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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Next Issue: Dizzying Choices

"Wide Selection of Food and Fresh Fruit" originally uploaded by ecteam.
As you know, My Mom Is In the Market for Carpet. Although she has postponed making decisions, it's not that she hasn't tried. Each time, though, she was overwhelmed with the choices available and simply walked out.

For my Mom -and for so many women consumers in North America - when shopping for carpet the choices are dizzying and difficult to understand/visualize.

Selecting product wasn't any easier this time especially with the aggravation of my Mom's sales guy. If it hadn't been for my Sister, she would certainly have walked out again.

I spoke to my Mom shortly after this visit -- you should have heard how she enjoyed sharing the gory details of her encounter with her sales guy [i.e, remember from I Can't Get No Satisfaction how powerful negative word-of-mouth is?]. But, she also talked at length about the dizzying array of products and how difficult it was to visualize how product would look in her home. How could anyone in their right mind expect a consumer -even one with glasses- to make a significant decision for their home based on a postage-sized carpet sample? Good question! Now, granted, she did have larger samples to look at in a generic color, but most of the interesting color choices were only available in small swatches.

"Why is it," she asked "that in this day and age of sophisticated technology there can't be an easier way?" She proceeded to describe to me her vision for a solution.

Eerily, it matched something I had just experienced at NEOCON in the Bentley Prince Street Showroom called the "Zoom Room" - an "innovative simulation technology system... Developed by Tricycle, this 3D visualization tool provides customers with instantaneous life-sized recreations of custom color carpet products in an actual room environment." Can you imagine how that would have revolutionized my Mom's experience? Can you imagine how she would have talked about this tool to ALL of her friends? What a source of buzz! of fun word-of-mouth!

The Zoom Room led me immediately to another NEOCON inspired experience also made possible by Tricycle [check out the Tricycle blog about "sustainable design in the interiors industry, especially carpet."] I learned about this during a fascinating panel discussion titled "Hybrid Carpet. Cut/Loop Cars." that my company's Ultron carpet fiber division sponsored about 'dematerializing the creative process'. In other words, make the creative process more virtual, use fewer precious resources, and come up with the right solution faster and more efficiently.

What if my Mom could have brought home some large size simulated paper samples of her carpet choices, in the right colors, that she didn't need to sign her life away for or have to return in 48 hours? This is what Nood now offers the commercial world. Kimberly Gavin in the July 3/10, 2006 issue of Floor Covering Weekly in an article titled "Newcomer: Nood is the un-carpet company" describes the company as the "un-mill" and explains that "the supplier aims to dematerialize the commercial carpet process".

Not only are there huge environmental benefits -which Kimberly Gavin details in another FCW article titled "Tricycle sampling saves time, resources" in the August 21/28, 2006 issue- , but for consumers - like my Mom - imagine offering them a large sized, user-friendly, realistic sample that could actually help with the purchase decision. For now, these options are for the commercial rather than the consumer world, but imagine the possibilities!

The lesson from this: figure out how make it easy for your customers to visualize owning your products. In "Why We Buy" [see Recommended Reading/Retail Trends on right hand sidebar of Flooring The Consumer ], Paco Underhill explains that shopping is about seduction - helping the consumer experience the merchandise in their possession before buying it, helping them become emotionally involved in the choices you offer. So, if you don't figure out a way to make that painless, and ideally enjoyable, then you will prevent your consumer from buying from you. Is that what you want?

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