So, when was the last time you updated or refreshed your showroom? I’m not talking about switching out one display with another. I’m talking about an update or full-on remodel. A year ago? Five years ago? Never? (Yikes!)

We all know how exhausting it can be to keep up with a showroom. It takes time, effort, energy and is expensive. But keep in mind, your showroom represents the cornerstone of your customers’ experience. So much of the customers’ take away about your products and services is based their experience when they are in your store. This experience can be a differentiator that sets you apart, certainly from online competitors, but also from your brick-and-mortar retail competitors.

Establishing Showroom Objectives

When you start a showroom update or remodel, it is important to identify objectives. Objectives should ladder up to your marketing objectives and support your brand’s position in the market. Your target audience will have a significant impact in informing the showroom approach.

How you position your store in the marketplace via advertising, your website, digital and social media will provide the framework for the showroom experience you want to deliver.

Before You Start… Conduct in-store focus groups to get feedback on your current showroom from your target audience. Focus groups will provide specific, actionable feedback on what customers like while identifying opportunities for improvement. A professional can help you craft your research objectives and resulting discussion guide to maximize the learning from the sessions.

It is also important to get feedback from your own sales personnel on what they like and give them the opportunity to identify showroom improvements.

Finally, take some time to check out non-flooring showrooms in your area. Go see a cabinet, lighting or fabric showroom. Look for ideas that make sense for you to consider!

A Word About Product… I have visited many dealer showrooms. One opportunity I have noticed in some showrooms is to reduce the number of products offered within a product category. You don’t have to overload the customer with too many options. You need to offer them the right options.

Many homeowners are overwhelmed when they start the floor covering selection process, and when they see so many products (many of which look the same, by the way), it adds to their feelings of insecurity.

Before you tackle implementing enhancements to your showroom, conduct a product sales analysis on the products that currently take up valuable real estate in your showroom. Are they selling? At what margins? Identify like products - do you need both? Are they effectively supported by the manufacturer in terms of merchandising, availability, etc.? This exercise should shed some light on how to streamline your product offering to optimize your valuable showroom space.

Finally, another benefit is to identify opportunities to reorganize product and the amount of real estate dedicated to a product type. It may be time to move the placement of a product category to give it a premier location or more (or less) real estate in your showroom design.

I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know… So, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this when I’m talking about my teenage son. And I’ve been saying it since he was born! (And still saying it, by the way.) So, I ask colleagues and friends who have boys who are older for advice, right?

Well, customers who are making floor covering selections usually don’t do so very often. Technically, they don’t know what they don’t know. So, this is an opportunity for your sales person to fill that gap and be the “subject matter expert” resource for the customer. The greater expertise and knowledge the salesperson has, the greater the opportunity for them to confidently recommend design ideas, and cross sell and upsell products.

Merchandising Ideas

Now let’s put some meat on the bones. The following are some ideas to think about as you start your next showroom remodel.

1 Outside/Inside: The impression that you make is important as your potential customer arrives as your store.  Is the exterior nicely kept? Do you have flowers outside, and is there ample lighting? Does your exterior signage reflect your brand? Is there an opportunity to aesthetically tie the exterior to the interior? If you are selling exterior flooring materials, can you feature in an exterior walkway or create an exterior patio featuring the products? If you do, be sure to include signage that informs your customers that you carry exterior products.

2 Organization, Flow & Signage: What does your customer see when they first enter the store? Does your customer have a clear line of sight to the various product areas in the store? Are they clearly labeled? Is the showroom layout organized so they can easily find the type of product they are looking for?  Does your showroom have visible signage that helps lead the way? What about a resource library?

3 Engaging the Five Senses: There have been many articles written about the impact of senses on the customer experience. In floor covering selection, the most obvious sense engaged is sight, and flooring customers like to touch products.

However, I’d like to make a case for engaging the other senses to create a holistic customer experience. Having appropriate music in the background would create a nice ambiance. (No local radio stations, and not too loud, please).

We know home builders bake cookies in model homes—and feed them to potential homebuyers. This would knock out smell and taste. However, think about the last time you stayed in a nice hotel. Do you remember the smell when you walked into the lobby? According to research, the sense of smell accounts for 70% of what our emotional recall is based on. To create a holistic sensory experience, take a page from the hospitality industry and leverage scent marketing in your showroom!

4 Lighting: Showroom lighting is very important. Product color can be influenced by different types of lighting. Be sure that the lighting that you choose in your showroom showcases the product as naturally as possible. Additionally, you will want to create a product check-out program so the customer can view product samples in their home.

5 Product as Hero: Use product displays that make the product the hero and not the fixture. Where it makes sense, try to integrate some visual relief around special product presentations which will make them appear important. A one-size-fits-all display may be okay for some products, but there are other products that may need to be shown differently to optimize the product presentation.

6 Trend Display: Today, consumers are more savvy shoppers than they were in the past. Many have completed research in advance of coming into your store, whether it be on Pinterest, Houzz or on some other design website. Or they have been watching Chip and Joanna on Fixer Upper, Love It or List It, or one of the many versions of Flip or Flop that are popular on HGTV.

Take the opportunity to showcase products in your showroom to pay off these trends. Create a special, easy to update display, or showcase the products in a prominent place in your showroom. By doing so you will communicate that you have the latest trends, are knowledgeable about them, and can deliver the looks many are interested in today.

7 New Product Feature Area: Product life cycles are getting shorter, and many manufacturers are coming out with new products at a more rapid rate.  It is to their benefit to gain penetration of these products quickly, so partner with them to create a new product display area that showcases new products. Consumers like to see what’s new! You might to want to combine the Trend and New Product Feature areas if space is tight.

8 Upsell & Cross Selling: Create a presentation in your showroom that shows the consumer how they can use different products together in design. As an example, create a mood board that pairs hardwood with porcelain tile, some glass and a sample piece of kitchen cabinetry. Show the combinations that could be idea starters and how one product can augment another in design.

9 Technology: Let’s face it: it’s hard to keep up with technology. However, there are some simple ways that you can use technology in your showroom to benefit the customer experience. Think large flat screen TV with rolling images. Create electronic mood boards, that showcase different products used together. Show customers photos of all the great projects you have brought to life! With the increased use of smart phones, how can you provide viewable photos and information about the products they like best?

10 Thoughtful Details: Think about your customer and how they like to shop. Would they benefit from work tables placed strategically around the showroom? What about the significant other? Would a sofa and wifi be helpful? How about your sampling program? What benefit-oriented sales materials do you give to the customer as they are making their decision?

Getting It Done

If you conduct research, developing the plan based on the research learning is the easiest part. Getting it done is where it gets tricky. Keep in mind that the ideas you put in your plan should align with your brand positioning and showroom objectives.

Collaborate with your manufacturer partners for assistance. Oftentimes it is not an all or nothing proposition. You can make improvements over time, or you can plan for a major update. Keep it simple and tackle the updates that will have the biggest impact first. Remember, less is more.  Don’t feel like you need to cram every inch of space with product. Just make sure it is the right product.