It’s no longer enough to tout you offer the best selection of products; consumers need to experience it as they are shopping in your store. Remember to never put anything between your customer and the product that they are trying to buy. As a retailer, your job is to identify barriers and eliminate them.
The following are some suggestion to ensure this happens:
• Keep it simple. Confused customers don’t buy—and if they do end up buying they typically don’t feel good about it. Keep it simple when it comes to your showroom. Think about your experience when you walk into a well-known computer store: You immediately notice the clean lines, products showcased at tables and the consistency of the design and layout from store to store.
On the contrary, when you walk into an overcrowded department store with merchandise everywhere, you can easily feel overwhelmed and distracted.
• Embrace change. You don’t want to be the store with the sales guy reading the newspaper when the consumer walks through the door. Those days are gone, as they should be. And, let’s face it, consumers don’t come to flooring stores just to browse, they come to purchase, which can be a daunting and an overwhelming process because of the vast selection of products.
As flooring retailers, we must be cognizant of our position in the fashion industry. Home fashion starts with the floor.
Successful retail brands welcome change because without change there would be no reason for consumers to desire new products. Be open to change, be ready for change and be motivated by change.
Change will keep your customers coming back and your sales team engaged.
• Create a great impression. As a retailer, it’s your responsibility to deliver the best shopping experience to your customers. It all starts with first impressions because they are the ones that last the longest and are the hardest to change.
How can you do this? It all starts with the showroom, but it starts before your customer even walks through your door. Most likely, she’s already visited your website and has a perception of what kind of retailer you are.
One way to differentiate yourself from the competition is by having a Google 360 view link allowing customers to virtually walk your showroom prior to physically visiting your store. Realtors have been using this technique for years and now smart retailers are incorporating it into their digital strategy.
Your showroom needs to be a welcoming space and say something about who you are as a retailer. You want your showroom to look like a place where people want to come to shop. Showroom layout matters.
The best retail concepts are deliberate and consider every detail from design to how customers move through the space. Ask yourself: Is your store easy for the customer to navigate? Is the layout intuitive? Does it make sense? Are products easy to view?
This might seem like an overwhelming process, but it’s necessary. The first step is to start by walking the store on your own and get feedback from employees, friends and family as to whether they think the store flows in a logical way.
A few years ago, the Flooring America/Flooring Canada (FA/FC) cooperative presented the Vision store concept to members. This award-winning layout offers clean lines of site in the showroom, low displays in the middle of the store and high displays on the wall. The design of the store allows the average female consumer to view the entire showroom in a well-organized, well-lit and easy-to-shop environment. Many of the showrooms incorporate design tables, soft seating groups and large screen monitors to highlight product videos, testimonials and before/after shots of jobs you’ve completed.
• Visual displays. Don’t forget about the importance of visual displays, demonstrations and vignettes. Vignettes play a critical role in creating a space that inspires consumers, turning a customer’s vision into reality.
Great displays allow you to be creative and fun, but more importantly showcase product in an appealing way to your customers. Consider merchandising that creates a good, better, best trade-up strategy to assist your sales professionals in trading a customer up to a better product.
Make it easy for your customer to understand the benefits of one product over another. This simple concept builds credibility with your sales professional and creates trust with consumers while simultaneously improving close rates and profitability.
• Lighting. This is one area that shouldn’t be overlooked. It is one of the simplest and most dramatic ways to upgrade your store. A poorly lit business makes the selection process harder and draws out the process. It creates doubt in customers’ minds as to what the products are going to look like in their home.
You should have three basic tools in your lighting palette: Ambient lighting, accent lighting and decorative lighting. By incorporating these elements, you are creating a warm and inviting environment while setting the tone of your store.
• The nose knows. How about scents? It may sound odd, but how does your store smell. Does it smell like latex from carpet samples, cigarette smoke from your employee’s last break or overbearing perfume from your new sales associate?
Research has shown the smell of citrus in home décor stores leads to increased productivity over more complex scents or no scent at all.
• Implement Technology. Technology is playing a huge role in today’s consumer shopping experience. Innovative retailers offer consumers the opportunity to view product catalogs while they shop via tablets so they can easily compare products in-store, and obtain customized product and pricing information.
Recently, FA/FC launched its My Floor Guide app to provide our customers with an amazing in-store experience. The app allows customers to access relevant features and benefits of products they might be interested in selecting for their homes.
In addition, My Floor Guide features a project calculator so customers can get a real-time estimate on the cost of their project. Plus, the app will allow customers to easily compare products, pricing and sale items.
Arming your sales team with technology differentiates your store from your competition and tells a consumer she’s in a cutting edge environment, which leads a customer to assume you have cutting edge products as well.
Technology makes sales professionals more efficient and centralizes customer data so that anyone on the sales floor can pick up where another associate left off with a customer. Allow your sales professionals to create electronic profiles of themselves. Make it easy for them to ask customers for reviews by giving them tablets to work with in-store.
• Path to change. You don’t have to change your showroom overnight. You can create a plan and execute it one phase at a time to ensure minimal disruption to your business. Based on your budget, you can decide what makes the most sense to implement in your showroom.
Making the commitment to invest in your showroom and to evolve as the times change will keep consumers coming back to your store. The FA/FC members who have migrated over to the Vision stores are more profitable than those members who haven’t made the transition.
Invest now and the payoff will be big down the road.
Keith Spano is president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada. He is an industry veteran who got his start in his family’s flooring business and went on to have a blend of experiences in many areas of the industry from sales and marketing to product management and supplier relations. For more information, call (603) 626-2100 or email@example.com.