Last week, I was out shopping between meetings. I walked into an electronics showroom (what we called stores) on Lower Broadway in SoHo. As I was about a block away from the showroom, I got a notice
on my phone to download a shopping app to help me navigate the showroom and make finding what I wanted easier. By the time I entered the showroom, the app was already downloaded and launched. 4G just
keeps getting faster and faster!
I was looking for the latest in wireless speakers. I long ago abandoned wires. Most of my electronics ran on rechargeable batteries and were all
connected to my wireless network.
When I entered the showroom, an associate greeted me. I already knew where the speakers were located because the app included a store map and used
GPS to find me. But I had questions, so I stopped to chat with the associate. As we were making our way to the speakers, the associate told me about the range of the different speaker brands and
how many devices could connect to each one. The range was the biggest consideration for me, as I had just moved to a larger space.
I asked the associate to excuse me while I examined
each of the brands. I wanted some alone time, and I wanted to comparison shop in private. While I was looking at the brand, I was checking the product reviews from Consumer Reports
CNET, comparing the "official" reviews to the experience of my friends and social graph. I was also comparing the prices offered at other retailers in the neighborhood. In fact, since the showrooms
know everyone does that, it’s encouraged as a way to demonstrate transparency.
Once I settled on the speakers I wanted, I scanned the barcode using my phone’s bar code
reader and then selected when I wanted the merchandise delivered. I was having a bunch of people over for dinner so I wanted the speakers delivered that afternoon, which was easily manageable,
especially since my doorman could sign for them.
On my way out of the showroom, I saw the associate and I thanked her for all her help. She already knew I bought the speakers because
she was notified when my credit card was approved and she gave me a good tip on how to install them.
I love these new showroom concepts. It’s great having no check out lines, no
bags to carry and free home delivery within hours of leaving the showroom.
Showrooms won’t work for lots of retailers, like drugstores that rely on volume to make their margins.
But they work great for electronics, clothing and furniture stores. With faster mobile speeds connecting browsing and shopping, the whole retail experiences become so much easier.
a result, manufactures have had to pay slotting fees to the showrooms. Showrooms couldn’t rely on making all their revenue from sales, since customers like me were often motivated by the
cheapest price. Everyone has the same easy home delivery service.
Thankfully, I live in NYC with a doorman. My friends who live in small cities are envious. since the showroom
concept hasn’t made its way to their towns yet. In order for them to work, the showrooms need easy access to a distribution center and dense populations. I guess eventually those requirements
will change, as delivery gets cheaper.
Retailers like soap.com, Amazon and Zappos have paved the way using rapid delivery services. But I always wanted a place to browse and order
high-ticket items without the hassle of carrying home the goods. Since showrooms don’t have to carry stock, they’re cropping up all over the place. It’s like the bank boom from
a couple of years ago, just a lot more fun.