Monday, 7 February 2011

EDITOR'S COMMENT: Showrooms should be an experience

One of my favourite shows on TV has been Mary Portas Secret Shopper. I say one of my favourites because obviously the clear, current winner has to be My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding…Have you seen the dresses, the tiaras, those cakes?
Anyway, I digress. In the Mary Portas Secret Shopper series, this retail guru has highlighted the need for better customer service in high street showrooms, improving the buying experience and increasing sales. Having worked her way through ‘fast-fashion’ or cheap clothes shops, sofa stores and mobile phone outlets, I had hoped she might work her magic on bathroom and kitchen boutiques – too. Why? The answer’s quite simple because some bathroom and kitchen retailers still need it. 
Interestingly, if you ask any group of kitchen and bathroom retailers the secret of a successful showroom they are able to offer textbook answers on maintenance and display choice. The showroom must be clean and well-maintained. It must also reflect the ethos or image of the business.  Displays should reflect the target market and room sets should be inspirational. All of which is true. But few retailers would consider how the showroom makes the customer feel. High street store design is moving on, with showrooms now focusing on the overall buying experience.  
Think of the design of the Apple Store, with dedicated areas to try out the latest products and seminars so consumers can make the most of their purchases.  Aside from offering a customer their choice of tea or coffee, from a built-in appliance on display, how have bathroom and kitchen showrooms evolved to create a ‘purchasing experience’?  
Of course, there are a handful of showrooms that are designed to improve customers purchasing experiences. There are kitchen showrooms offering cookery classes and bathroom showrooms with wellness areas which allow consumers to try before they buy. But these are notable exceptions rather than the rule.
But showroom owners don’t have to invest thousands of pounds in a showroom refit to improve the purchasing experience of the customer. Perhaps you could look at offering at free interiors concierge service – offering advice on where to buy cutlery, table linen, or glassware, perhaps even designer beauty products for the bathroom?
Improving customers’ overall purchasing experiences adds value to the overall sale and in the current climate, it could win more business.

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