Furniture Everyday

Bill McLoughlin

Where sales 'experience' and store 'experience' diverge

May 18, 2017

While attending a recent educational event, I was privileged to hear a number of successful store-based retailers talk about the importance of delivering a superior experience to consumers today, at a time when e-commerce is gaining an increasing share of attention and discretionary dollars.

One cited Disney and its theme parks as a prime example of such experiences. Given all that our staff has written about this in recent months and how many furniture retailers are now taking proactive and creative steps to enhance their stores, this seemed an exciting and informative topic.

But then something surprising happened. In discussing specific examples, the conversation shifted from the store experience to the sales process. Instead of discussing merchandising, ambiance, amenities, events, technology or any of the other elements that go into creating a holistic consumer experience, the focus shifted squarely to sales procedures.

The talk quickly turned to boosting tickets, getting consumers to commit more quickly to small sales as a way of capturing larger ones and better aligning a shopper with a product suited to their personal choices.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is all very important. Proper RSA training and effective execution of a sales process is a critical determinant of success. And at the end of the day the goal is to sell someone a product. But that’s the cost of entry.

Sales process or sales “experience” is only one part of creating a multi-sensory experience that can lure consumers from the comfort of their homes into stores. No matter how savvy a sales associate, there is little information that can be imparted that can’t as easily be accessed online. Retailers widely acknowledge that today’s shoppers are better armed with information than any generation in human history and often come into the store not for information but confirmation.

The primary reason consumers shop retail stores — and let’s not forget that close to 90% of sales still take place in a store — is that shopping is a form of entertainment, a leisure activity little different from walking in the park or a sightseeing journey.

In fact, one of the primary competitors for retail stores today is not e-commerce but activities. Many consumers would rather spend their money to do something or see something than to own something. Successful retailers today and in the future will be those who can seamlessly integrate the online and in-store environments to create experiences that are more than transactional.

How effectively stores can create excitement, entertainment and inspiration on the selling floor will go a long way toward determining their success and even their survival … and that’s an experience worth seeking.