Leading home retailer, John Lewis, has opened its first smart home experience on the fifth floor of its flagship Oxford Street store in London.

Designed to replicate a real-life setting, the 1,000sq ft area features four different zones; the kitchen, entertainment, sleep and home monitoring, all enabling shoppers to see the products ‘in-action’, rather than boxed on shelves.

Products featured include an oven that can be set to cook food while the homeowner is out-and-about, a smart fridge that aids grocery shopping, and a bedside device that monitors the users sleep quality. The smart home products seen in store are also available on the John Lewis website.

John Lewis’ buying director for electrical and home technology, Johnathan Marsh said: “In-store experiences are now key as we’ve seen customer demand for physical experiences before committing to purchase increase.”

The aim of the area is to demystify the jargon surrounding the smart home and technological innovations, by allowing interaction with devices. Specially trained staff will work in the smart home zone and let users have a hands-on experience to see the benefits for themselves.

John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis, explained: “We’re essentially unpacking the technology for the customer; giving it contextualization by saying ‘here’s what it’ll look like in your house’.” This also allows customers to sample a fully integrated system rather than a singular device.

The introduction of the smart home space has come after the retailer reported sales of smart home products increasing by 81% from 2014 to 2015, and 18 times more people searching for them on its website in December 2015, compared with December 2014. This increase looks set to continue with the company predicting the market will boom and experience further growth of 450% over the next four years.

This development of in-store interaction is increasing for retailers as the industry experiences a significant boost and increased awareness amongst customers wanting to see how the products work first-hand. Dixons Carphone already has a small area in store to sample connected products. However, these tend to be singular devices only, such as Fitbits. Ikea are also developing smart technology which is built into the their products, including furniture that can wirelessly charge mobile phones, which will soon be on display in-stores.

John Lewis’ mock house set-up will be rolled out to additional stores later this year, starting with the new John Lewis in Leeds this autumn.