When Establishing Product Selection, Balance Variety Against Overload
Showroom size and content should be governed by the business plan you’ve established for your showroom. You need a plan for reaching the customer segment you’ve targeted, and you must carefully consider what products you will need to attract those customers. When you indiscriminately add samples on a whim (because they were free, for example), you create only clutter and confusion for both the consumer and staff. If a retailer keeps on hand too many samples from which to choose, he promotes option anxiety in the minds of his customers. You need to have a focused plan to reach your goals!
It’s also a good idea to differ your products from those of the competition. Keep in mind the economic laws of supply and demand. Products that are in short supply garner higher prices. Prices fall on products in ample supply! “Me-too” products also confuse the customer. It’s hard to justify features and benefits on me-too products, which means the only thing you have to sell is price. Often, that leaves you no recourse but to go lower on price!
A great, effective way to arrange the showroom is to establish a natural flow that guides customers from one display to the next. The showroom layout should provide a constant flow of ideas and be arranged in product sections. If you’re selling ceramic tile, group your wall tiles together. Likewise, tiles suitable for floors should be kept together. And the same applies to decorative tiles.
It’s fine if your vignettes show all types of tile. Just keep similar products close to one another in your displays. This keeps you from having to run customers all over the showroom to show products, which will probably just confuse them. Remember that your goal is to sell, not confuse. Confused customers don’t say, “Yes!” Confused customers look for excuses to leave your store.
If you turn all displays at a 45º angle to the front door, the customer can see more than one display at a time. Careful placement of angles acts as a lure. This angling helps draw the customer through the showroom. That’s because while the consumer is perusing one display, she can simultaneously sneak a peak at what is going on in the next one. This allows you to use the customer’s curiosity to your sales advantage. A window in a wall, for instance, lets visitors see what’s coming next. It helps to build interest without creating a direct path.
Each display should feature a product or accent that catches the customer’s eye. This can be accomplished by emphasizing an unusual color or product, or by portraying use of the product in a particularly interesting way. Spotlight something that’s memorable, even if you don’t sell a ton of it.
An example of this technique would be the red convertible you almost always see in a car dealer’s showroom. It attracts attention. But keep it simple too — emphasize only one attraction per display! Think of a woman you may have who wears too much jewelry. She may be sporting an assortment of very good jewelry, but it’s hard to tell because she’s neglected to establish a single focal point. I urge you to follow the KISS method: “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”
Lighting changes between walkways or display areas also play to a customer’s curiosity. Well-placed lighting is a good means of keeping customers moving through the showroom. Lighting also helps them to concentrate while viewing each area. Mood lighting can be achieved by placing colored gels over spotlights. Consult an expert to keep your displays looking good.
In addition, unusual lighting effects can provide a cross-merchandising opportunity! Motion detectors can activate lighting, music or other sensory stimulants for a surprise effect. They can also save on electricity costs because they turn the lights on and off as visitors enter and leave a display.
Add a new niche to your business. In what area(s) do you excel? What sets you apart from the competition? Does everyone know about this distinctive product or service? An idea you might think about is how you respond to the federal regulations regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Every new home and commercial building has to comply with these guidelines. Are you up to speed on them?
You may also consider aging baby boomers, or even their parents who’ve already retired. Many people want to age in the home where they’ve lived all their lives. Do you know how to help them? It may just be your niche market. Add a department for universal design products that offer the elderly or physically challenged the comfort and convenience they crave.
Price, Price, PriceWith all the talk about design, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of product mix and price range. You need to create the right array of products with a specific focus on mental price points. If you price too low, you leave money on the table and may actually lower the perceived value the client has of your products. Price too high, and you may find yourself undercut by a more value-conscious competitor. Here are the key points to consider:
A good selection of products has three to five specific types, each tailored to a specific buyer profile. The market today demands responsiveness to what each buyer needs and wants.
Because it’s easier to sell up rather than down, make sure you have products priced at important mental barriers. A traffic-generating product may be great, depending on market perceptions. But will it bring people in for you to close?
Use pricing to create velocity. Not all products are created equal. That’s why you can sell premium products. To maximize sales velocity, always increase the price of your best products and reduce the price of your promotional products. Because the premiums offset the reductions, you still make the same total revenue. This tends to increase velocity on all sales. The highest price points are perceived as a higher value, and the lowest-priced items are perceived as a bargain.
Use pricing to demonstrate value. Pricing can help customers justify their wants. Even though the total cost has increased, customers believe they’re getting more for their money. Consumers initially decide on the quality that they want, and then they compare prices. Only items go beyond that “quality threshold” catch their attention. In other words, price matters only within the customer’s quality range.
Use pricing to create a product mix. Pricing can be used to differentiate among buyer segments. This is something that auto manufacturers do because it allows them to satisfy a wider range of wants and needs. Within a given community, the range of your product can vary by 30%, and you can offer different products tailored to different needs at different price levels.
Lastly, never lose sight of the big picture. Use buyer perception of value to help create demand.
In my next article, I’ll discuss the impact and importance of showroom traffic flow.