Store of the Future   //   August 25, 2023

Inside the Babylist interactive showroom, where a model car invites parents to test out seats and strollers

In a spacious, well-lit showroom, an expectant mother checks out the specs on a durable black double stroller. Later on, a new mom hoists up a car seat and places it into the frame of a lifesize Barbie-pink car, gauging its weight.  

Here at the two-story, 18,000 square foot Babylist showroom in Beverly Hills, shoppers aren’t just invited to touch and feel the merchandise — they’re able to test it out, too. And the stroller room, replete with more than two dozen car seats and strollers at various price points, is exemplary of this mindset with a multi-terrain stroller track and car replica.

Elizabeth Freise, founder and executive producer of Poolside Etiquette who headed up the showroom design, said the track was inspired by the first pop-up showroom the brand set up in 2022. The goal was to give shoppers a way to understand how the product works before registering for it.

“People being able to see it in person and being able to touch, feel, test and try it made it something that wasn’t like ‘I have to buy this, I’ve been told I need this,’ but ‘I actually want this and see this fitting into my life my house my car,’” Freise said. 

As more DTC brands open up physical retail operations, many are trending toward experiential retail with showrooms and low-inventory style shops. Gigi C swimwear this week opened an appointment-only showroom in the heart of Los Angeles’ shopping marketplace The Grove. Brands like Cotopaxi limit the inventory shown on the floor to create a clean, minimalistic aesthetic that is ripe for social sharing and can host community events.

Babylist, an online registry service that has grown into a product recommendation tool for many parents, previously experimented with pop-up homes that laid out product in a home setting. But the new showroom is more than five times the size, giving Freise and her team more room to play with big ideas and include more products in the layout.

“It was a fun challenge,” she said. “The room piece was proven. We knew it worked, we knew parents reacted to it. The category placement is our new frontier.”

The showroom predominantly functions as a registry space. Shoppers scan QR codes with their phone to add the product to their list. And while there is a retail component with small items like clothes and feeding accessories for sale, Freise said the showroom is meant to be more of an educational experience than a sales-driven one.

It’s also meant to be Instagrammable and interactive: The showroom has multiple share-worthy moments, like an adult-size Baby Bjorn bouncer chair and a claw machine that will mix in sponsored giveaways among its prizes. Almost nothing appears in its original packaging, and many items are set up side-by-side for easy comparison – like a trio of bassinets, or a wall of baby monitor cameras. 

But this experiential piece might be best displayed in the stroller room. For many new parents, buying a stroller and car seat is among the most high-pressure purchases to make when welcoming a baby – due to the combination of the safety considerations, the expense and the frequency of use. In some circles, the type of stroller a parent pushes is a status symbol.

In the showroom, a circular stroller track features turf, pavement, cobblestone concrete and other types of terrain to see how a stroller rolls along. There are also at least half a dozen car seats on display that shoppers can practice hosting into the car frame — which also has a trunk so parents can see how much space a stroller takes up.

Lee Anne Grant, chief growth officer at Babylist, said the trunk of the car was spaced out to be a Ford Fiesta, as the Fiesta has limited cargo space and this gives shoppers a sense of how items fit into a real compact-sized car trunk. The design was a collaboration between Babylist, Poolside Etiquette, Wittig Designs Co, Studio Butch and Grow marketing, and was built by Portland-based agency Gallager. And while some big-box stores have long displayed car seats out of their box and have strollers ready to roll, Babylist believes it to be the first retail experience to offer a functioning car frame to test out.

The stroller and car seat displays vary in price point, with a few items tagged as “parent favorites” based on registry data. Freise said the challenge in selecting products to show was to balance the many types of products out there with a cohesive look that didn’t feel like having too much to look at.

“I think consumers are still looking for an edited point of view,” Freise said. “We chose to dedicate more premium floor space to the track and car seat as part of our ongoing mission to help parents make an informed choice, rather than just putting more SKUs on the floor.”

The stroller room achieves this by spacing out the strollers in a U-shape around the room and having multiple platforms for accessories. There are also scannable cards that link shoppers to curated lists of most-loved products. 

Roland Figueredo, director of business development at King Retail Solutions, said the showroom-style approach makes sense for a company Babylist because of the high consideration that parents have around buying new products that they may have little to no experience with. 

“It’s that touch and feel aspect,” he said. “Especially something of the importance of keeping your child safe, it’s definitely needed. I’m sure that’s one of the first things [baby retailers] get asked is how do I get this in the car.” 

Whether this expansive model is replicable — or will predominantly serve as a social content farm for Babylist and its brand partners — remains to be seen. Babylist does not have immediate plans to create another showroom, and is working on more digital-focused ventures to expand its parent-focused content. Figueredo said down the line, the next frontier would be a virtual experience for stroller and car seat purchasing, especially as Gen Z shoppers who are used to transacting online become parents. 

“They’re doing virtual showrooms, they’re doing virtual try-ons,” he said. “They’re not walking into a store and touching a product.”

For now, Babylist will continue to play around with its physical showroom based on shopper and customer feedback.  

“We’re excited to see our first test expand in situations to still feel relatable, shoppable and not overwhelming,” Freise said.