WOODRIDGE, ILL. — For decades, purveyors of bathroom and kitchen fixtures have relied upon the showroom — row upon row of their actual, physical products — to display their wares and inform their customers; here are the styles, the finishes, the new technologies, and here is how they function, how they look in this sink, against that tile. And the customers would come in person to see and to use the products, to physically touch them.
The Internet is changing that. The convenience of shopping on-line, from almost any location, the ability to easily comparison shop, to organize searches by price or style, to share pictures and specifications with a spouse or a contractor, these factors and many more are changing what customers expect from the shopping experience.
Rather than see the old way and the new as fundamentally at odds, Danze CEO Michael Werner feels the way of the future is to embrace the online customer experience and bring it to the showroom.
“We’ve spent hundreds of hours understanding how homeowners shop, how showrooms operate and how to best intertwine those worlds,” said Werner. “We found that while the majority of homeowners go online first to research kitchen and bath products, more than 90% of them go to a physical location to buy. They want to see it in person and touch it before they actually purchase.”
While online research combined with buying on location is hardly a new concept, it became a key insight for the team at Danze on how to best arm its showrooms for an ongoing, competitive battle.
Danze partnered with InReality, one of the country’s fastest growing customer experience strategy and design firms, to create this dynamic showroom display that is interactive and attention-getting while making highly efficient use of wall space.
The eight-foot wide display includes:
- Custom-designed Acrylic Display Pods. A selection of kitchen/bath fixtures were chosen and built onto simple, attractive pods. Each pod is tagged with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
- The Smart Shelf. To trigger interactive on-screen content specific to a particular fixture, shoppers move the acrylic pod from the wall and place it on the Smart Shelf, which reads the RFID tag.
- Touchscreen Display. Once the Smart Shelf brings that specific fixture to life, the touchscreen gives the shopper an opportunity to view it in different finishes, read technical spec sheets, scroll through other product choices within the same collection or move to an entirely new product category. All by using interactive technology available at their fingertips.
“These elements working in tandem combine the power of the Internet and the personal experience of a showroom environment to truly engage the homeowner,” said Werner. “It makes our showrooms partners more dynamic and is easier to keep product information and personnel knowledge up to date.”
The interactive features of the display will soon link to videos, idea books, designer and trend sites, inspiration pages and give users the ability to post to Pinterest, Facebook and other social media channels.
The Showroom of the Future is currently displayed in select Ferguson locations throughout the U.S. The program will be available to other showroom partners in 2015.