There are a few issues to address about retail trends in 2019. First off, large department and big-box stores continue to close. Lowes, for example, is closing 51 North American stores shortly.
This might be seen as an omen of doom for brick-and-mortar retail; instead, take it as a suggestion that consumers are tired with one-size-fits-all shopping solutions. In both the online and offline worlds, personalization is a watchword; shoppers want tailored offerings, complemented by great service and expert knowledge.
As e-commerce continues to grow in popularity, customers expect premium in-store experiences that differ significantly from digital experiences. There is no doubt that in 2019, customer service will be the focus of retailers in all industries. To keep ahead of the curve, be familiar with current and upcoming service-led retail trends and be sure to implement the correct strategies.
First off, it’s time to think about customer service as more than a reactive engagement tool aimed at resolving issues after the fact. With the amount of information available about your clients and the many ways to collect it, you can turn customer service into a truly personal shopping experience.
Fortunately, kitchen and bath showrooms always have been at the forefront of this service trend. When helping clients with large and pricey remodel projects, a kind of trust is established not found in most other retailer-shopper relationships. Use that trust to increase loyalty and return visits by assuring shoppers you have their best interests at heart.
At a time when 64 percent of shoppers believe retailers have no sense of who they are, be different. Be transparent about your efforts in the community and commitments to the greater good, whatever they might be. And always, always show the customer that everything you’re doing in the showroom is to make their lives better; you are more than your bottom line.
Real Showroom, Real Profits
Great customer service and experience happen online as well as offline. It has been a struggle for showroom owners across the United States to decide where to focus their efforts. Let’s face it, online shopping is convenient: you can do all your research, compare prices and have an item delivered to your door.
By now, many showrooms have implemented a strategy to ensure that no matter where sales happen, the company benefits. Having related online and offline platforms is a powerful way to combat both webrooming and showrooming. In the kitchen and bath industry, showrooming, the phenomenon of browsing in-store and buying online, is of concern if the showroom does not have a stellar e-commerce site.
Our designers have heard from several showroom owners and managers about this issue, and the many ways they face the challenge head-on by making changes to traditional showroom design: adding screens and other digital displays, incorporating sound systems, scent environments and other multisensory experiences.
Anything and everything to achieve every showroom’s ultimate goal: a unique and unforgettable customer experience.
The effort shows. Investing in these physical spaces is proof that people still believe in a real, physical showroom, in real profits and real customer relations. There are no substitutes for any of the above.
Adding the Personal Touch
Be sensitive to where people are in their lives — have they just moved or perhaps been in their home for years? This is the kind of personalized shopping experience clients come into the showroom to have.
By being aware of the lives of their customers, sales associates can more easily accommodate their needs and suggest the right kind of project. Even if a shopper has come into the showroom for one item, why not have a conversation about why they’re making the change? Conversations lead to sales opportunities.
In the first months of the year, when people are thinking about new beginnings, ask about your clients’ home improvement goals for the year. If they’re gearing up for a huge renovation project, suggest they start planning, buying materials and finding contractors in the winter, when materials can be found at better prices and schedules are open. If they’re not planning anything major but need a little change, some great winter projects are easy and affordable — probably more affordable than most customers think.
Encourage them to take on those projects they put off during the summer months. Promote easy-to-install products or sale products to encourage clients to do mini-projects all winter long: faucets, lighting, new hardware or re-grouting. It is also a good time to use online media to attract DIYers to the showroom; consider hosting a how-to event to show potential clients all the different ways they can liven up their homes in the winter.
Moving Beyond the Essentials
It’s time to make discovery shopping a primary tactic in brick-and-mortar retail. As a strategy, it merges perfectly with the kind of individualized customer service decorative plumbing showrooms are already providing.
Discovery shopping is about using that very human desire to window shop to engage customers into finding products they didn’t even know they wanted. It is about providing happiness through that mood boost most shoppers get after making a fun purchase or, in the case of K&B showrooms, the happiness a client feels when she has a complete solution.
In its simplest form, it is personalized browsing most often seen on e-commerce sites; with algorithms and technology behind it, it makes for a highly personalized experience. In its physical form, it is a little more difficult to manage. It is a merchandising technique requiring a strategic layout, smart inventory management and the right online and offline messaging.
Over the past year, our designers have seen a few showroom merchandising trends growing in popularity, a direct result of movements toward strategies such as discovery shopping.
Including more than the standard elements of the decorative plumbing and hardware world is not a stretch. Items such as tile and stone are natural additions to any showroom; assisting clients with home improvement and making room for these accessories has become a major part of showroom layout.
Lighting is becoming a must-have in any modern decorative plumbing and hardware showroom. Not only is lighting getting its own section, but fixtures are also making appearances in all areas of the showroom. Not only do they add to the overall look of the showroom, they help highlight the products — literally! We find that whether or not a showroom intends to, they all end up selling lighting.
In that case, the best strategy is to incorporate it into the design; don’t go hanging lights all over the place! Like anything on display, there has to be a thought process behind its placement.
One more thing our designers have been asked to include in showroom design are impulse buys; related, of course, to the kitchen-and-bath world. Items such as towels, kitchen gadgets, mugs, salt and pepper shakers, room sprays, soaps — basically, all the easy-to-grab items customers will be inclined to purchase after being primed by a trip through the store.
All these elements must be considered during the initial design so they are placed in the optimal spot along the sales path. When and where a client sees an item can have a major impact on whether they choose to buy it.
Good Outlook for 2019
2018 was a good year for the home improvement industry. Surveys and reports consistently indicate that homeowner and renters are making changes to their living spaces — whether it’s decorating, repairs or full renovations. Annual spending in the home improvement industry is expected to hit $350 million by the middle of this year.
The growing economy and strong job market continue to encourage homeowners to invest in their homes; increasing home values take the anxiety out of investing in major upgrades or replacement projects. It is worth noting that there is a low inventory of existing homes on the market, and most major renovations take place shortly after a home purchase.
With this in mind, encourage the kind of projects that make sense in this economic climate. People will still be coming into the showroom looking to make changes around the house. When they step in, you want to be ready with the items they need, the styles they want and those extras they can’t resist.