R&A Marketing’s Kevin Doran encourages us to reset and remember it’s all about service
By Kevin Doran
Take a step outside your store. Turn around and look at your store.
Look at it in a way you haven’t in a long time.
Don’t look at it like it is as a fixed asset. Don’t look at as a vessel to help the community as employment. Don’t look at it as a business that needs to make money on the bottom-line. Don’t look at it like a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even 1st generation business.
Look at it in a way you’ve never looked at it before. Think about where your customer spends all of her time with you. Think about where your people spend all of their time with the customer. Recall where all of your greatest joys and darkest days come from.
Now take a deep breath. Head back into your store with this new thought process in mind: You don’t sell furniture, fashion, or sleep. You sell service.
IKEA sells furniture because the consumer does all the work. Casper sells sleep because the consumer clicks and opens. Wayfair sells fashion because only cool looks sell on a small screen.
You, the independent furniture store owner, sell service. As you began thinking about where your company really spends time with the customer, you’ll realize it does not happen on the sales floor with all the beautiful merchandise. It happens once an order is received, how it is communicated to the consumer, how issues are dealt with and how the entire experience happens.
This fact has become even more apparent (and problematic) as we experience unprecedented consumer demand coupled with incredible fissures in the supply chain. We are now being judged based on how the order got to the home verses what the order is going to look like in the home.
Do you view your store through this lens? Approaching your store as a service vessel affects how you approach your entire operation. It determines your people practices and how your backend service folks interact with the consumer. Have you invested in coaching and leading culture that addresses the real return on your mark-up, which is your service after the item is sold?
From an advertising perspective, how are you marketing your service after the sale and what triggers do you put in place to transparently (and proactively) communicate with the customer? At the end of the day we are all selling the same brands with the same looks. The differentiation factor you can deliver is how you make the process easier than a larger, bigger box.
From a communication standpoint, have you finally bit the bullet (or rather taken the bull by the horns) and invested in setting up communication practices and systems that allow Ms. Jones to talk to you how she wants to? Email, text and real time access are expectations that a retail shopper is used to today. She doesn’t care if they are expensive or are hard to implement—it’s what makes her life easier. The easy button is not coming. Find tools and services that you can adapt to verses waiting for the perfect fit to come your way.
The old intangibles still exist. They are a pre-requisite for being a retailer. Price and product matters. Right merchandise matters. But that all of that gets lost if you don’t impress the customer after she has swiped her card or filled out her credit application.
So, are you going to step outside your store, take a deep breath and begin looking at your business from a different perspective? Because at the end of the day, this is the perspective that will give you the right to make a 50-point gross margin. Not just being able to buy the furniture wholesale.
Kevin Doran is the owner of R&A Marketing, a home furnishings-focused marketing agency that has been helping furniture and mattress retailers since 1984. Kevin has been featured in numerous industry publications and has been a speaker at industry conferences, trade shows, and markets. With over a decade of experience in the home furnishings industry, Doran says he’s setting his sights on helping the independent furniture and mattress retailer thrive.