If you’ve seen one Home Depot store, you’ve basically seen them all. Big-box retailers depend on uniformity, but independently owned showrooms have more freedom to write their own rules.
Beyond big-box chains, showrooms also have to contend with online retailers and other local stores. With so many voices, it’s easy to get lost while trying to stand out.
So how do you make your store the preferred destination? We asked merchandising and showroom experts for their best tips on cultivating a killer showroom strategy.
Clear – Not Cluttered – Showrooms
First impressions matter most. Putting the best products out front forces customers to notice them, but too many products will crowd the space.
“Nobody likes to come in and be so overwhelmed by what they see that they’re paralyzed to make a decision,” says Steve Goldberg, President at The Grayson Co. Goldberg has more than 30 years of experience in senior management, marketing and merchandising experience in the retail, e-commerce and direct marketing spaces.
Goldberg recommends a clear and inviting showroom for easier navigation. Organizing products by price point or type especially benefits customers who want to see the product before they buy. Jared Johannesen, Sales Manager for Park Lighting, Edmonton, AB, says this is a major advantage over e-commerce.
“People can come and touch and feel the product,” he says. “With the unending selection of product online, I think that’s the only way we can compete.”
Product coordination in home furnishings showrooms works best, Shay Geyer, Owner and Designer of IBB Design Fine Furnishings in Frisco, TX, says.
“Vignettes work best when a client can picture themselves in the space,” Geyer explains. “A well done vignette should make them want to have it packed all up and delivered straight to their home.”
Outstanding Customer Service
Knowledge is power for customer service. All sales associates on Johannesen’s team are American Lighting Assn.-certified and participate in after-hours training and product run-throughs so all employees know their products and can explain different lighting approaches.
“Lighting is very personal,” he says. “Lots of people have different opinions.” Having an associate who can explain these opinions and develop a relationship with the customer will more than likely be successful. Geyer adds that sales associates who respond quickly and return calls also get the best business.
In terms of added services, Goldberg says having spec sheets on hand can be a tremendous asset to customers.
“Sometimes they’re not ready to make that decision on the first visit,” he says, “and so having a spec sheet attached and prepared
for each product, and being able to give that to the client on the spot, or have the client print it from the website, is really a great competitive advantage.”
Being Present Online
A store’s online presence extends to more than just its website. Goldberg recommends having a speedy website that is optimized for search engines and includes spec sheets and assembly instructions. Customers should also be leaving reviews on Google and Yelp.
“It’s the primary filter for a lot of people today,” Goldberg says, “and some of it may or may not be accurate or even fair in some cases, but it doesn’t matter. Today’s competitor online needs to deal with that and get in front of that.”
Good photos can help customers imagine the piece in their space, so having more than one type of product photo is best.
“I love it when companies offer photos of the product on white, close-up details and a photo of the product in a room scene,” Geyer says.
Both online and in stores, today’s lighting and home decor showrooms face more competition than ever, but with close attention to detail, even the smallest showroom can outshine the competition.