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Bringing your business into the future, Part 2

Published in Bath & Kitchen Pro | January 2017

Last month we delved into the future by discussing the relatively new marketing/sales platform called omnichannel. This is a multichannel approach to sales and marketing that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop, on a mobile device, by telephone or in a brick-and-mortar store. I stated omnichannel is something new and notable, even revolutionary. Omnichannel today is cross-channel being done well.

In doing research for this important topic I reached out to a number of different sources, including the Internet, phone calls/emails to DPH showroom owners, DPH vendors and two companies that specialize in helping brick-and-mortar retail businesses that offer decorative plumbing and hardware products, appliances, home electronics and furniture.

I was disappointed to learn that so far very few DPH showrooms have embraced the omnichannel concept for their businesses. It’s also a new concept for the big brick-and-mortar retailers of durable goods — folks such as Walmart, Macys, Best Buy and Lowes to mention a few.

I gained the majority of my newfound knowledge from two companies that specialize in helping folks like you become active and successful in this new digital age.

Last month I shared several questions and answers from Ace Rosenstein, who owns Bravo Business Media, which provides services specifically for DPH showrooms and is a service provider for several of the major buying groups of DPH products.

This month, I had the pleasure of doing the same thing with Jennie Gilbert, the chief operating officer of Retailer Web Services, whose mission is to serve independent retailers and wholesalers who operate showrooms. They help them realize their dreams through the promise of technology. RWS provides software and web services to more than 2,000 independent retailers throughout North America. Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Gilbert.

What is your opinion on why decorative plumbing showrooms should/must go to omnichannel selling and marketing to insure the future of their businesses?

JG: The research is clear. Today’s consumers overwhelmingly begin their search for new durable home goods online more than 90% of the time. Hopefully, that local search includes your business and possibly even more than one result such as your store’s website, your Facebook page and maybe a blog. Consumers can and often will look at all these things and visit your showroom and subconsciously take in other marketing you also may be doing such as traditional radio, TV, print or billboards.

How much you and your brand are top-of-mind during this search, how consistent your message is across these mediums and how truly helpful your marketing is to the end consumer will decide if you win against your competitors. Consumers know they have a lot of options and will research between five and 17 different businesses online, depending on the amount they plan to spend.

Prospective customers’ digital experience with a showroom has a direct influence on perception, i.e., what they believe their experience will be like with that showroom in person. If they can’t find the information they are looking for on a website such as product data or prices, if the user experience isn’t smooth and easy, or if the site doesn’t appear professional, prospective customers are likely to assume the experience inside the physical showroom would be just as unsatisfactory. But take heart, the reverse is true, too! If you have a professional digital presence, provide great product data, show prices, have a fully functional text search and provide a mobile experience tailored to the unique needs of consumers who shop on smartphones, you can really impress these consumers and draw them into your physical store.

How many consumers go online before visiting a brick-and-mortar store?

JG: You can find a lot of data on this topic from our extensive end consumer research in our book "RE:THINK: 11 Surprising Things Your Should Do Now to Win Retail Customers in the Digital Age." Here’s a snapshot. The number of sites consumers will research depends on their purchase amount. For example, if spending $300-$499 they will visit 5.6 sites; If they are spending $5,000 or more they may visit as many as 17.4 sites.

What percentage end up buying on the Internet vs. from brick-and-mortar stores?

JG: The fact remains most of these purchases are large-ticket items that consumers buy infrequently. With that, though our network of sites facilitates thousands of sales per day, retailers of durable goods should still expect the majority of their sales to happen in their physical showrooms.

How transparent must a showroom be concerning giving out real model numbers and prices?

JG: This often makes retailers very uncomfortable and for good reason. However, the data is clear from our national end research. Consumers want to see product prices. More than 80% of them will leave a website to go to another if they cannot.

In your opinion, what is the long-term future of brick-and-mortar showrooms of DPH products?

JG: I believe showrooms have a bright future. There’s a great trend right now of shopping locally and they have the tremendous advantage of providing a high consideration product. Expert knowledge and the ability to help envision what it would look like in their home are areas where showrooms excel.

Also, the rising importance of online business reviews works in the favor of the independent retailer. They are pillars of their community. Their businesses do well by doing good. They provide exceptional service. They know their craft. With just a little education and help via the right digital tools, independent retailers of durable goods have an incredible opportunity to outshine their big-box competitor in online reviews and have their digital stamp become a powerful marketing tool that works on their behalf.

There you have it. I’m convinced more than ever if you want to survive and thrive in this digital age, you better embrace the omnichannel way of doing business.

Good selling!

You can read this article on Bath & Kitchen Pro by clicking here.