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Shoppers ready for stores to become showrooms: study

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More than three-quarters (76%) of consumers say they are ready for stores to become showrooms, designed around the customer experience rather than just sales outlets, a new study suggests.

Some 71% said they would most value the ability to touch and feel products in such showrooms, according to a study from enterprise solutions provider HSO. The showroom concept particularly was rated by the under-34s: 88% welcomed the idea.

Asked about personalised service, almost a quarter (24%) said they would be prepared to pay a premium to experience this instore. This figure rose to 38% among under 34-year olds, suggesting that this might become an acceptable concept in the future.

However, there was guarded enthusiasm for the model pioneered by Amazon, where customers can pick up products and walk out of the store, with all purchases automatically scanned and billed to their smartphones, with only 19% saying they were “very confident” that this would become mainstream in the long term.

Hector Hickmott, sales director, HSO, said: “The showroom concept has many advantages for retailers – not least that almost all stock can be held at a less expensive location and staff no longer need to take their eye off the customer to unload boxes and stack shelves. However, the word ‘experience’ is the all-important one here. Not only will customers expect more personalised service in store, they will also expect their subsequent online purchasing experience to be linked to the visit and run smoothly regardless of whether they are ordering via their mobile from the store, by laptop or tablet once they are back home.”

When those polled were asked to name the top three factors preventing them from shopping in-store, just over half (53%) said “inconvenient opening times. This was followed by 41% who cited “the need to travel long distances to get there and then the items you want are frequently out of stock and there is only a limited range of merchandise on offer”.

Interestingly, 61% of over 45 year-olds said it was the lack of nearby parking that prevented them from shopping instore.

“Our research shows that consumers are thinking ahead as well as retailers and are prepared to accept changes. Yet, the physical store is still important to them even if it is just to be able to see the products in real-life,” said Hickmott. “This puts even more pressure on retailers to get the customer experience right – for some products it would be so easy for the consumer to view at one store, but buy online elsewhere unless retailers can find ways to both win their loyalty and make some kind of link between their store visit and subsequent purchase.”

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