Ecommerce and cross-channel sales must be part of the long-term equation for plumbing showrooms to prosper. This allows showrooms to adapt to changing realities (82% of consumers research home decor options online) while maximizing their inherent advantage (consumers prefer to make a purchase within 15 miles of their home). This is what I mean when I talk about a “bricks” (physical location) and “clicks” (online presence) model.
Plumbing showrooms clearly need a new playbook that may include allowing associates and customers to talk ideas and browse updated inventory together on an iPad rather than thumbing through catalog after catalog. Additionally, they’ll have to figure out a way to compete for visibility online, where search results favor big online retailers. This is an intimidating and prohibitively expensive undertaking for most.
Companies report success when they can move to a “bricks and clicks” model, while traditional retailers with no complementary online strategy are underperforming — and ripe to fall in the next wave of consolidation.
Consumers still seek out plumbing showrooms for expertise and assortment, although price challenges from both the Internet and big box players are a force with which to be reckoned. Nonetheless, there are many successful “Mom and Pop” showrooms that have figured out how to diversify, appeal to broader customer bases and build a web presence to weather the storm.
Business models range from family-owned businesses with challenged shopkeepers asking what to do today to sophisticated sellers that are embracing multi-channel retailing. The value proposition where one simply houses a depth of faucets and plumbing fixtures will not likely survive beyond small markets with little competition.
The winning formula will be “bricks and clicks” thinkers who figure out how to create compelling destinations with out-of-the-box thinking — and draw online eyeballs with diverse and easily searchable online product displays that customers have been trained to expect by larger competitors.
Despite all the challenges and a very competitive landscape, most customers will still want to touch and see the product before they buy. Plumbing is still a “style business,” and customer knowledge, despite all the technology inroads, is still relatively limited.
Anytime design is involved, seeing fixtures up-close and personal is important. Online providers can’t fully address that dimension. Online commerce can be easily dominated by commodity products such as valves and HVAC, but there is still a place for plumbing showrooms. Locally, just like when people shop for cars, they want to know what the faucet looks and feels like. Buying plumbing online will not satisfy this customer.
The question is how much effort and expense is required to stand out and innovate. Even showrooms that pay in-house staff or vendors to build out websites are still bringing a knife to a gun fight — especially when you consider the back-end logistics of being able to display slick, up-to-the-minute inventory.
So here’s the good news: Technology has become cheap enough to allow even smaller showrooms to quickly add the “clicks” dimension to their “bricks” model — without going broke or crazy building their own multi-channel technology. Click here to see how we provide a turnkey answer to this question, allowing you to gain all the capabilities you need at one stop and focus on the “bricks” side — saving your energy for winning revenue with your design sense and product knowledge face to face. (You may have other unique challenges that are driving you up the wall! Get in touch if you’d like to discuss them.)