Have you thought about the three Rs of retailing lately? Traditionally, the three Rs advised store owners to offer “the right item at the right price at the right time” – with a delighted customer as the expected result. More recently, retailing consultants have updated the three Rs to elaborate on their strategic cause and effect. That is: When a store provides consistently excellent products and services, it should be able to “retain current customers, so as to earn repeat business and win enthusiastic referrals.”
You’ll hear no argument from me – these wisdoms still hold (though by now they may be givens). As I make my way around North America, visiting kitchen and bath design businesses everywhere, I’m finding that these long-held interpretations of the three Rs are practically ingrained in dealers’ day-to-day showroom practices.
That’s wonderful! Yet it may call for us to rethink the three Rs yet again. For the concept to continue to provide insight – especially when so much of today’s shopping experience has moved online – the three Rs must themselves become “wired.”
So I now propose that the modern three Rs of retailing have evolved to: respect, reality and relevance. Read on for definitions of what I mean by each new R. As you do, you should see how the Rs can relate to and reinforce each other to help you build strong business relationships with your ever more demanding customers today.
RESPECT FOR YOUR CUSTOMER
What do you want your customers to say after they complete a kitchen or bath remodeling project with your business? I recommend that you literally write down these words and post them prominently, or keep them close at hand, because it’s these words that can best guide your team. They’ll help you envision the project’s best results by keeping your customer at the center of all you do. This can be more powerful than any stiffly written mission statement that you or a consultant can come up with for your business.
Here’s a good example: I recently came across the website for Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths in Corvallis, OR. The company’s statement of philosophy begins with “respect for our clients’ ideas, homes and families” as a basic principle. The CCKB site then follows up on this by describing the company’s commitment to listening to their customers and communicating clearly, so all on the project stay informed and involved.
My hat is off to CCKB! What a great way to convey your customer focus!
Yet respecting your customers isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s actually critical to your sustained success. Respect begins with the understanding that every customer’s project is their project, not yours. Your customer owns the need, your customer owns the process and your customer owns the solution. Your role and responsibility is to respect your customers by helping them fully achieve their desired result from the project.
Of course, it’s best when you can go beyond expectations, by surprising and delighting your customer with a design that truly inspires. Do this consistently, on project after project, and you’ll have provided your customers with all the respect they deserve.
REALITY TO SUPPORT THE VISION
Respecting your customer extends to providing them with realistic views of their kitchen and bath design possibilities. You can expect a new customer to come to your showroom having already explored their product options, at least to some degree, online. Your challenge, then, is to build upon your customer’s existing knowledge by enabling them to now see, touch, feel, compare and combine products – for real – within your showroom. Your ability to help your customer quickly visualize the design is key to winning the sale.
Want to know the state-of-the-art in realistic design visualization? Places to look include the flagship stores for some of the world’s biggest brands, in some of the world’s biggest cities such as New York, London and Toronto. Here, the curious can use the most advanced 3-D visualization tools – like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – to simulate the use of the company’s products in different situations and environments.
This super high-end technology can be fun (especially for tourists), though it’s not the highest priority for your business to attend to yet. In our industry today, the scale of business is usually local or regional, and the style of business is usually face-to-face (after the customer has conducted online research). So your current best practices in design visualization will be those that use your showroom’s spaces and tools to enable effective presentations and support close collaboration with your customers.
This generally happens across a table, an island, a peninsula or a desk, in a good old-fashioned, one-to-one, face-to-face conversation. In addition, your main sales presentation tools can remain older school for now, while still being very strategic. A carefully selected set of product samples is a must, and you should be prepared to provide complete, accurate product specifications, either in print or an on-screen PDF.
Yet this is not to diminish the importance of showroom technology. What’s cutting edge today will be routinely expected tomorrow. AR and VR are coming to kitchen and bath showrooms, and you can certainly feel free to integrate them into your own learning and selling processes as soon as you can.
However, you shouldn’t let the fun of technology distract from, or even overtake, your team’s ability to connect with the customer, collaborate closely and close the sale. Today’s highest tech sales tools, like all sales tools, are really just that: tools. They’re only as good as your mind and hands can successfully apply them. It’s how we use these tools that really matters.
So your central concern shouldn’t be the technology itself; it should, rather, to be sure you can help your customers visualize their design clearly, whatever methods you use. Your customers will need to understand just what they’ll be getting before they commit to a big-ticket purchase like a new kitchen or bath. The good news is: You can provide this level of visualization with the kind of sales support tools easily available to you right now.
RELEVANCE IN A CHANGING MARKET
What’s most exciting about being in business is what’s often most scary about it. Mainly, that no matter how well you’re doing today, you know you’ll need to keep reassessing, rethinking and reinventing your business – three more Rs! – to get and stay ahead.
Yes, but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? NOT! That old saying is a sure formula for failure over time, even if you
seem to have the pulse of your customer well in hand today.
Remember Blockbuster? It was the hottest of hot retailers in its day – then faded quickly when it failed to anticipate the rise of new methods and technologies for home-delivered entertainment. Consistent innovators know not to be blinded by their current success. They fix it – then keep fixing it, again and again and again – whether or not their customers are actively demanding something new. Relevance never sleeps.
For your kitchen and bath showroom to stay relevant, you’ll need to build flexibility into your showroom design. That’s how you’ll keep adapting quickly when new standards of showroom technology call for adoption. Yet your challenge doesn’t end there. Your most strategic showroom design will also work to disrupt your customers’ expectations by introducing exciting new concepts for how a showroom can serve their needs.
In short: If you want to be sure to continue offering your customers the very best home products and design services available, you’ll need to act quickly and nimbly in the here and now, while always looking ahead to a farsighted vision of showroom innovation.
This won’t be easy. Your competition isn’t resting, and the pace of change in our industry shows no signs of slowing. I’m confident you’re up to the challenge. One big reason is that you now have the new three Rs of retailing to help guide you. Let me summarize your recipe for continuing showroom success in this way:
To sustain respect for your customers, within your market’s ever-evolving reality, your showroom must remain consistently relevant to your customers’ needs. ▪