Online retail is evolving at an incredible pace, and the technology just keeps getting better. A prime example of this is the emergence of the virtual showroom, a relatively new phenomenon that’s attracting huge amounts of attention – particularly in the homeware sector. Here’s how virtual showrooms are changing the game for homeware brands.
What is a ‘Virtual Showroom’?
A virtual showroom essentially bridges the gap between a typical online retail experience and an in-person one. Occupying a middle ground between the two, the virtual showroom recreates a brick-and-mortar showroom experience, but it makes it accessible to online shoppers.
Using technology such as video and live chat, brands can connect with customers as they shop online, offering all the assistance and advice that is sought-after from an in-store visit. And of course, virtual showrooms still offer the convenience and accessibility of a typical online shop – making them perfect for busy customers who prefer shopping from the comfort of their own homes.
The Virtual Showroom: A New Way to Shop
Over the past year, we’ve seen online shopping rise dramatically, largely due to the global restrictions placed on physical stores. But now, even as non-essential stores have opened their doors to the public again, shoppers are continuing to return to online retail.
Ecommerce saw an uptick across industries over the last year or so, but homeware, in particular, has boomed. This is thanks to the new role people’s homes have taken in their lives. What were once living areas have become places to work and educate too. Shoppers have spent more time at home than ever before, which has led to an increased interest in how to style and use spaces – and what could be done to improve them.
With interest in the homeware sector continuing to grow, brands are facing stiff competition from a whole range of different companies – all of whom are looking to capitalize on a new love of interiors. As a result, homeware brands are having to do more to stand out from the crowd. Adding a virtual store is the key for brands looking to create more value and authenticity.
Bringing Online Experiences to Life
Virtual showrooms don’t just benefit consumers, they’re also great for retailers. These showrooms let brands connect with their online customers in a new way, helping to build lasting relationships. Associates can provide better, more targeted information about products, thus upping their selling potential. And, as shoppers are armed with all the information they need before they make a purchase, they’re less likely to return a product later.
Provide Shoppers with a Real-World Context
Homeware shopping is a tactile experience. Shoppers like to see, touch, and feel products before they purchase. Traditionally, this is where online homeware shopping has fallen short. This is where virtual showrooms are shining. Using video shopping and one-to-one virtual consultations, leading brands are creating real-world experiences outside of flat, 2D images. Customers can see products up close and make better judgments about the size, scale, and color of their purchases, and the likelihood of unwanted items being returned is reduced.
One-to-One Design Consultations
Shoppers can’t resist personalized recommendations, and this is where virtual showrooms excel. With a virtual showroom experience, brands can begin to offer shoppers personalized recommendations as they browse. Such interactions empower consumers, giving them the confidence to commit to a purchase that’s tailored to their individual needs.
Luxury homeware brands such as Herman Miller and Jonathan Adler are already using personalized recommendations to support customers. The technology is being used to provide a high-quality service to online shoppers, and it’s all easily accessible through the brands’ virtual showrooms. Jonathan Adler has reported huge successes since introducing the technology, finding that customers are seven times more likely to buy, and spend twice as much when they do.
Create Authentic Experiences
Authenticity remains an important part of any brand’s identity, and as competition grows amongst homeware brands it’s fast becoming a deciding factor for many shoppers. Despite huge shifts in the way people browse products and shop online, authenticity remains key.
Virtual showrooms significantly improve brands’ potential to offer authentic experiences, enabling them to share their knowledge and experiences with far wider audiences. They also make it possible for companies to demo products and provide customers with tailored recommendations as they shop.
Forging Lasting Relationships
Customers don’t make snap decisions about homeware purchases. Home design and renovation projects involve long periods of research, and brands need to be able to connect with customers throughout the entire buying journey.
With virtual clienteling, associates can connect with customers, and maintain these connections long-term. Product experts can interact with shoppers via live messaging and email, giving updates when long-awaited products are back in stock and recommendations based on past interactions.
Interior brands like Heal’s have already recognized the importance of nurturing relationships in the virtual showroom. Built-in clienteling features have empowered associates to build meaningful relationships with shoppers, keeping the conversation going through text, WhatsApp and email after shoppers have left the store. And it’s working. Heal’s reported a 14x increase in conversions after Hero-powered interactions.
Will this replace the need for physical showrooms?
In-store experiences are far from over. But the return of in-store shopping hasn’t reduced demand for virtual showrooms – far from it.
In the future, we can expect to see both options continue to develop, as consumers begin to enjoy the best of both worlds. Ecommerce looks likely to expand alongside in-person experiences, and as the line between the two blurs, we’ll start to see increasingly smart, interactive omnichannel experiences that win over even the most hesitant of shoppers.
Hero technology doesn’t just improve the potential of eCommerce. It can also be used to increase foot traffic in the real world, as consumers make the trip to brick-and-mortar stores to investigate products they’ve noticed online.
Start exploring what Hero could do for your brand. Contact us to learn more about virtual showrooms, or take a look at some of our recent customer stories for inspiration.