When it comes to designing your ultimate retail showroom, you need to think beyond the physical space itself and the products you sell. You need to think about the story you’re telling potential customers.
Yes, you read that right: your showroom should tell a story.
Now if you’re thinking this sounds a little too frou-frou for your tastes, hear us out.
1. Your goal is to create an experience. When you read a great novel, you often feel like you’ve experienced the story along with the characters, right? You want to do the same thing in your showroom. Customers shouldn’t be bystanders to your story…they should be able to enter and participate in it. We mean this figuratively as well as literally.
For example, you want to create an atmosphere so that people can picture that gorgeous leather couch in their living room (the figurative experience), but you also want them to experience the couch RIGHT NOW by sitting on it, putting their feet up, maybe even reading a magazine or having a drink while they’re relaxing (the literal experience).
Retailer Now magazine talks about “transporting” the customer, which is another way of looking at it.
2. Know your theme. Every good story is rich in themes, right? So what’s yours? Is your theme edgy? Warm and inviting? Irreverent? Mysterious? A little bit of everything, depending on which product you’re talking about? Know your theme, the vibe you’re going for, and make sure all the design elements support that theme.
3. Think way beyond your products and the layout. Everything in your showroom affects the shopper’s experience. The details matter.
- Think about lighting: how much, how it’s delivered, and how it changes throughout the course of the day.
- Think about color: the color of your walls, ceilings, floors, doors, cabinets, accents (e.g. crown molding, window treatments), even hardware like the cash register and your employees’ name tags.
- Think about textures and materials. A smooth white wall creates an entirely different vibe from one that has texture and subtle designs infused throughout. A tile floor inspires a different reaction than a hardwood floor or something completely “wild” like recycled rubber from tires.
- Think about furnishings. The furnishings serve a dual purpose: they’re equal parts functional and inspiring (in other words, they should continue to tell your story and add to the customer experience).
4. Subvert expectations. By the time customers visit five different kitchen and bath showrooms they might feel they’re in their own private version of Groundhog Day since most of these showrooms probably look alike. This means there’s a huge opportunity for you to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition, IF you’re willing to take some risks and subvert their expectations.
Here are some ideas for doing just that. (Check out the links—they’ll lead you to pictures from a great board on Pinterest featuring showroom design ideas.)
- Avoid the typical “racks” that most clothiers use. Choose ones that provide more design interest or that make use of recycled materials. (The recycled products you use can be simple, everyday things.)
- Involve your walls. Add peg boards with your products, paint murals, hang artwork from local talent (along with artists’ statements), post relevant pictures. For example, if you sell home furnishings, create an “adoption” wall with pictures of furniture that’s been “adopted” by customers and that’s now “living” in new homes.
- Get creative with lighting. For example, create light fixtures out of mason jars.
- Stretch beyond “typical” shelving. Your shelving should reflect your store’s theme and overall vibe, while adding visual interest.
- Add touches of whimsy. Think mobiles, kites, vintage pieces (maps, gramophone), and random pieces like giant, blinking decorations.
- Develop stories within stories. Remember how we said your showroom should tell a story? Novels are famous for subplots. This means you, too, can create stories within stories, like highlighting a particular display and creating a story around it.
- Don’t overlook ways to embellish even more. Room dividers, your front door, even the grounds outside provide ample opportunities to tell your story and create an interesting, fun, and unique experience for customers.
- Don’t forget scents and sounds. It’s been said that our sense of smell is the most powerful of the five senses. Obviously, you want your showroom to smell good, but what that means—for your store—will depend on your story. A shop that features handmade furniture might feature more earthy scents, like pine, while a kitchen showroom might have cooking scents, like vanilla, spices, etc.
The same rules apply to sound. The type of music you play and how loud it is will affect your customers as well. Again, it should add to the experience and reinforce the theme you’re going for.
5. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Your showroom displays shouldn’t be static. Even if you sell mostly the same products from year to year, switch up your displays. Look online for ideas (Pinterest and Houzz are your friends), check out competitors, and check out other retail showrooms in different industries. And remember to have fun, because if you have fun and love the look, feel, and story your showroom tells, chances are great that your customers will love it as well.
Do you have a retail showroom? How do you WOW customers? Share your tips in the comments.