OK, after three previous articles on omnichannel marketing/selling you’re probably saying, “Enough, already – let’s get back to the fun part of the business of looking at some great new showrooms and what I can do to keep my team excited and excelling.”

But first I need to share Part 2 on how to win and keep retail customers in the digital age. Even if the bulk of your sales are to the trades, it’s still the retail clients that are coming into your showrooms making the buying decisions.

Once again, I’m borrowing heavily from the book “RE:THINK,” written by Jeannie Gilbert and James Kane of the Retail Web Services company. In my last article I covered five important points that RWS learned from its survey of almost 1,800 consumers of durable goods. Previously I covered five points. Let’s continue by taking a look at several more.

The value of full-text searches: Last time, we identified several factors that go into a quality website experience from the consumer’s perspective. We know they expect professional design, as well as key functions such as complete product data, pricing information and accurate full-text search capability. However, the RWS survey also shows two-thirds of prospective customers will perform a full-text search when visiting a website such as yours.

Since consumers view an average of four to 17 websites when researching and shopping for durable goods, depending on the total costs of the products, it makes sense the first thing they would do when visiting a new site would be a quick search for the products they specifically are looking for. As a result, the little easily overlooked space on the top of most web pages with nothing in it – the “open search field” – might actually be one of the most important spaces on your website.

The RWS survey asked consumers an open-ended scenario: “You are shopping on a website and the onsite search is not very good — that is, it does not find you the products you are looking for. What happens next?”

73% say they would leave the site and continue shopping with a competitor.

26% say they would keep shopping on the site, but would feel frustrated.

Less than 2% say they “really wouldn’t care” if the search didn’t work for them.

The survey also reveals the older the consumer, the quicker they are to move on if they don’t get the results they want. I, for one, can attest to that!

The accuracy of your site’s full-text search is easy to overlook, but it really matters to your target audience. Do not take the little “search” function for granted. Your prospects will use it and they will expect it to return accurate results.

Consumers expect robust product data: As we have learned, when consumers are viewing your website they likely are visiting as many as 17 other sites as well, depending on the product being purchased and the expected price. The main reason for this is they are searching for product information.

Given the volume of products you sell and the speed with which new products are introduced, you may be tempted to ask, “Can’t I just link to the manufacturers’ websites for product details?” While this sounds good in theory, there are three significant risks that come along with taking the easy route.

First, without product information your website will not be effectively indexed by internet search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., so your site may not appear in search results when prospects research products that you do in fact sell.

Next, consumers may leave your site for one of your competitors if your product information fails to meet their information.

And finally, consumers may not find the information they need on the manufacturer’s website anyway. So in a very real sense, the more product information your website provides, the more content you are exposing to web crawlers and the more relevance search engines will give your site, thus improving your web page rankings when prospects search for products you sell.

Product information is a key example where people tie what they find and experience on the company’s website to the service and quality they expect to find in the physical location — your showroom.

If you don’t present complete product information on your own website, your prospects will certainly go somewhere else to find those details.

The importance of page load times: We covered several points identifying key expectations consumers bring to retail websites, including expectations of current process, accurate search features and robust product details. But there is another more elusive expectation that your website must address as well — page load speeds.

The RWS survey reveals 70% of respondents feel the speed of the website is important to them. When visiting so many websites in a short period of time, consumers expect the web pages to quickly load. A slow website impedes consumers’ discovery progress. Not having product pricing, accurate full-text search or complete product information on your site stymies their efforts.

The rise of the mobile consumer: Every day you see clients in your showroom with their smartphones and tablets in hand busily tapping away at the screens. They may be responding to a text or checking social media or they may be on your competitor’s site checking prices or looking at products in your showroom, only to buy them somewhere else.

The consumer’s ability to use your showroom to confirm their purchases before they buy somewhere else (also known as showrooming) has left many of you defensive and wary about the new era of mobile retail. But those who see mobile as nothing but a threat are overlooking the tremendous opportunity in front of you — perhaps your biggest opportunity since the internet. The number of consumers using mobile devices to connect to the web exceeds the number of consumers that use personal computers to access the Web. Also, mobile users connect to the Web far more frequently than PC users.

The RWS survey shows 56% of respondents have used their smartphones or tablets to check prices in the store, while another 34% say they plan to “in the future” when they make a significant durable goods purchase.

There is one critical point of consideration that automatically gives brick-and-mortar showrooms the upper hand compared to e-commerce-only retailers. That being most consumers like to go to the showroom and touch and feel a product before they buy it.

Suffice it to say those who can provide a quality full-featured alternate mobile website that makes it easy to search, contact and find you are most likely to earn prospects’ business.

I believe this is one of the most important areas of keeping your showroom business not only relevant, but to help guarantee your continued success.

Welcome to the digital age!

Good selling!


Read Part 1 here of Keeping customers in the digital age.