In the dynamic landscape of 2024, the digital realm continues to shape our business operations and market interactions. This prompts the question, how stands your website? Is it where your market and your team need it to be? Is it where you want it to be? Or, for companies whose core operations are not primarily tethered to online relationships, are your website modifications reactions from customer feedback and the immediate demands of the primary market? After all, the foundation of your showroom business model is to drive them into your stunning showroom and let your showroom team win them over. Right? So, what should your website do?
Put simply, it should shine a light on what you do best. It should be a 24/7 extension of your brand that both reminds your customers ow why they trust you as their decorative plumbing source and help your brand to offer frictionless support. After all, at its foundation your brand is a consulting and operations company.
How does this define your website’s design?
A decade ago, I was sitting in my office managing at a focus level only known to fellow showroom managers. Then my phone, yes a phone rang. A talented designer graced our showroom, inquiring about a European brand freshly introduced to the US market—an entity with which we had no prior connection. They eagerly presented a screenshot of a product that would make this bathroom incredible. As I read the product sheet, my excitement surged. The sheet showcased an image of what would soon become popular in our market and pointed out that the local distributor was a mere 10 miles from our showroom. However, this designer had overlooked or ignored this seemingly vital detail. Their visit to our showroom wasn't just about admiring a new faucet; it was about entrusting their request to their chosen source for decorative plumbing fixtures. Our victory lay in a winning combination of expertise, diligent follow-up, and a high-performance operations team.
Carefully choosing products in a leading showroom with an informed consultant is a skill many of us excel at. It's a significant part of why a designer is hired and a showroom is selected. However, once the selections are made, the dynamics shift to an entirely different playing field. Nowadays, it's rare to hear about a plumbing fixture arriving looking ugly, but delivery delays are unfortunately common and often a last minute surprise. This concern resonates with plumbers, builders, and designers alike. if your brand can offer a seamless transition from product selections to installation, you will elevate their showroom experience beyond simply shopping.
Some showrooms have ventured into this opportunity void by emailing customers with vendor-acknowledged delivery dates and all changes. On the surface, it sounds good, but when experienced in real life, it can be overwhelming. As discussed in other essays, a simple power room order can contain eight products from up to five vendors. Depending on the responsiveness of these vendors, this can lead to five emails. If there are any updates, more emails follow, and these communications are not necessarily expected by a plumber, designer, or builder and might be easily missed.
Then comes the time to build and review the installation schedule, and these professionals will need to trudge through their emails to find the most current date for each product on this job. This includes not only the products your showroom will deliver but all the products for the entire job. Whether it's a powder room refresh or a multi-room mansion, there can be hundreds of products from countless vendors and showrooms. Do you even want to imagine how many emails that creates? That's why email is not a viable answer. It might be good for covering your bases, but it's not a frictionless solution for your valued customers.
Some showrooms have decided not to solely rely on email. They send the initial emails and follow up with a call when the product arrives. Now, let's think that through…
To create a frictionless, always-accessible source of product order information, we still need emails for communications, but adding a client digital dashboard will prove to be the communication game-changer.
Your client visits yourbrandedshowroom.com, clicks on the “Your Account” button, logs in, and their order dashboard appears. This dashboard lists all of their jobs with you, noting each job's last change date. When they click on a job, all the products for that job are listed, specifying whether they're on order, have arrived, or have a scheduled delivery date. At the bottom of each page are the email and phone number of their showroom consultant and customer service person. Magically, all this information is available 24/7 from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Simple and frictionless.
The showroom dashboard does not promise the exact delivery date; it notes anticipated delivery dates. You are transparently sharing the information the vendors have provided. Plus offering a simple click to call or email for any further questions or arising time issues. Again, simple and frictionless.
Obviously, this is not an easy task. It will require registering and educating all your interested clients, adding a private account portal for your website, and developing a data interface between your ERP system and the website. Plus, educating your team on data entry and updating when vendor changes occur. Depending on the size of your business, a dedicated employee and a budget may be necessary.
To capitalize on this opportunity will not be easy. But when you get it right, it will be marvelous and work to strengthen your brand's network ties.
I believe the goal of a B2B website is to become a trusted tool that your good customers value and becomes an important part of their digital toolbox.
P.S. If you are ready to dive into the customer dashboard web portal, please also look into developing one for each of your showroom consultants, showing their clients' jobs, outside salespeople allowing them to see what is going on with their customers, and for your customer service team. Finding all the orders for a job by customer is a great database and will prove helpful to so many members of your team.
If you would like to discuss this in more depth, please reach out to me at LinkedIn.