Display, service, digital marketing and value-added extras help showrooms stand out and draw designers to their doorsteps
Today’s design-savvy shoppers are spoiled with seemingly endless choices at their fingertips. “Online shopping will dominate physical stores,” is a proclamation you have likely heard before.
Try telling that to Denise Duncan of Lighting Etc. “You can’t touch the fixture, feel the finish, or admire the details up close, on a screen. Lighting is an emotional purchase decision, like art. You’ve got to experience it in 3-D!” Duncan explains. “Our job is to make sure we show the customer every option she could possibly want to see in under 45 minutes, so she has no need to go back and look anywhere else, online or offline.
“Showrooms must prioritize their display,” says Duncan. “Our staff must be knowledgeable enough to help the buyer navigate through the many options to find the best fit. We are not in competition with ecommerce. Instead of falling for the Sale trap and fighting the wrong fight, we should focus on providing the most amazing, inspiring shopping experience the customer can get.”
Interior designer and color expert Diana Hathaway, GorgeousColor.com, couldn’t agree more. “Shopping for lighting online can never replace showroom visits, as there is no way to really see the scale of anything on your computer or phone. I often shop in a showroom with a piece in mind, and walk out with something else that caught my eye. I also future-shop in showrooms, making a mental note of a style I’d like to use in a room I’m not working on yet.” Hatahway adds that the people working the showroom floor make all the difference. “I have favorite showrooms based on the service I receive. The showrooms I gravitate to are filled with kind people,” she admits.
Claudia McLaughlin, owner of CMFTO.com specializes in home transitions, staging, and interior design and renovation. She agrees with Duncan about showrooms making display a priority. “When shopping for items like lighting fixtures and mirrors, stepping into a showroom where items are displayed in a manner they will be used can be helpful,” McLaughlin explains. “It can allow designers to properly gauge dimension, differentiate quality, view alternative finishes and options and find out availability.”
A tangible, tactile product experience and excellent customer service emerge as key factors that draw designers to a showroom. That said, Celeste Schumacher of Muska Lighting points out that showrooms do need to acknowledge that a considerable number of designers prefer not to leave their homes.
“You’ve got to give them a reason to come into your showroom in the first place,” affirms Schumacher. “We focus on providing value-added services geared towards the designer, both online and offline.” The Wish List tool on the Muska Lighting website is popular with designers who use it to select options online and direct their clients to the showroom to see the products in person and make the final decision.
“We open up our showroom as a co-op working space to interior designers, where they can meet clients to discuss projects, even if it does not involve lighting. Discussions eventually do turn to lighting as they spend time in the showroom. We offer free Wi-Fi and free warehousing for designers to store their lighting selections until they’re ready to ship.” Such value additions, while welcome, aren’t enough though. “You’ve also got to have segmented lead generation tactics and a solid digital marketing strategy in place, preferably in partnership with your manufacturing vendors,” Schumacher emphasizes.
Speaking of digital marketing, Lighting Etc.’s winning strategy almost entirely revolves around targeted Facebook marketing to draw customers to their physical location. This secret sauce propelled the showroom’s year-todate revenue by 40 percent and led them to be listed as one of the success stories of Facebook Business a few years ago. Owner Denise Duncan enthusiastically recommends that all showrooms try similar approaches. She does warn though that the same platform, tools or technique may not work for everyone, but that time spent in researching what works is time well invested. While showrooms explore digital marketing and social media marketing strategies that work for them, manufacturers and manufacturer reps can and must play a key role.
Bob Stolzberg of Stolzberg Associates, an independent lighting sales agency, stresses the importance of having a rep locator tool on manufacturers’ websites that will allow designers to easily find their territory reps. “A knowledgeable rep will be able to direct the designer to the best showroom in the area that will match their needs. The rep can put the right catalog in the designer’s hands, steer them away from showrooms that inflate prices and guide them to those that stock products in their preferred styles and price points.”
Manufacturers for their part must commit to delivering high-quality digital assets and print collateral to support
showroom efforts. “My clients tend to be very visual people, as am I. Collateral pieces like the Designer’s Choice style guide from Capital Lighting with inspirational lifestyle shots showing us applications we may not have
considered otherwise, help us look beyond the obvious and explore creative installation options.” Says Mendee Williams of Lighting Design Company. Duncan agrees, saying, “We could definitely use more lifestyle shots and social media snippets we can plug into our posts.”
“Online shopping may be here to stay, but, because shopping for decorative lighting is such a tactile, emotional experience, showrooms shouldn’t have to worry about going anywhere any time soon if they make the effort,” Duncan reassures.
Content for this article was provided by Capital Lighting. Explore their latest product offerings, styles and trends at capitallightingfixture.com. View more showroom tips and strategies at capitallightingfixture.com/showroom-strategies.