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I hope you are all safe and healthy at this start of 2021. What a long, strange trip it’s been! While we create this magazine content well in advance, I often worry that the world will change by the time the column is published. With that in mind, I wanted to offer some advice and trends that I see for 2021 in the showroom space. Here are some things you should be thinking about:
Make the digital transformation. In the first six months of the pandemic, showrooms were forced to leapfrog in digital innovation. Most independent showrooms had to deal with lousy websites and the lack of a social media presence; many had to establish a presence on social platforms they were not on. Those same showroom businesses need to continue stepping out of their comfort zones to compete.
Your website must be a direct reflection of your brick-and-mortar experience. Same with social media and any communications coming from your store. While we all know you likely don’t have the budget of Amazon or Home Depot, you can make easy changes to your digital footprint to attract customers.
Establish relevance. If your showroom embraces Lowe’s and Home Depot brands, then consumers see no reason to visit you for something unique. Featuring these same brands on your digital platform will only hurt you. Your showroom will have relevance for a consumer if you feature the boutique brands offering exclusive designs.
At some point, there is a dollar value of when consumers will want to purchase offline, meaning they need to touch and see the product physically. Every consumer has a different touch-price, and it can vary by type of product.
Embrace change. Showrooms that remain blasé about training and not giving their employees the right tools for the job will not succeed in what has become a more competitive market. I recently visited a showroom where the manager was not getting nearly enough information on sales by employee, line, etc. He was unable to run the business.
Even in the sense of workspace — having twin monitors on your desk improves productivity by 30 percent, yet I have seen owners balk at the $200 additional expense. My point here is you must empower your team and hold them accountable for training. And they should hold you accountable to deliver the right information and tools to them to do their jobs properly.
Disruptive e-commerce. New retail will be a key growth area in 2021. And yes, I used the word disruptive, which I happen to hate as a buzzword, but this truly will be disruptive for showrooms. Social media will begin the selling process, and showroom owners and managers must find a way to embrace that.
This should be the year when influencers take a stronger stage in our industry. With analysts suggesting it is hard to quantify influencers’ impact, a rise of interest in them is growing. Showrooms should start experimenting with more influencer engagement — think interesting partnerships and getting our better brands to step in.
selfie-worthy moments. Now more than ever, everything needs to be selfie-worthy. I see cool, local concepts really resonating; young people taking pictures of something fun and meaningful. Are you building out a strategy that is selfie-worthy? Getting a consumer or designer to visit your showroom will require a selfie-worthy experience.
Pay attention. During 2021, showrooms need to focus closely on consumers and the market. Our market can change every six months. Owners should pay 360-degree attention. They need to create a new emotional connection and innovative showroom layouts to excite consumers. Showrooms need to find their target consumer’s new touchpoints, triggers and aesthetic sense.
Get radical. Growth in showrooms is driven by a new generation of shoppers, presenting another challenge to old-school brands. The younger generation looks for immediacy over brand name. Digital is a strategic tool for catching these new shoppers. However, it must be manipulated carefully, and the message must bring them offline to the brick-and-mortar store.
The focus for showrooms is to embrace the pandemic’s global changes by integrating them into their core business. Health and wellness win.
Moving customers offline. For 2021, online is, of course, critical, and the market share has grown from 11 to 33 percent. But you need to find a way to move consumers offline. Create a digital and marketing strategy covering both online and offline business. Bring them in and give them a good reason to visit your brick-and-mortar establishment. Experiential shopping is the heart of luxury and, yes, our business is a luxury business.
Dedicate enough resources. A trend for 2021 should be to dedicate enough resources to your decorative plumbing showroom. If you are committed to the showroom business, you should already have a marketing plan in place and running. Ensure a support team is in place to manage orders and the entire process. Designate staff members to answer the text feature on your website. Hire more staff to answer the phones and deliver the product safely.
Transition and transform. Despite the uncertainties remaining, 2021 shall be a year of transition and transformation. Showrooms must adapt to the new context: digitalization, authenticity, creativity, inclusivity and sustainability.
Many of you already have fantastic showrooms and great teams — it’s time to make daily incremental changes that don’t break the bank. Work your culture, hold on to your good people and your integrity. Let 2021 be the year we all get a little better at what we do.