offers.

But one retailer that has completely taken advantage of showrooming behaviour, and turned it on its head, is Houzz. In January 2018 the online homeware retailer took over a five-storey townhouse in London’s Soho and dressed it with a variety of its products, creating a beautiful home that showcased the latest interior design trends.

Houzz invited members of the public to come down and wander through the house, touching and feeling the products before enjoying a complimentary coffee on the top floor.

But rather than simply providing a showroom for people to see the items they sell in real life, they installed iPads in every room where visitors could click and buy whatever they had seen and liked, right down to the paint on the walls.

To draw even more people to the house they also created a programme of events including hands-on workshops, entertainment and talks.

Being a retailer that can embrace both digital technology and showrooming puts Houzz well and truly on the path to future success.

It also shows how other high street retailers need to step up if they want to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive digital marketplace.

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