As customers become comfortable with online shopping, retailers look for ways to bring them into the store. The good news is that showrooming has declined. But research anticipates online sales will keep growing.
More and more, retailers are using their physical locations to go beyond transactions. They're creating retail experiences.
Here are five companies that have found different ways to take brick-and-mortar to the next level.
When the Apple store first opened in 2001, they already led the way in reimagining the retail experience. Table after table displayed product for customers to play around with. They even segmented the store into four featured solution areas focusing on music, movies, photos and kids.
In 2007, the company removed checkout stations and turned each employee into a concierge who could take payment from anywhere in the store. But if you've ever been in a packed Apple store, you know finding an unoccupied employee is easier said than done.
To avoid long waits, Apple created a self-checkout feature in their Apple Store app that let customers buy items without ever talking to a salesperson.
Bass Pro Shops
For outdoor enthusiasts, visiting Bass Pro Shops is like a theme park adventure. The store includes aquariums, waterfalls, live demonstrations, mounted wildlife and in-store activities for kids. While the retail concept is the same from one location to another, Bass Pro Shops customizes each store to reflect the region.
But the store is not all show. Customers travel from 100 miles away to experience the store's large hunting, camping, boating and wilderness gear inventory. Not only is there a wide selection, but the company encourages customers to try them out. The employees are also part of the customer experience. Before receiving their steep discounts, employees have to show knowledge of the products. This translates into better customer service.
New Balance went beyond its own retail space to build a unique experience within the flagship Foot Locker store. They created an in-store kiosk where customers could design their own shoe using a variety of options.
But the kiosk isn't just a novelty. The tool allows for a staggering 48 quadrillion potential combinations. This could be overwhelming. But New Balance added material, color, lace and shoe samples for customers to experience.
Bang & Olufsen
Creating an engaging shopping experience can be a challenge when your products are small and command less attention. To overcome this challenge, Danish audio and video manufacturer Bang & Olufsen designed a revolutionary concept providing sensory experience through sound.
Their luxurious 1400-square-foot showroom space on Madison Avenue showcases their products in a unique way. The retail space's centerpiece is a dedicated speaker wall that lets customers experience Bang & Olufsen's speakers, even allowing customers to use their own personal playlists from mobile devices.
The store also includes a play zone where consumers can try various headphones and portable sound systems. In the back of the showroom, people can test flatscreen televisions and surround sound systems in an environment much like their own living room.
Rather than create a showroom that is an alternative to the company's website, Burberry made their retail space an extension of it. According to the Guardian, "What Burberry has done is blur the divide between physical and digital; the store was designed to stand as a physical version of its website."
The company's flagship London store boasts an impressive retail screen, 550 hidden speakers and a performance stage. But perhaps the retailer's most innovative technology feature is the inclusion of RFID chips in some of its clothes. When customers try the clothes on and look into the mirror, the mirror senses the chip and transforms into a screen showing how the clothes look on the catwalk.
As technology improves and retail trends change, the retail landscape will need to innovate to keep pace. Companies like these are the ones to watch as they evolve.