Natalie Forster: A balancing act
Showrooms must prove value in both e-commerce platforms and in-person customer experience.
Since this issue includes bath and kitchen trends, Showroom of the Year and distribution software technology, I spent quite a bit of time talking to showroom operations managers and owners. When I ask about keys to success in a showroom, one of the responses is always great customer relationships. My next question, since we are living in the age of coronavirus, is what do those relationships look like right now? How did you maintain them while customers couldn’t come to the showroom?
The response to this questions, to me, speaks volumes about our industry; most say that they have built a loyal base of customers over the years, and the lack of face-to-face interaction did not really disrupt these relationships. Sure, actively seeking out new customers may not have been easy to do during this time, but being able to rely on consistent, loyal customers that stick with you through the tough times reflects the hard work you’ve put in prior to the pandemic.
As showrooms continue to combat the online shopping world, proving value in coming in to see, feel and test a product is a top priority. Obviously, COVID-19 has temporarily made this battle more difficult, as customers had to stay home.
In order to stay competitive, many showrooms have been revamping or enhancing their e-commerce platforms. So, we want to make it easier for customers to shop online while still encouraging them to come in to the showroom?
Based on my conversations with the pros in this realm, this “balancing act” is a common trend right now, and success is based on a few things; consumer-friendly e-commerce platforms, loyal customer and rep relationships, smart marketing that drive business in (such as loyalty programs) and beautiful showrooms with working displays.
Maybe it isn’t a balancing act; maybe it’s more of a work-flow puzzle. Your easy to use website (with photos of your show-stopping showroom) makes it possible for loyal rep and vendor partners to direct customers to you and your store, and great salespeople and rewards programs keep those customers coming back.