There is an industry wide shift towards increased customer empowerment and omnichannel engagement.
This has forced a re-evaluation of the role of the in-store sales agent in the kitchen improvement sales cycle. Not so long ago, in-store agents were instrumental in moving customers through every stage of the purchase cycle from range selection to kitchen planning and design. Home visits and three-hour consultations were common. With spiralling costs associated with running a retail operation this model is proving unviable for many kitchen retailers. High overheads such as rising commercial property rental costs and employee wages, mean that operational expenses are now eating into profits and affecting the bottom line.
To increase margins, kitchen retailers need to increase revenue generated per employee, minimizing the duration of every customer engagement and moving towards ‘intelligent intervention’ – when sales reps prioritize their customer touchpoints – namely, when they can add value through product knowledge and expertise, and is not intrusive.
Customer empowerment is essential for intelligent intervention. Solutions such as do-it-yourself 3D planning enables consumers to be more autonomous, creating designs they like that fit their spaces in the comfort of their own homes, coming into the store only for the final in-real-life physical engagement with products. They bring with them sales-ready orders and sales reps are completely freed from the responsibility to nurture the sale, instead focusing on closing by engaging at certain key touch points.
Touchpoint 1: Providing design validation
Customers need accurate, error-free design that works before buying a kitchen. Errors are costly on all fronts – wasted time, the cost of reverse logistics, loss in customer goodwill and cost of ordering replacements. While 3D planning can significantly minimize these risks through automated business rules and error flagging, a design expert still plays an essential role in validating the design based on their own knowledge and experience. Customers who are not design professionals often want to check with company experts whether they have missed any important aspects, and whether their ideas can be improved upon with an expert eye. This is an important stage in the purchase process and if handled right can lead to an easy close.
Touchpoint 2: Making design recommendations
Customers enter kitchen stores often seeking inspiration or bringing with them ideas already generated from their online research or 3D planning solution that need further development or refinement.
In this case sales agents must work collaboratively with the customer, understanding their needs and making personalized recommendations. These will be based on the requirements they have been given, but the value comes from the agent’s deep knowledge of the product solutions and promotions available. This results in a highly satisfying customer experience and builds rapport and trust between the agent and the customer, moving them closer to a sale.
Touchpoint 3: Surveys and installation
Customers are able to carry out the entire design phase from their own home if they choose, using the convenience of 3D planning solutions and social media. However, having completed the design part, they often get stuck when it comes to the practicality of how to progress their design into installation. Anxious to avoid needless costs, they need the reassurance of an expert to help move to the next stage.
Sales agents can add tremendous value to the process here through their expertise, providing practical installation information, consultatively guiding the customer through the next steps required and even ensuring that measurements have been taken accurately through home visits, for example. By taking ownership of the very final phase in the design process, the sales agent can accelerate the sale process, talking the customer through what will happen next.
Touchpoint 4: Establishing the right pricing
A key benefit of the DIY market is the potential cost saving to consumers versus using professionals. Kitchen retail customers are extremely price savvy, wanting to make their money stretch as far as possible and feel confident they are getting great value in return.
Sales agents are crucial at this stage. They can discuss the merits of different product ranges in detail with customers, helping customers select the product that’s right for them and making adjustments to the kitchen design if required. Depending on the retailer, they might also be empowered to negotiate on prices or payment terms, helping to find solutions that match the customer’s needs. Unlike online websites or catalogs, sales agents can personally recommend product alternatives, promotions or finance options to help the customer.
Technology and the human touch, blended for success
Ultimately, technology has progressed and helped to empower customers to be more autonomous, but the role of the sales agent is still as necessary and relevant as it ever was. It is the role that the sales agent plays in the buyer journey that has changed. Agents are now elevated from nurturing and transaction processing to respected consultants that are experts within their field. 3D planning solutions can yield added valuable insights into customer preferences, allowing sales agents to leverage the functionality to save time and accelerate the sales cycle.
Kitchen retail success comes when the convenience and ease of technology combines with a personal, human led knowledge sharing approach. A 3D planning solution can be intelligently used to support both online and offline channels with the same information and in-depth customer insight carrying from one to the other. It is this blended omnichannel approach that will support retailers looking to improve margins and achieve long-term sustainable growth.
To further explore how a 3D planning solution can support your in-store sales team to deliver exceptional customer experiences, visit our website built specifically to serve kitchen retailers where you can organize a demonstration of the platform with a member of our team of experts.