NEXT LEVEL TRAINING
As pandemic related
issues retreat, what exactly might be done to increase the relevance of
in store sales experiences?
My years in the furniture industry were interrupted for a time when I
became the owner of my family’s piano store. I had a dramatic realization
from that time I would like to share with you. In 2007 piano retailers
were waiting for a new and improved generation of digital pianos to be
delivered. The “touch” on the keyboard was supposed to be just like an
actual piano, allowing for a range of expression that the digitals
When they arrived I pushed on the first key with great anticipation. Then
came an awful moment of profound realization. “This is going to absolutely
decimate the piano industry,” I said to myself.
Many people within the industry had touted this more affordable technology
because they believed it would enable more people to play. They believed
that it would lead to an increase in piano sales. But, within just five
years two out of three piano stores in America had closed.
More recently, I experienced a deja vu moment while filling up at a local
gas station. I placed the nozzle in the tank and noticed six Amazon
delivery trucks fueling up as well.
It’s not news to Furniture World readers that Amazon’s sales have gone
through the roof during the pandemic and that’s not going to change any
time soon. Jeff Bezos is betting big time money targeting just about every
area of retail. His actions are a threat, especially to the most venerable
of furniture stores, as baby boomers are replaced by younger generations.
It doesn’t help that the in-store retail experience has become less
relevant to consumers. A majority of mattress shoppers have no hesitation
about buying a mattress online because an entire generation doesn’t
realize that the only place they can find real sleep experts is in brick
and mortar stores. And, their cherished smartphones are now their
preferred and only trusted advisors, providing them with a set’s specs,
various piece options, prices, reviews, and often financing information.
Average retail salespeople are often viewed with suspicion and as
incapable of adding much value to the sales process.
“It is critical to point out on your website and in your marketing
that this lack of important information often causes home furnishings
shoppers to make poor choices.
Can’t Beat Them? Join Them!
Here is an example that clearly reveals the scope of the problem.
In the Chicago area, an enterprising new mattress retailer recently opened
up several locations. The retailer, named “HasselLess Mattress”
aggressively advertises that they have, “No salespeople, managers, or
cashiers. No up-sells, cross-sells, or headaches.”
I am certainly not criticizing them for their business model. I applaud
anyone who can open a new chain of stores, especially within a major
market by taking advantage of a new niche. Hey, that’s what free
enterprise is all about, right? However, I’d like to use their example to
make the key point that such a concept would not have succeeded just 10
years ago. Why? Salespeople were viewed as being helpful back then rather
than a hindrance.
Are you just starting to press down on your own piano key?
The million-dollar questions right now for many retailers should be the
following: After pandemic-related issues retreat, what exactly might be
done to reverse or slow down this trend? What happens after the current
sales boom is over? How will retailers drive traffic into their stores?
And, when shoppers do come in, how can stores immediately reverse
perceptions about the helpfulness of retail salespeople?
The one thing that can work in your favor is that the generation of adults
who are most suspicious of salespeople also crave information—lots and
lots of information! Studies confirm that fact. So why not start by
offering shoppers lots of important information for free? Explain in your
advertising that this information is just waiting for them. Offer it to
everyone who stops by. This will help reverse the perception about the
helpfulness of your salespeople and allow the store experience to be much
more rewarding from the very beginning.
Every store also needs to have a strong web presence, to get shoppers in
the door. Without that, you can’t win them over, assist them in selecting
accessories, add on extra pieces, step them up, or justify the purchase of
protection plans. In other words, to do all the things you need to do to
build the average sale.
Many furniture retailers have chosen to “fight fire with fire” by making
store websites helpful and informative. That became an absolute necessity
as consumers leaned more and more toward purchasing from Wayfair, Amazon,
and other popular sites. However, although that approach is now necessary,
it also fuels the trend in consumer thinking that in-store sales
experiences are becoming even less relevant.
The retailer, named HasselLess Mattress
aggressively advertises that they have, ‘No salespeople, managers, or
cashiers. No up-sells, cross-sells, or headaches.’
What Online Shoppers May Not Know
There are lots of things that online shoppers don’t know but should know
if they want to make informed purchase decisions. That’s why it is
critical to point out on your website and in your marketing that this lack
of important information often causes home furnishings shoppers to make
poor choices. Here are just a few reasons why.
They can’t feel the difference in comfort, weight and quality in a
cushion that has 2.0, 1.8 or 1.5-pound foam.
They can’t determine if a mattress is too firm for comfortable side
sleeping or if it will provide enough long-term support for their
They won’t know if their feet will actually touch the ground before that
recliner they purchased online arrives by common carrier.
They will have no idea how much better a sofa pillow feels when it is
filled with a blend compared to a poly fiber filling.
Fabric colors can’t accurately be determined when looking at computer
- Fabric textures and thicknesses can’t be felt.
It’s hard or impossible to tell how substantial and sturdy a sofa is
without visiting a store.
It’s hard to determine if a dining table is durable enough to stand up
to use by an active family. And, it’s tough to find out without
venturing out into a store if just a little more money will get them
exactly what they need.
Sure, online shoppers can read reviews and ratings, many of which are from
people who’ve actually purchased the products. However, the list of things
shoppers need help with is almost endless. You should make sure that they
know that. The challenge, of course, is to convince them that your sales
team is composed of more than just order takers who are out to make a
buck. And that these professionals are committed to helping them to make
the very best purchase decisions.
Ideas For Implementation
Listed below are suggestions for things you might want to put on your
all-important to-do list to step up your in-store sales game.
The good news is that it’s possible for a great store experience to
change the hearts and minds of all but the most committed online
furniture or bedding shoppers.
Advertise exactly how and why your in-store experience will help
shoppers to get exactly what they need while avoiding costly purchase
Pay attention to social media reviews to make sure that your online
presence supports or overcomes any claims made on social media and in
Offer free insightful and useful information to everyone as soon as
they enter your store.
Train salespeople to ask better questions to help them provide more
informed solutions for your customers.
Provide salespeople with valuable furniture usage insights that all
Teach your salespeople how to perform impressive furniture
Make sure that your salespeople have the ability to incorporate
decorating guidance into their presentations.
Teach closing techniques that will allow customers to make better
Always focus on a customer’s two main creature comfort needs, sleep
The good news is that it’s possible for a great store experience to change
the hearts and minds of all but the most committed online furniture or
bedding shoppers. If you can do it, there’s a chance you may just end up
sending Mr. Bezos a piano key (albeit a small one) of his own. Happy