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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Walk In Her Shoes

From page 12 of the March 26, 2007 issue of Floor Covering Weekly, my latest article:

How often do you walk in your consumer’s shoes and consider the store experience from her perspective? You might be surprised by what you discover.

It’s Thursday night and she drives by your store. What does she notice? Is your sign simple and bold enough to see in the few seconds it takes to pass by? Are your store windows sufficiently well lit at night to communicate your full selection of deliciously fashionable flooring options?

Intrigued by that drive-by experience, she makes an outing to your store. She drives into the parking lot, and parks. How does the store look to her from that distance? Do the windows look as appealing in daylight as they did at night? Do they convey a sense of fashion? Do they suggest that the store within seems intriguingly appealing?

She gets out of the car and walks toward the store entrance at a brisk, no-nonsense pace. She approaches the doors, opens them and enters the store where she slows down to adjust her eyes and get a lay of the land. Unlike men, women notice details and absorb everything about an environment. As she stands there, she is deciding whether the space has a sense of flow, whether there is logic to how products are organized and displayed, whether signage actually conveys worthwhile information. She’s also evaluating whether the inside of the store matches the expectations she had from outside. Will this be an environment where she can have fun imagining possibilities to create the perfect solution for her home?

All too often, we forget that our flooring products are destined for the home, the most emotionally charged place in a consumer’s life. It embodies the American Dream and makes a strong statement about who we are, and what we’ve accomplished. Rather than understand what our consumers are trying to create, we make assumptions and force them into lower-priced, less attractive choices than they are willing to consider.

Your consumer will spend more time in your store if she is alone rather than with a man, another woman or her kids. However, the likelihood of her being alone is slim, so be prepared and figure out how to make those other people comfortable. Then, she can relax and focus on her project. If she is with her children, can she maneuver through your store with a stroller or with an armful of coats? Is there someplace where the kids can color or watch a video? If she is with a man, can he find a comfy chair with some magazines? She’ll be grateful since these are all signs that tell her you care. She’ll also spend more time in your store, and the longer she stays, the more likely she is to buy!

As you continue to walk in her shoes, are you evaluating the lighting and the overall neatness of the store? Have you checked out the bathrooms? Women notice bathrooms and, when they see messy or dirty bathrooms, they assume that you handle details the same way you handle bathrooms.

She begins to actually consider products. Do your displays simplify the organization of products? Can she figure out points of difference on her own? Do the sales professionals treat her respectfully and intelligently? Can she find counter space for comparing product samples to fabric and paint swatches she brought with her? Are products easily available so she doesn’t have to bend down uncomfortably, or worse get down on her knees?

Finally, as she makes her decisions [this may take several visits as women rarely make decisions early on in the buying process], are you following-up with her to ensure that every step of the transaction from measurement to installation to aftercare is fully addressed? Will she end up delighted with her experience and telling everyone she knows how wonderful you are? Women rely on word-of-mouth referrals, and it just so happens that the No. 1 indicator of growth is whether your customer would recommend you to a friend or a colleague. Food for thought.

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