Something very interesting is happening in high-end retail. Brands are working very hard to sell in a way that isn’t about selling. That means goodbye to the old-school style of hard sell and hello to the new way to sell – creating great experiences, developing connections and building on relationships. Don’t agree? Witness just one example, the car showroom. It’s changing at the top end. An article from Retail Focus points this out: “A new relaxed car buying experience has arrived. Car manufacturers are setting up interactive experiences in shopping centres and town centres in a bid to move away from conventional out-of-town showroom set ups, allowing them to reach a far wider demographic. They’re even letting people test drive models unaccompanied.” Brands like Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover are changing the way they present their products. Instead of draughty showrooms packed full of products, they’re creating pleasant spaces where the product doesn’t even need to be there! This is the rise of the omnichannel car buying experience.
Why make the change in other markets?
So why does this matter so much in the high-end market? Because the premium buyer is making a major investment and they want to enjoy the experience. They’re not simply making a purchase. They’re making a statement. And the retail experience needs to reflect that. We think this approach could work well in other sectors:
While some companies do this already, there’s potential to go much further, in our view. Thinking more creatively could enable companies selling new-build houses to take their brand to potential buyers without them having to visit an actual space initially. Imagine an immersive experience where buyers can click, view and “visit” their potential future homes! It would mean that property brands no longer need huge spaces or on-site show-homes to showcase their products. We think this approach also has great potential for the rental market and even the buy-to-let market.
The “visualise rather than visit” kind of approach has loads of potential for selling big-ticket items. Think about your sofa. It’s a big buy and a major style decision. Imagine how retailers could transform that experience with a more interactive and personalised approach! They could use technology to help people first identify a sofa that suits their taste, home and budget, then see how it would look in their own homes! This would create a much more exciting and personalised experience. Plus, they could use this approach in smaller stores, doing away with the high cost of space in city centres.
The same approach would help to transform the experience of choosing a bathroom or kitchen. While some retailers are already starting to do this, we think there’s still loads of potential for companies to create a much more immersive experience. Walking around a soulless showroom is one thing, but what about letting the customer see that stunning bath in their own virtual home? How about letting them view all the different styles of kitchen offered by just one brand?
There’s no doubt that this more tech-centred approach demands some investment and a big helping of creativity to be successful. But one thing is for sure – the retailer that can meet rising customer expectations with a more exciting and personalised experience is the one in the lead.
What’s your take on this topic? Let us know via the comments box below!