A few more thoughts to share...
In The Flooring Display Challenge - Part III: Design Centers, Floor Talk!'s Shannon Bilby explained the "level" system for displaying product choices in design centers, those very interesting hybrid retail places developed specifically for new home buyers.
Here, we continue with perspective on how the layout and organization of the design center affected consumers.
The layout of the Design Center helped with the success of the level system carpet display.
The front doors of The Design Studio were an abstract design partly frosted, creating curiosity about what was inside. The doors were not open to the public and sessions were by appointment only. Once clients entered, they already felt like they were valued and in somewhere exclusive.
Once inside, if the non selecting spouse (9 times out of 10 that person was the husband) was in attendance, he was immediately offered a big cushy leather chair, beverage of his choice, a variety of movies from The Blues Brothers to Pulp Fiction, magazines or a sign-up sheet to have a consultant from the grill store, billiard store or other fun businesses come to the next appointment to meet with him.
Giving the spouse (husband) a chance to be comfortable while the decision maker (wife) was free to do work proved to be one of the best features of the whole design center. The spouse (husband) was not required to be at the selection meetings, but was often asked by the other spouse to attend. Most husbands had very little interest in the selection process. They just wanted to know how much she spent and be in a comfortable chair while she worked!
After the first meeting, the spouse (husband) looked forward to having the option to meet with a professional to help him with an area of the home he was interested in at the next appointment. When the spouse (husband) knew he got brownie points for coming to the meeting - but did not have to actively participate in the selection process - there were virtually no selection changes made later in the process because he felt that he had contributed. Likewise, she didn’t feel like she had to make changes to the original plan because he was more likely to agree with the original selections since he had a say if he wanted to.
Let me put it in slightly different terms.
The home buying process is an extremely tense one with home buyers having to make so many critical decisions over a short period of time. Changes have financial implications so the more relaxed and focused the decision-makers can be, the better it is for the entire process.
Design Centers must encourage buyers to relax. Ideally, one spouse can focus on the important decisions. The secondary spouse can be involved if he's interested, but otherwise she can efficiently complete the process without wearing either one out. Neither has reason to get into any tense situations that might escalate into a fight. Neither has any reason to decide at the last minute to opt for cheaper selections to pacify concerns about spending too much money. The less involved spouse can relax, too, or he can make his own upgrade decisions (e.g., grilling area), making the likelihood of his objecting to better oven upgrades and more expensive carpet almost non-existent!Visualizing the End Result
Every product was displayed in a furniture piece or custom designed piece of millwork - anything other than the typical carpet store displays found all across America. The Design Studio felt like a complete home with kitchen vignette, shower/bath vignette, lounging area and conference area complete with round table that encouraged exploration and decision making!
[Note: the beautiful photos here and in Parts I and II are of a Design Center, courtesy of Shannon Bilby. Notice how much 'white space' -i.e., uncluttered space- the Design Center includes. Did you see that the walls are painted interesting colors? The lighting varies. Doesn't the space look inviting and calm? Wouldn't you want to shop there? I would.]
During the process, no other clients came in to interrupt, no telephones rang, no distractions were allowed. This made the client feel important while giving them the ability to focus on their selections. Freshly made cappuccino and espresso started the meetings alongside a tour of the whole space to demonstrate everything that was available for selection. The whole feeling of the experience helped them realize the importance of why they were there. After this experience, how could they want to shop anywhere else?
This environment that felt more like a home resulted in faster selections, fewer changes, happier clients, more loyal clients, more upgrades and more referrals. Most importantly, customers did not feel like they were being sold. It was an experience that got the designers onto more Christmas card lists than any other job they’d ever had!
Thank you, Shannon, for this fascinating glimpse into a retail experience that goes a long way toward reinventing the presentation of flooring - and other home-related products. Amazing how creating an engaging, appealing, relaxing environment can be so successful in generating sales.
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