What Are Your Business Investment Priorities?
The weakest of the plumbing showrooms are planning store closures. The ones that stick around are going to have to find new ways to compete.
Like most small business operators, plumbing showroom owners have to make tough decisions about where they’re going to invest in improving their businesses. Options for competing better in the new “bricks and clicks” reality (see my post about it here) include:
- Diversifying assortments
- Building a more differentiated brand
- Going multi-channel
For the many, many plumbing showroom owners I talk to, the answer will almost never be “all of the above.” It usually comes down to investing heavily in one option — like SEO services so you rank better in search or hiring another salesperson — because operators feel they’re spread thin enough as it is. Small “mom and pops” find themselves challenged to compete in a world of big box players and aggressive online retailers with big budgets.
Up against these forces, it’s easy to feel as if you’re always sub-optimal and under-executing. But with all the factors in play, there are two big ones that deserve thought as you figure out where to allot your limited improvement budget:
- Getting found on the Internet (people usually spend within a few miles of their home, but not when you’re invisible online)
- Displaying your product better online (even if they find you, they won’t stick around if they can’t easily search many options while staying on your website)
I want to dig into that second bullet point a little more. If you have realized that going multi-channel is the best way to insure your future, a robust online catalog that supports your showroom business is a boon. An up-to-date product gallery means serving customers better online and in-store. When customers and salespeople have real-time access to your full selections of decorative plumbing fixtures, hardware, lighting, and decorative décor products, you have a better way to keep them engaged and ultimately convert them.
It is much more efficient and professional to have the ability to take customers to your own website, let them explore all your items — they want to be able to compare pricing, specs, looks and finishes — instead of thumbing through catalogs or sending them to other websites to find and compare their options.
This capability should include the ability to build “wish lists,” including pictures, pricing and notes. Then you and your sales staff can keep your showroom front-of-mind through the entire decision-making process.
But maintaining all of that product data up to the minute and making sure it’s easily navigable and searchable is not easy or cheap. Many showroom owners give up or get dragged into months-long projects with indefinite price tags. Some even have to hire specialty part-time staff or vendors.
Which is a pity, because having a full store catalog online is a chief directive if improvements in sales and service tops your list of business investment priorities. But there’s a better way to compete: Plug better searchability and product display in at one stop so you can focus on great consultations and sales. This simplifies the business investment puzzle immensely and puts you on the road to multi-channel competitiveness.