Five Steps to a Frictionless Showroom Experience
authors Sarah Reep | March 27, 2014
Empowered by having a literal world of information available in the palms of their hands, today’s consumers see convenience as paramount. If you need evidence of that fact, you need to look no further than the reaction of a frustrated iPhone user whose wireless connection isn’t fast enough for his browsing convenience, or the lost soul whose cell phone conversation has been disconnected in the middle of a sentence.
People today seek a frictionless, hassle-free experience, and they will reward businesses that can provide it. That’s why inconveniencing a customer will inevitably come at a cost. Being aware of and in tune with what your customers expect and what makes them happy will help you to make conscious, productive choices that keep your business and showroom vital, relevant and the “place to go.”
With the dawning of the mobile communications age, consumers need your showroom less than ever as a starting point in the shopping process. Unlike a generation ago, buyers today begin their shopping on a computer or a handheld device. Typically, it’s only after they do their research that they decide which brick and mortar showrooms to visit.
That doesn’t mean your physical showroom isn’t important. It only means that its role in the shopping process has changed. You can resist that change, or you can view it as an opportunity.
Because convenience is so important to today’s consumers, any friction in the shopping experience – whether on the Web or in the store – may send them dashing to your competitor’s showroom – or back on online.
“Frictionless” refers to the ease by which consumers can work with you and your process, your touch points, your business and your showroom. Frictionless means more than just the shopping process. However, the showroom is the connection point that brings it all together – especially since your customers can now check on you before actually meeting you in a store environment.
Are you providing a frictionless buying experience to potential customers?
Here are five keys to reducing consumer friction:
Consumers’ first exposure to your showroom will often be through your Web site. If you make their experience friction-heavy at this stage, they may never come see you in person.
First, they have to be able to find you. When a consumer does a Google search for local kitchen and bath showrooms, is your site listed near the top of page one? I don’t know people who select the company on the 12th Google page.
What will their first impression be when they click on your site? Some sites are so busy and cluttered, it’s hard to know where to click to find the information being sought. When consumers encounter friction and uncertainty, their next click may on to somebody else’s site.
Many showroom operators are now reformatting their sites to make them cleaner and simpler to use, especially on the home page. Try testing your site from a consumer’s point of view: When you go to the home page, what do you see? Is your experience convenient and smooth?
A customer shouldn’t have to work hard to get to your location either. If your Web site does its job, the consumer will want to visit your showroom. Have you made it easy to do that? Does your site clearly provide your location, how to get there and your hours of operation? Can they make an appointment online – or easily call you?
Some sites display addresses and contact information within graphic images that cannot be copied and pasted into a Google Maps address bar. That’s inconvenient for the consumer who wants to print directions to your showroom. Consider presenting your address in text that can be easily captured and pasted.
This is also important for users of mobile devices. Normally, properly formatted text, when “touched” on the screen of a mobile device, will automatically open Google Maps, offering seamless driving directions.
Once the consumer reaches your location, is your entrance easy to find and access? If you’re not in a highly visibly location, do you have adequate signage? Do you have ample and convenient parking, with walkways cleared of snow?
In the door
So now your prospects are inside your showroom. What, exactly, do they want?
Shoppers go to a showroom because they have a problem to solve. In your case, the problem is remodeling an outdated or undesirable kitchen or bathroom.
They aren’t there to be hassled or sold, or to hear long-winded stories.
Make their visit frictionless and fruitful by quickly discerning their needs and concentrating on satisfying them.
Make their visit a pleasant and stimulating experience. Touch all five of their senses. Do you have good lines of sight and pleasant lighting? So you have soft music playing in the background? Do you have something that smells good in the showroom – maybe a fresh pot of coffee brewing, and some cookies to go with it?
Once you’ve met your customers’ needs, they must continue to be reassured that it’s smart to do business with you.
Again, put yourself in their shoes. What would you, as a consumer, want from your business? Do you give them confidence that the order will be delivered correctly and on time? Do they know that you will stand behind your products and service should anything go wrong?
If they aren’t ready to make an immediate purchase, do you have information they can take home with them? Do they know all of the services you offer? Do you offer things that your competitors don’t?
Word of mouth
Today’s “word of mouth” happens not only person to person, but also online. The Internet is filled with review sites like Yelp, where customers aren’t shy about offering positive and negative comments.
I often hear showroom managers say they don’t have time for this online work. I would suggest finding the time or delegating it.
If there’s something about your business that’s creating roadblocks between you and consumers, you need to know about it.
It’s also important to be proactive in using digital media. You can keep your customers engaged by interacting with them on social media. Consider a YouTube video site to educate consumers about kitchen and bath topics, and about your business as well. The potential of social media has barely been tapped. This is a good time to develop your own approach that fits your business, your strategy and your customers.
Both your business and your designers should be represented on Houzz, a site consumers use to find product and design resources.
Focusing on satisfying the needs of your customers will position you as a valuable partner in the pursuit of their goals. Providing your customer with a convenient, frictionless process, from the beginning of their research to the final installation, will make it a happy experience for everybody.