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I think of the digital experience that most showrooms possess. If that experience were the resume to get the job interview, many of you wouldn’t even get a first call, let alone the job.
And for those of you who don’t know what a digital experience is — it is your website, your social media and how you are found using search engines.
Let’s use restaurants as an example. Most of the time, if you are exploring for a new restaurant, you use a Google search, read the reviews, visit the site and read the menu. If the reviews are bad, or the website is bad, or the menu is bad — chances are you aren’t going to visit. Conceptually, this is happening with your showroom.
It just takes one moment to make a first impression. But if the perception is negative in the first seconds, it could take a massive effort to correct it, writes Daniel Langer, CEO of brand strategy firm Èquitè (http://bit.ly/3oBXBLS).
That also is true for showrooms. Decorative retail showrooms are prone to scrutiny upon first sight as many customers want to see if your showroom is a fit for them. You could be positioned at too low of a luxury level or too high. We all have had customers enter the showroom looking for Home Depot-priced vanities, lights or faucets. This is not your customer. At least I hope not.
If you don’t create value right away with your digital experience — or, even worse, make a poor impression — then you might never convince customers to buy what you’re selling. Showrooms should reflect upon this issue because most of them have an outdated or, worse yet, no plan of action to make sure everything is in the right place.
Think of Google ad words, for instance. Almost all showroom websites use keywords to drive traffic to their sites. “Many rely on the Google algorithm to optimize the search terms, words or phrases that consumers use most often,” Langer explains. “While this may yield the best search results, the first impression it leaves may be way off.”
In this context, many showrooms miss the opportunity for customers to visit their site. Instead, they inadvertently steer the customer to a competitor or focus on talking about products common to most competitors. Langer notes that when one types in a Google search, the feedback is very often the story of any competing company.
When you Google your showroom — and you should often — make sure you are coming up in search results and your competition isn’t squashing you in the keywords department. A good marketing team at your competition can make searches for you incredibly difficult and position your competitor first.
Another common problem for showrooms is inconsistency with their marketing across platforms. Many showrooms’ messaging across their social media, websites and physical stores are inconsistent; sometimes, you can’t tell it is the same company. It’s not uncommon to find several varying marketing messages connected to one brand. This issue influences perception, clarity and purpose.
Studies estimate that Gen Zers’ attention spans are around 6 seconds; 8 seconds for millennials. For showrooms wanting to reach these groups, a clear marketing position and consistent messages across all platforms are necessary. If you confuse your audience, you will lose them. Millennials are certainly where you should be focusing your marketing efforts — they have the most spending power right now.
For all relevant decorative bath, kitchen and lighting showrooms, the digital experience is most critical for purchase decisions. Whether a customer buys online or in-store, her digital journey comes first. Decorative showrooms not creating competitive advantages during those virtual moments will not sell. It is that simple.
As I’ve said before, it isn’t about having e-commerce. You can invest in it or not. But you must create a consistent, clear message of who you are and what you are great at. Start with your website, then create social media messages to steers visitors back to your site to learn more.
That consistent and clear message needs to be more in images than in text (going back to short attention spans) and focus on your competitive advantages — as well as the luxury message you wish to deliver.
An even simpler way to describe it is this way: “This is who we are, what we look like, what our showroom looks like and what we are great at.” It is just that simple. Then comes, “This is why you are going to pay a little more but love every minute you are with us.” Or, “This is why designers work with us, and you should, too.”
The worst decorative showroom websites are typically tied to a wholesale distribution site, and the showroom link is merely an afterthought on the wholesale page. It screams, “Oh, by the way, we still have a showroom. You may have to dig a bit to see what we are about and if we are good at anything.”
These showrooms typically don’t brand themselves differently than the distribution arm, and they feature the usual commodity products that the wholesaler offers. There is usually no social media strategy and no consistent tempo of communications out to the market. Nothing is measured, so they don’t know what works and what doesn’t.
I challenge those of you with showroom websites buried in a wholesale website to either separate them or make the showroom site much more prominent. The visitors here are not your repeat customers; they don’t know you and don’t care what water heater line you carry.
One last call to action: Make it a point to check your online reviews weekly and respond accordingly. Like restaurants, some people read reviews and take them seriously. Pay attention to Google reviews first, then any others (such as Yelp). When possible, and when you know you have delighted the customer, ask for a positive review — it matters! — and reward them for it with a small gift card or incentive.
First impressions matter. In luxury, they define a brand and allow it to create value or not. Don’t let imprecise marketing destroy your showroom’s chance for success.