Let’s face it; operating a Design Studio is not cheap. But it is a smart investment, both financially and from a customer satisfaction standpoint. We are often hired to salvage a Design Studio which is not making money, or enough of it. There are truly dozens of actions which can increase the profitability of your Design Studio. Let’s take a look at just a few which fall into three main categories:
- WHAT: Offer the correct products and increase their perceived value
- HOW: Improve the buyer experience and the sales process.
- WHERE: Upgrade your Design Studio environment
WHAT to sell???
More is not always better. When was the last time you fully analyzed the options you offer? Your Available Personal Choices Catalog should only reflect those options which 1) buyers are actually or buying or have a high probability of buying, 2) yield your minimum-acceptable profit level (or, if not, that you consciously and strategically decide to offer for customer satisfaction), and 3)don’t cause delays, problems, or costly mistakes in purchasing or in the field.. The Personal Choices Catalog should not reflect 1) everything you have priced out on custom requests in the last five years and 2) every product your suppliers have ever dropped off in the showroom. A reasonable array of strong choices will yield better results than an overwhelming list of every possible option. Add, delete, repackage, reinvent.
Stay ahead of the trend curve. Analyze what buyers are buying and WHY. And promote your ability to be a leader in design and innovation by showcasing a Hot Choice of the Month/Quarter. Explain why this option is hot from a trend and performance standpoint. Offer a special purchase opportunity. Our clients are often amazed that when they offer a “trending” product to their “very conservative buyers”, and showcase it in a design studio vignette and model home, low and behold…it sells! If you aren’t offering the hottest trends, then you have left a lot of money on the table over the last few years.
Offer controlled choice. Most buyers aren’t begging to spend three hours custom-designing a kitchen cabinet layout from a choice of 75 cabinet styles and finishes, a variety of heights and depth bumpouts, a customizable-island, plus 25 ala carte cabinet accessory items that they can put anywhere, and eight boards filled with cabinet hardware. Put your energy into staying on top of the trends, analyzing your option sales data, and then offering the right styles and finishes that will satisfy the majority of your buyers, with some great pre-priced themed packages (Chef’s Kitchen, Kitchen Convenience, Entertainer Kitchen etc.) consisting of cabinet accessories in pre-determined locations for every single floorplan you offer.
HOW to sell:
Make it easy. Why do we make it SO PAINFUL for our buyers to invest money?? Some of the common culprits are: overly-complex procedures, options lists that need an abbreviation-conversion chart or are written in purchasing terms, “price” lists that require a degree in algebra to figure out a counter or flooring price, unlabeled products, etc. Think about your BUYERS’ experience and what elements of your program create frustration. Spend the time and money required to make it easy for them to buy.
Use Value Building Nomenclature. Wouldn’t your buyers be more excited about investing into a “Designer Staircase” than purchasing “add bullnose to stairs”? Who wouldn’t be more inclined to buy a “Laundry Room Workstation” than “add counter to laundry room”? And nobody is dying to tell their friends they bought a CBLHP74A-SS faucet, but they might be excited about a High Style Stainless Faucet Package.
Emphasize the concepts of Personalization and Choice, not Upgrades and Price. Don’t use words like “extra” and “upgrade”. Instead explain that your buyers can choose from a wide array of Included Features and Available Personal Choices to personalize their home and fulfill their needs. Site the extensive research you’ve performed to compile a strong list of high-performing products reflecting today’s most popular styles and trends.
Don’t rush your buyers. A top buyer complaint is “We felt rushed/overwhelmed.” Statistics have proven a direct correlation between the amount of time buyers spent in the Design Studio, and the amount of money they invested into options, and in this case, more IS better. (Well, up to a point.) You must allow adequate Preview time prior to the design appointment(s). An effective Preview should include 1)an Orientation tour, 2)a complete options catalog with investment amounts, 3)Enhanced Option Descriptions and 4)product facts, data, and explanations to aid buyers in making informed decisions, and 4) advance information to properly prepare them for a productive Design Appointment. To be clear: many builders offer a totally inadequate “browse” time which is far from an effective Preview. If you’re calling it “browse”, you are already setting a wrong expectation and likely not accomplishing much to prep your buyers for a successful and enjoyable and CONCLUSIVE design appointment(s). A buyer who barely has enough time to “order” the required components of his/her home is a buyer who has not had the opportunity to really create his/her dream home and who will then spend lots of money after closing with the retailer down the street.
Implement Design Consultant Training. Often we see Design Consultants who don’t know how to do more than take orders!!! Most Design Consultants have never received any specific training on how to sell options, and in most cases, never received any sales training at all! Design Consultants are not born knowing how to create and build value, how to suggestive sell, how to upsell, how to use lifestyle and hot button techniques, how to overcome common design studio objections and the many other skills and techniques which can be taught. You owe it to your team to support them. Invest into training and watch that investment pay off time and time again.
WHERE to sell it??
Create the Ultimate Design Studio. Bring your buyers into a breathtaking and visually-stimulating design center environment and they will be motivated to create beauty in their new home. Strategic site lines that reveal what you want your buyers to focus on, and inspire them to come closer…ergonomically correct product displays that increase perceived value…experiential components that prompt creativity and facilitate decision making…that’s just the start of the ultimate design studio. Don’t fill a room with product displays and throw in a kitchen vignette. Today’s retail savvy customers expect more than that.
Show it and they will buy it. Are you STILL waiting for samples of new products? Does your Design Studio kitchen vignette display a counter, cabinet, hardware, flooring, sink, or faucet that is no longer available? Have you REALLY displayed every available product or just the main ones? A display of a non-exciting central vacuum system or a 200 amp circuit breaker, while not beautiful, still provides the Design Consultant an opportunity to talk about the benefits and value of these options. Don’t hide products in drawers, in cabinets, or in the back room. Most design centers I visit have lots AND LOTS of unused space, so look around, find those opportunities and use them!! Think retail!!! (And by the way, have any of those great new products found their way into your existing model homes??)
Create Visual Value. A few inch square of countertop has to work pretty hard to motivate someone to spend $5,000 for it. Use large size samples of all products. If space permits, use merchandised vignettes to showcase products interacting in a real-life environment, to create emotional appeal and to stimulate desire. Create concept boards displaying your pre-configured, pre-priced kitchen backsplash patterns, and bathroom tile packages. Provide a proper backdrop for every available product because if it looks like you don’t think a product is valuable, why should your buyers? Therefore, never allow products to lean up against displays, lay on the floor, or be strewn all over your beautiful granite countertop. Remember to use product photography, lifestyle photography, and model home photography to motivate interest.
Encourage Interaction!! Retail shopping studies show that ownership begins when a shopper’s senses start to latch on to a product. Encourage your buyers to touch and try out the products and become comfortable with them, and start to create mental ownership. Let them see the multiple body sprays through the frameless shower enclosure, let them feel the difference between a sun-drenched window with low-e glass and with regular glass, let them hear (or NOT hear) the quiet dishwasher, let them build their own kitchen with an interactive display. Get them hooked!!
Last but not least, treat your buyers with the respect and gratitude that they deserve. Make them feel special. Put them in the mood to buy. And they will.
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