Lighting showrooms may be on the cutting edge regarding solid-state technology, but they’re a bit behind when it comes to merchandising.
“You go into the average lighting store, it’s a bit archaic,” says Dave Yoho of Dave Yoho Assoc., a consulting company serving entrepreneurial-style businesses. But a few key updates can help ready your store for the future.
Thanks to smart phones and tablet computers, consumers have perpetual access to product and pricing information, so a robust website that acts as an extension of the showroom is more important than ever before.
“There needs to be a better cross between the online world and the brick-and-mortar world,” says Paco Underhill, founder, President and CEO of market research firm Envirosell. “It’s called convergence. A store and its online presence should have a consistent look and feel in terms of pricing, the way in which they’re organized and in the language they use.”
The goal, according to Underhill, is to educate customers before they even enter the showroom, so that they understand the vocabulary and feel less overwhelmed about making a purchase.
Inside the showroom, high-tech helpers like iPads can display the store’s website, Facebook page or Twitter feed to create even more of a connection with customers. On the sales floor, staff and lighting consultants can use iPads to flip through online catalogs or to help customers visualize what certain products can do for their home.
“The use of iPads on the sales floor can hardly be called cutting edge, since so many retail sectors have been using this technology since it first came out,” Underhill says. “But you don’t see it enough in lighting showrooms. The next big thing here will be the ability to go into a showroom and download [product] information to the iPad, so there’s less paper involved.”
When it comes to merchandising, one of the biggest complaints lighting showrooms have is that some of the more forward-thinking options take up too much real estate. Not so, says Underhill.
“Vignettes are still important, but they depend on the luxury of space,” he says. “There are other creative ways using virtual reality to create [merchandising opportunities] within [smaller] spaces.“
“Get a flat screen to show installations,” he says. “For example, if a customer is buying lighting for her kitchen, you can direct her to examples up on the [TV screen] and ask her which picture most closely resembles her kitchen and which most closely resembles what she’d like her kitchen to look like.”
Above all, the showroom of the future must cater to customers’ shopping behaviors from the moment they enter the store. In the entry, according to Underhill, signage should be minimal, and there should be a small transition space that slows customers down and gives them a chance to take in the layout of the store. Then, it’s all about making the customer feel comfortable so that they’ll stay awhile.
“Train your sales staff to use scripting [predetermined language] to greet customers,” Yoho says. “‘Thank you for coming into our showroom today. How may I direct you?’ Offer an area where customers can sit, and when you’re flipping through catalogs or looking at an iPad together, sit side-by-side with the customer [to create a sense of camaraderie].”
This fellowship is important during the closing process as well.
“No matter how elegant or utilitarian your showroom is, your closing space must be one that’s comfortable,” Underhill says. “Recognize that the customer may have uninvolved parties with them (i.e., a husband and/or children), and you should have a place for them to go to away from the process so that they’re not interruptive. A friend of mine in the banking world once told me that one of the most effective tools for closing a loan is the lollipop.”