Jeff Valles: Brick and mortar showrooms are a key marketing tool
Never miss an opportunity to remind your targeted market, your social media followers and all of those people who found gold on your website that you have displays right in their neighborhood.
Sure, your factory is in the north somewhere, but your products are on view in your distributor showrooms all over the U.S. and Canada. Customers want to know why they should leave the comfort of their screen and visit a place they know little about. I am not talking about a dealer locator that asks visitors to enter their zip code to see a simple list of unknown names and addresses.
A good website should not just motivate a customer to browse around and find their favorite product, it must also inspire them to visit the brick and mortar showroom that presents, sells and supports your brand’s products. Many times customers will skip the boring dealer locator and surmise that ‘XYZ showroom’ will have your wonderful product they discovered on your website, only to find out that showroom does not carry your brand. Now, the salesperson is working with a primed buyer and can easily move them to the brands he prefers. You lose.
For example, it is the Thursday before Thanksgiving and a family’s kitchen faucet starts to gush a bit. “Oh no! Hordes of people are coming over in a few days and we don’t have a working kitchen faucet.” Off to the internet to discover what is available. They find your top-of-the-line kitchen faucet and love it, but there is no note on the product page asking if the visitor would like to see this faucet. There is no note saying whether or not it is stock at your factory or locally; just a button tagged “dealer locator” on the top of the page. As I noted above, this is not going to end well for your brand.
Your site should celebrate your showrooms. When a customer asks your site where they can see, touch and buy your products, they should be taken to a page asking for their zip code accompanied by text and images lauding your remarkable showroom partners and their knowledgeable salespeople.
This way, they see showroom images, your displays and some information on the showrooms in their area. Remember, your distributor showrooms and their people actually represent your brand and sell your products.
In all of your brand content, it is important to mention and applaud your showroom partners. Some people say this dilutes the vendor brand and is not needed. These vendors strongly believe their brand is strong enough that when customers find and learn about their products, they are 100% sold. In behavioral economics, this is referred to as personal bias. If you are going to put your products in the best possible sales situation, you must laud your showrooms partners throughout your website.
The book, “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts,” by Annie Duke says it best: “Despite the popular wisdom that we achieve success through positive visualization, it turns out that incorporating negative visualization makes us more likely to achieve our goals.”
As more and more companies embrace omnichannel models, every facet of your product distribution, sales and customer support must be 100% on the same page and accessible wherever and whenever the customer wants. There needs to be smooth fluidity between digital and physical realms. If brands are ineffective at this, the likelihood that a sale will happen in a showroom is significantly lower. This is the age we live in.
Successful manufacturer websites have to work to motivate the customer to drive to a showroom they might not not know of; a showroom in which your brand is king and the salespeople look forward to selling it. That is why it is so important for manufacturers to work together with their distributor showrooms so their customers believe there is a seamless relationship between the two businesses.
As a side note, in the DPH showroom business, it is a common practice for distributor showrooms to list all the brands they can access. When customers read this, they believe if a brand is listed on your website, it will be on display in your showroom, your staff knows it well and you will support it 100%. This is a bad practice. It is ambiguous, inauthentic and shows a lack of respect for the customer. Please, let’s stop this practice.