As anyone in retail knows by now, a brand is more than a logo. A brand is a way a retailer or corporation creates an emotional connection with the consumer — by appealing to nostalgia, curiosity, aesthetics, concerns, fears; you name it.
Huge retailers are not connecting where it counts. Bankruptcies, restructuring and complete shutdowns are plaguing major retail players across North America. This is an opportunity for small- and medium-sized businesses not only to connect with already loyal customers but attract buyers who are tired with the big-box experience.
If you’re not convinced of the importance of good branding, consider this: A recent U.S. survey found respondents only trusted 22 percent of brands. Overall, 74 percent of brands could disappear and consumers wouldn’t notice. It doesn’t mean you should forget the whole idea of branding; rather, it means a local business has an opportunity to create a real connection.
Before getting too excited about these new opportunities, take a moment to think about your showroom’s brand. It’s what is going to connect with the customer, prove your worth in their lives and make them keep coming back.
It’s not just about the logo or the colors but the true personality of the showroom. Is it friendly and trustworthy? Is it luxurious and exclusive? You may have an answer to those questions but you have to go a step further. Your showroom communicates those qualities to your customers, so you need to be sure the physical space is designed in accordance with what you want your brand to offer.
Connect Where it Counts
Take a deep dive into your target audiences — the one you’re serving as well as the one you want. There is plenty of data available online and chances are you have a wealth of information in your sales records and with your sales staff.
Use the data wisely and be sure not to make sweeping generalizations about the area you live in and alienate potential customers. It is true that some cities have larger populations of baby boomers while others are more popular with Gen X or millennials, but the best idea is to conduct your own research. Keep details on your customers and pay attention to their buying habits — not only what they buy but how they buy. That kind of attention pays off.
After taking a look at the people in your area and your existing customers, you can start to target the groups that will bring you the best business. There may be more than one; it is up to individual showrooms to decide how to approach different market segments.
Show Your Brand
While most showroom owners know their clients and their merchandise inside out, they don’t always have clear, well-implemented branding guidelines. This is further complicated by the number of vendor and manufacturer displays on the floor, all following their brand guidelines. While these brands and products are in line with customer needs, it results in a hodgepodge of colors, brands and styles that don’t tell customers anything about what the showroom promises.
Unfortunately, it’s often easier to use vendor guidelines instead of coming up with a defined brand vision for the showroom. The result? A jumble of brands, colors and display sizes. Our designers see it all the time in existing showrooms and make it a priority from the very beginning of the design phase.
Dealers can keep control of their showrooms and their brand. The best showrooms in the country find ways to incorporate vendor displays into the showroom. It’s a manageable issue as long as the dealer takes control of where vendor displays are positioned and how much vendors should pay for the space.
An experienced showroom designer can help with custom displays built to respect manufacturer specifications but still match the colors, style and sizing of the rest of the showroom’s display fixtures. Manufacturers logos can completely overwhelm an area; with negotiation, logos can be resized to fit the scale of the space.
For a showroom offering multiple brands, often from all over the world, it is essential that the showroom brand speaks loudest of all. Ensure you don’t forget your brand in the shuffle by keeping displays and overall design unified and consistent, sending clear messages to your clientele and providing unparalleled customer experience.
Share What Matters
Social media may not be a part of your brand personality but be aware that newer generations of homeowners expect businesses to have a serious online presence — not simply through ads. In fact, in an online world where the average person is bombarded by ads, it’s likely they’re ignoring most of them. And getting an ad in front of a prospective client’s face enough times to make a real impression is costly and has become the realm of major retailers and direct-to-consumer brands.
Instead of focusing on ads, focus on sharing quality content. If you keep up to date with trends and news and share that information online, it’s more likely customers will return to you when the next project comes up. You can use social media and a newsletter to show your customers you are changing with the times and keeping up with their needs. By frequently posting about the subjects that matter to your customers, they will see you as a valuable part of their remodeling experience.
No matter how or where you choose to promote your brand, be sure to balance out self-promotion with humorous or educational content. You can produce some yourself if you have the time and resources, or you can share the wealth of information about kitchen and bathroom design found online.
Your brand is a vision and a promise that consumers should understand from the first glance. Inside the showroom, everyone from the owner to the manager to the sales staff has to agree on the vision and deliver on the promise.
By connecting with your target audience, keeping brand vision consistent and communicating effectively with your clients, you shape the entire customer experience online, in-store and in-home. When customers believe they are understood, they feel valued. If you help people improve their lives, you become a partner instead of a retailer.