Once upon a time I believed that the best approach for a showroom was to add more variety. My thought process for my showroom was that we should give the customer the widest selection of manufactures; the more you offer, the more customers you might attract. I believed it, and even argued for it. I wanted to offer the same products as many of the showrooms I looked up to, and aspired to be like. Looking back, I can see now that I was wrong. I mean this approach might work for many showrooms, especially those in major markets like Miami, New York, Chicago or San Francisco. Many of the showrooms in these markets have access to millions of customers. They also face extreme competition from numerous sources. However, most of us do not work within markets of that size. So for my showroom and my market I have undertaken a different approach.
Recently, I adopted a kind of less is more approach. This is not to say I plan to only offer two faucet brands and a single sink manufacture; not quite. However, I do not need to offer every faucet manufacture out there. We will give my bosses who just read this a moment to pick their jaws off the desk. I have become very select in the manufactures I want our showroom to display, and it is for multiple reasons. Each brand I have in the showroom, or am considering, serves a specific purpose. Each meets a specific category of design, or of customer needs.
It is like the rule I was taught in design school; add five things, then take two away. Just as a room can be too cluttered and overwhelming to the eye, so can a showroom. Even if your showroom is 13,000 square feet, you do not want to pack it full. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Many showrooms currently display a multitude of faucet manufactures. Of these showrooms, many offer numerous faucet companies that offer multiple designer finishes. I am not going to name names, but I think you can figure the ones I am referencing. Many of them have such similar products, that if I showed you four faucets from four different companies, many of you could not identify them by brand. Heck, I know I would not be able to tell them apart. They each may have a few really unique styles to their brand, and it is those few designs that can make you feel you need that brand. I am here to say you don’t. Some manufactures reading this just got a little anxious with that idea. However, once I am finished, I would venture to say even the manufactures reading this will agree with my reasoning.
Having multiple brands really does not do any one brand justice. So instead of offering six multiple finish manufactures, you only offer three. Better yet, two or even just one. Did you know that giving customers too many choices can overwhelm and lead to fewer sales? It’s true according to professors at Columbia University. In their famous study, “Why Choice is Demotivating,” professors Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper disputed the popular notion that having more choices was a better sales strategy. The professors set up a table laden with jams outside of an upscale grocery store in Menlo Park, California. Over a period of two consecutive Saturdays, research assistants dressed up as store employees and offered samples of either 6 or 24 flavors of Wilkin and Sons Jams, a British jelly purveyor known for exotic flavors.
Prior to this study, the common sales and marketing theory was that more choices are better for customers. People like more options, so providing more flavors should lead to more sales. The results from this study proved otherwise. During the time periods when 24 flavors were offered, 60 percent of people stopped to sample the jams, compared to 40 percent when only 6 flavors were offered. These numbers seem in favor of more choices, but the important question is this: which group purchased more? Of the customers who sampled 24 flavors, only 3 percent purchased, but of the customers who sampled 6, 30 percent did the same. If you run those numbers based on 100 people, 60 would stop when 24 flavors were offered, but less than 2 purchase (1.8 to be exact). When 6 flavors were sampled, 40 stopped at the table, and 12 purchased. Which table would you want your products to be on?
Besides overwhelming the customers with choice, there is what I like to call the good partner factor. If your showroom can do more than $150,000 in each and every one of your brands, then I tip my hat to you and say Bravo! If not, then you may want to reexamine your partnerships. Being a good partner in this day and age of overwhelming competition is more important now, more than ever. Being a good partner is a two-way street. For a showroom’s part, it can be done via sales or by limiting the number of brands you offer. Nothing says you are serious about a brand then dropping one of their competitors from your showroom. It can be the amount of space dedicated to a particular brand. It can be as simple as which brand your showroom specialists prefer working with. For the manufacture’s part, do they have an outstanding rep? Do they offer limited distribution in your market? Do they have a kick ass IMAP policy and limited internet sales? Those are the building blocks to a good partnership.
In conclusion, I do not want you to come away from this thinking I think you should only offer four brands. I am just saying that you may want to re-evaluate and trim your line cards. Do you have some brands that are just meager performers? Maybe their attention can be diverted to a decently performing brand and bolster their sales. Increased sales could lead to increased rebates and advertising dollars. I just want you to realize it is very possible less is more.