Jamie Gold | February 10, 2020
Pictured is the DPHA Showroom of the Year 2019. This award-winning space encourages manufacturers to romanticize their products for buyers. Photo: Decorative plumbing
Is your business based on clicks, building blocks, or both? If you have a physical showroom, it may be as important to keep up with trends in optimizing that space as the actual design work you do in it. Here are four professionals who generously share their thoughts on what’s happening in retail:
- Kymberly Weiner, Marketing and Sales Director at the Decorative Plumbing + Hardware Association;
- Diane Steves, co-owner of Decorative Plumbing Supply in San Carlos, CA.
and winner of the DPHA Showroom 2019
of the year;
- Sam Walker, North American retail director for global furniture brand Poggenpohl;
- Bridget Bueche, cook and experience advisor for kitchen showrooms as part of her Cook’s Perspective programs.
One of the most important trends showrooms are facing today is the challenges of employee retention. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to find and retain great talent, which is partly due to the low unemployment rate,” notes Weiner. “Our members focus on continuously training their employees to become elite representatives in each of their markets.”
Steves adds, “The best way to keep our employees updated is to have regular training sessions with our manufacturers’ representatives to keep us updated on new trends and products.” Steves and her husband run the company Founded in the early 1990s, they also send their employees to manufacturer programs. “We find it very beneficial to our sales reps, who are excited to come back and share what they have learned.”
Bueche is both a booster and a workout asset. “If a customer feels understood and trusts a salesperson, the salesperson no longer sells. The two form a unique bond and work as a team to achieve a common goal. This process and recommendations increase sales, ”says the chef.
Owners and managers are also investigating what works in other industries, Weiner notes. “In busier markets with high levels of pedestrian traffic, showrooms take notes from retailers and use greeters to motivate customers as soon as they step into the building for a more personalized experience and separate browsers from surefire customers,” she says. The conclusion also counts, adds the association’s board of directors: “We have also seen that DPHA showrooms make their compensation plans more attractive in order to attract new talent and increase loyalty.”
Lessons from Pirch
Before starting her own business, Bueche was part of the founding management team at Pirch (2009 when it was a single showroom called Fixtures Living). Members of local design associations were often treated to the skills of Bueche at chapter meetings in the retailer’s original showroom in San Diego, and design enthusiasts across the area could stop by, shop, and dine at weekly Friday lunches. That was before the company moved into an upscale mall and exploded in the luxury segment across the country.
“We have moved the transition from a traditional home appliance store to one that is transforming the consumer experience with in-store demonstrations, an environment of excitement and fun, and a safe place for consumers to feel at home. This gave consumers an idea of what their own kitchen could look like, ”recalls Bueche.
“Pirch focused on the customer experience before it was even a buzzword, and everyone loved the coffee bars and test kitchens,” shares Weiner. “It was a strikingly different shopping experience than any other existing showroom for decorative sanitary and hardware products. Unfortunately, the customer experience doesn’t seem to have translated into sales, so all but four locations have closed. I think our members are now looking a little more critically at the customer experience and focusing on how the experience can be converted into more sales. “
Bueche sees it a little differently and accuses an over-ambitious expansion plan rather than the customer experience model: “In retrospect, controlled growth would have been the preferred business model,” she reflects. This can look more like targeted employee and customer training, claims the chef, than a massive footprint. “After creating the Pirch experience, we realized that we need to understand our customers better in order to be successful today.” This could be taking into account their lifestyle needs, wellness goals, kitchen ability, or budget, she suggests.
Creating a Luxury Retail Experience
Poggenpohl certainly has success in the luxury retail market. The 128-year-old German kitchen manufacturer has 12 corporate design studios and around 30 dealers in the USA. As you read this, the company is currently opening a flagship showroom in the New York borough of Soho, due to open in the first quarter of 2020. Says Walker. “Experience is the key concept or trend that drives retail today,” he explains.
“We have areas where consumers can relax and learn about the brand, work areas where they can sit down with a designer and play with patterns, and inspiration centers to show what’s possible or hands-on cooking demonstrations.”
Plumbing retailer Steves agrees with Walker’s customer experience premise, but faces different challenges selling around 100 brands. Perhaps your company shares these challenges. “It’s important for manufacturers to create a bespoke experience that romanticizes their products for the consumer,” she advises. “Display aesthetics and interaction are key.” This helps companies differentiate their offers and not get lost in space, she explains.
“There is always a balancing act to show [the] The latest surfaces, technologies, trends – and at the same time space for exploration and experiences, ”emphasizes Walker. “Poggenpohl is constantly rebuilding our showrooms and we believe we are at the forefront when it comes to reinventing the retail experience for kitchen showrooms in general. We have a talented design team here in the US and Germany working together to create extraordinary showroom environments. “
Decorative Plumbing Supply may not have a global design team, but it has created a national award-winning showroom nonetheless. When considering how and why your company received this award, Steves shares: “We have a beautiful area of 7,000 square meters. Showroom that offers our customers a wonderful and comfortable experience. We value customer service and the way we treat our customers like they are our family. We are known for that. ”
It’s not always easy, she admits. “We still come across manufacturers who aren’t looking for small showrooms like ours. Many of our manufacturers set pricing guidelines for their products sold online so that we can continue to compete with the customers who walk through our showroom. However, some have yet to do so or ignore our frustrations regarding this issue. ”
Marketing your showroom
As any seasoned retailer knows, having great customer service, fun events, and competitive pricing is not enough. You have to get specifiers and homeowners through your doors. Marketing plays a role here. “I believe social media is the most effective way to market our showroom,” says Steves. “We have focused over the last year on getting our online presence through social media more prominent and we have found it to be far more lucrative and effective than [the] traditional print media that we did in the past. “
Weiner from DPHA sees the value in this. “With designers using Instagram as a means to get inspiration and view new products, showrooms on this platform are becoming increasingly active to interact with these customers earlier in their design process. Design-conscious consumers also use Instagram and can direct their business within the showroom doors. The most important keyword in retail right now is the customer experience. This also affects how our members view their showrooms. “She points to DPS’s steam shower demonstration area to show customers how this technology works.
Poggenpohls Walker comments: “You have to have events for luxury customers and designers. You need to get involved on social media. You have to go into the community and participate too. You can’t sit in the showroom and wait for people to come to you. “
Bueche notes that experimental marketing deepens consumer loyalty and confidence in large purchases like home appliances. “For showrooms with a limited budget, it is recommended to use at least a combined convection steam oven or an induction hob with a live appliance. Live devices transform the consumer’s showroom experience from a harsh sales experience – that is, pressure – to an educational conversation that builds a trusting relationship between the consumer and a knowledgeable device advisor. “Imagine your team members discussing each participant’s wellness concern individually after a demonstration that could result in additional sales.
The role of technology
“The internet is full of articles to look through and identify which authors have them
worthy advice, ”warns Bueche. “Consumers have more information on brands, specifications and prices that has never been seen in history.” It can support customer relationships, but it is not a substitute for real interactions.
Walker’s company also uses technology to aid marketing, merchandising, and customer communications. “Poggenpohl has apps that allow you to rate a kitchen and choose different options so that you can easily get an idea of what the kitchen will cost and what it will look like. The technology also helps customers visualize their rooms with new furniture and configurations in real time and with 3D views, ”he shares.
“The price of an entire kitchen is still a mystery and many customers don’t have a budget in mind,” shares Walker. Marketing brings them to your website and showroom. They are hired by well-trained staff. The technology supports both efforts. But when it comes to making big investments in their homes and lives, people still mostly buy from people they trust. ▪
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