by Joe Capillo
Think of how great it will be to engage prospective buyers through your website, before they visit your store and connect to them via email after they register for your Inner Circle, or Home Design Club, or whatever you want to call your special customer’s list.
You don’t want to have just an informational website that looks and acts like an electronically expanded yellow pages ad. After all, you have a two-way capability from your website to your prospective customer back to you – something your yellow pages ads never gave you, and for a whole lot less money over the long haul.
So, we’ve advised you to think or your store as an extension of your website, the place where consumers can come into actual contact with all the wonderful stuff you showed and services you talked about on the site. Make the store visit be the realization of the promises made to shoppers on your site. This leads me to the moment of connection when an online shopper decides to come to your store to take advantage of the promise you made on the site.
Consider this: all the thinking, planning, work, and money you’ve invested on your website have motivated a shopper to leave her comfortable home and come to your store expecting a great experience. What happens when the door opens, and she walks through it? Here are some things the people who meet this customer have to do:
- Assume she’s been to your website. Over 50% of your shoppers have browsed it. In fact, why not ask that question as part of your greeting? After “Hello, welcome to our store.” “May I ask if you’ve visited our website?” If she has, this will open up whole avenues for conversation, and allow you to continue the shopper’s experience – like, “What did you find there that brought you in today?” Then, deal with that request and get to the point in your engagement where you can say: “Tell me about the room you’re working on. What are you trying to accomplish in there?”
- If your customer has been to your store’s website, at some point in your conversation ask if she registered for your special-shoppers-club-VIP-Inner Circle-whatever you call it … and, if she has not, suggest she do that while in the store. You’ll have to sell the idea though, with all its features, advantages, and benefits for her.
- Also ask these customers who have visited your website if they used the room planner. In most room planner programs your store is notified each time a user registers for printing, saving, or emailing their plan. These customers should be immediately sent a thank-you email from an individual sales associate, inviting them to visit the store. This connection can really serve to extend and enhance the consumer’s experience with your store.
- If the customer has not been to your website, you might suggest that she check it out – particularly if there’s a newsletter, a coupon, a registration place, or a room planner there. Whether you make the sale today or not, give your customer a reason to stay connected with your store through the website.
- Do everything you can to get the customer’s email address. Today, many people prefer to communicate this way with people they do business with. Sell the positive aspects of email communications, such as its non-intrusive nature, the fact that there can be a record of correspondence, tell her you’ll communicate order information this way, and send her only the kinds of things she requests. In you emails, there should always be a link to the website or specific pages, such as newsletters, specific product pages, offers, etc.
One final thought regarding room planners. If you have a room planning tool on your website, you must have it available in your store, and it should be a prominent part of your design center or work area. If you know that the room planner on your website gets a lot of use, then you know that people are dealing with issues in their rooms. This, to me, is the primary reason to have the room planner on the website. I want to offer every room planner user our services in room planning – which, of course, all furniture retailers offer. If you deal with the room, you’ll connect to the customer’s true problems. Dealing with room design issues is the best way to connect to relational customers, and will help you offer more help to those transactional buyers in making purchase decisons.
Joe Capillo is a 41 year career veteran, experienced in managing and consulting with furniture retail operations. He is also a contributing editor for Furniture World Magazine. He is a contributing editor to FURNITURE WORLD and a frequent speaker at industry functions. See all of Joe’s articles on the furninfo.com website.
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