The world has changed. What we are experiencing is called a critical selling event, which means consumers’ habits are in flux. Their routines are now disrupted, and there is no set pattern in how they buy. This is an opportunity for you, not a tragedy. Consumers — which can mean walk-in customers, designers, builders and contractors — are now going to be much more comfortable with the online world since most were forced to use online ordering in the past few months.
This being said, they are still open to a brick-and-mortar store if it provides them a personal and digital experience.
No, I don’t mean you have to be as good as Amazon in the digital space. There is no sense even trying to match the capability of Amazon. What I mean by a digital experience is having the look and feel of a decorative showroom when you visit the website.
When you think of showroom customers, they typically visit Pinterest, Houzz, Amazon and other websites to see what styles they would like in their homes. As a showroom, we have to be able to persuade them to visit our brick-and-mortar site to see why touching and experiencing the products is the best solution.
Your website is critical to this step. The essential elements of a great modern consumer site are:
• Actual photos of your showroom — not stock images of some random kitchen. The images should show human interaction in your showroom, as well as some sense of style. The best showrooms offer a 3D tour of the showroom, which is much cheaper than you think and should be updated every year. The tour allows customers to see exactly what they are in for when coming to see you. That should be a good thing.
• A place where customers can make an appointment online, with no human interaction. This should be more than a form to fill out; it should feel more like the Open Table app. But if you can’t or won’t invest in that technology, then at least get rid of the “What is the purpose of your visit?”-type questions on your Contact Us page.
• Photos, bios and an interview with each showroom designer so consumers can see who they want to work with when making an appointment.
• The site must be mobile-friendly.
• The proper keywords and other search engine optimization tools so potential customers can find your showroom in a Google search.
• The About Us section of the site must feel authentic and sound as if it is coming from you. Please, no “exceeding expectations” buzzword bingo.
• The site should somehow show that you are at least 10 times better than your competition and be able to say precisely why. Keep in mind that all showrooms offer delivery and have great people. What are the other reasons you are 10 times better? If you aren’t 10 times better, you better get working on that as well.
• Links to your social media pages. You should be participating in some marketing conversations online, and you should make it easy for consumers to follow you socially. Be consistent and be local in your approach.
• A trends page. The best showrooms have examples of past work to illustrate how talented they are as designers and how they overcame obstacles to create something unique. Ask your customers for photos at project completion, or get them yourself.
• The ability to book a virtual meeting. Need I say more on this one? Let the consumer pick the type of meeting — Skype, Facetime, GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc. — whatever they are comfortable with. It is your job to reduce the friction for them, not for them to figure out how to come to you.
If you have a wholesale distribution site, you must have a separate showroom site. Making a consumer muddle through your first page of “dedicated to the contractor” and Bradford White specials will scare them off — and openly demonstrate that your showroom isn’t the focus of your business.
Even if it isn’t the most substantial part of your business, the showroom could undoubtedly be the most profitable part if you do it right. The best showrooms may be 10 percent of the overall business but can easily be 20 percent of the gross profit.
Don’t Stop There
Keep in mind consumers want to work with a company they can identify with — socially responsible, environmentally responsible, and focused on health and wellness. This is a real hotspot. The market will head this way quickly. Actually, it is already there and will become even more so in the near term.
Once you get them into the showroom, the digital strategy doesn’t stop there. Are your products digitally priced like Best Buy or Kohls? Why not? The technology is there, and it works with most ERP systems. Do you think consumers prefer to come into showrooms without pricing? If you went into a store with no pricing, how long would you stay around? Fix it. And fix it this year.
You can also offer free Wi-Fi and print capabilities for your customers. The best showrooms already offer this, and your customers are used to having this in most fine stores and hotels. Give them the opportunity so they spend more time in your space.
While it seems like a long list of things to do, I assure you this is important to the future success of your showroom, and all part of reducing friction to the customer. The key is making every step easy, and making every page of your website look and feel like your actual showroom, with text that sounds authentic, and a value proposition that defines what real advantages you have in the marketplace.
There is no better time than right now to make the change, as the race for the attention of the customer is already on. Don’t give them the reason to go to Wayfair or Amazon because you have a lousy website.