Paul Wheeler is the Sales Director for MHK UK, a cooperative of specialist kitchen retail businesses in the United Kingdom.
Once upon a time, in the age before the internet, owning a showroom was simpler than it is now; customers would come in and you would know from their reaction whether they liked what they saw, and the successful showrooms used this often non verbal feedback to tailor both their approach to customers and their showroom displays and presentation to ensure they were meeting their customer needs.
Fast forward to 2019 and the proposition is more complex, as the vast majority of customers will research online, and those that don’t like what they see online won’t even make it as far as your showroom, and you as a retailer won’t have that valuable feedback as to what you are doing right or wrong.
MHK commissioned research across Europe, which shows that more than 4 in 5 customers entering a kitchen specialist’s showroom in 2017 carried out on-line research before visiting that showroom, and on average they would visit 3 showrooms before deciding who to buy from. Those showrooms who do not “check out” online don’t get a look in on that potential business.
So what should a retailer do? Many retailers “talk the talk” of on-line presence, but fewer “walk the walk”. I advise MHK members that online presence is about first having an idea of why a customer will buy from you, and then making sure that is a common thread that runs through all your marketing, display and customer service decisions. For instance, are you a family business? Have you been established in your town for a significant amount of time? Do you pride yourself on customer service? What awards have you won? These are all things that will make you interesting to any enquiring customer.
Customer testimonials, images of customer kitchens and pictures of everyone involved in the business are all important factors in building layers of confidence and trust with potential customers – show pictures of the owners, designers, installers, even the showroom budgie – all these will present a human side to your business, and people buy from people.
Secondly, the “feel” of the online presentation should be the same as the feel of any paper advertising and the look of the showroom itself. Branding, fonts and messages should read the same across all points of contact with the customer, as everything from your company letterhead, email signature and business cards, through to your logo, will build reassurance with potential customers if they all reinforce the same message.
Thirdly, online is about more than your website, its an awareness of how your business is viewed by future, present and past customers across all online spaces, and ensuring this view is as positive as it can be – review portals, Facebook, Mumsnet, local community forums, special interest groups – there are kitchen based conversations happening in their forums and comments pages that you are not aware of and can’t control.
Bad news travels faster than good so protect all the sound work you do to attract customers by dealing with any problems pro-actively, remembering customers have an online voice too. If you are unfortunate enough to receive a less than complimentary review, make sure you use any right of reply and respond positively and factually as this can still turn a negative into a positive and show that you find solutions when issues do occur.
Once you have this thread and strategy in place, you can then consider the practical aspects of promoting your online presence, and MHK members can get help and advice here too. If you would like a second opinion or chat about your online presence or to find out more about how MHK is helping its members get this crucial aspect right, please give me a call – my only fee is a good cup of coffee!