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The Seamless Experience: A Brick and Mortar Retail Road Map

April 16, 2013

As we approach this spring's #HPMkt — I want to go back in time 6 years ago.. when I first wrote about Twitter on this blog. At that time, social media was in its infancy. Fast forward.. and now a Twitter hashtag is the official logo of the High Point Marketing Authority and we are lucky, as an industry, to have someone as smart and social media savvy as Cheminne Taylor-Smith as the VP of Marketing for the HPMA.

These past 6 years of growth and learning and executing on social media strategies have enabled us, as an industry, to connect the far flung distribution points of our industry. We've now been able to come together, via social media sites, to help consumers understand how fundamental a well designed and well furnished home is to their sense of safety, peace of mind and well being — no matter where they live or what they might have to invest at any one point in time.

Thousands of us have, through working together online, helped consumers see furniture and interior design purchases as desirable and we've helped them see how vital a well functioning home is to their children's development and well-being-even over other discretionary purchases such as electronics and cars.
So, now that the consumer loves interior design and furniture again.. where does this leave our brick and mortar furniture retailers?

There is a lot of discussion about how the brick and mortar furniture store retail environment is changing..and it is. But, because I am someone who has spent almost everyday — all day — online — executing on social media strategies on behalf of major brands for these past 6 years and talking with consumers and designers around the world about furniture and design, I'd like to share what I know they desire NOW... and herein lies the opportunity for those of you who are brick and mortar retailers:

Today's consumers, if they are going to spend the time to get directions, research your furniture store online first, ask their friends about their experiences with you and then put the kids in the car or find the money for a babysitter so they can drive to your store to look, see, touch, feel and BUY.. want to get there and:

a. See things they cannot see online or, if they can, they want good reasons, like a great discount or, if you're on the luxury end of our business, concierge level services they cannot resist. Otherwise, they will buy online-and not because they don't want to support you, but because it takes them less time. TIME is the critical issue.

b. They will come AND buy from you if they are treated to an overwhelmingly pleasing SENSORY experience they can't get online.

c. They will buy from your furniture store if they sense they can have FUN and for many, this means the subtle opportunity to meet people face to face -an experience they can't get online.

d. They will buy from your furniture store if you welcome pricing transparency and empower them to have an online/offline connected experience across every touchpoint -including your retail sales associates.

The best examples of these 4 strategies working financially today at retail are Apple and Sephora. Both retail stores spend an enormous amount of money on retail locations, AND give their customers a sensory stimulating, completely fun, connected experience across every touchpoint and their financial results have proven this strategy to be successful. Importantly, both retailers are heavily invested in mobile marketing and social media advertising, as well.

Their customers have a seamless experience. Like glass.

{ Google Glass - you heard it here first..watch for Google Glass to take hold over the next 6 years in the furniture and interior design industry and.. prepare now. }

This is what online consumers -who have discretionary income to invest -have shared with me they want if they are going to take their most precious commodity -time - to buy offline. In addition, they always love a great deal- something that will never change.
What are your thoughts?

What did I miss? What can brick and mortar retailers do to retain you or gain you, as their customer? If you're a brick and mortar retailer, what are you customers telling you they want? What are you experiencing? Please weigh in in the comments!