Buying appliances for the home has become a lot like buying a car, as consumers like to give things a bit of a test drive before making a final purchasing decision. Southern California-based appliance retailer Howard’s has mastered this concept, and they recently discussed the topic on Dealerscope’s Insider Talk.
Dealerscope Publisher Tony Monteleone welcomed Howard’s COO Kathy Genovese, Product Specialist Houman Adlou, and VP of Marketing Michelle Nien to discuss this “experiential” approach the chain is now immersed in for selling home appliances.
A bit of history on this very successful 13-location chain: it actually launched back in 1946, when Howard Roach began repairing radios in the back of a sporting goods store in San Gabriel, Calif. The retailer is now getting ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2021, and the one thing that has never changed over all these years is the fact that Howard’s continues to put the customer first. The recent announcement and opening of a new flagship location at the Marina Pacifica shopping center in southeastern Long Beach has taken the aforementioned experiential approach to another level.
“This new flagship store is all about new, innovative technology, new styles and new designs,” Genovese explained. And in an effort to help immerse buyers as soon as they walk in the door, they are now greeted by a coffee bar. “And along with the coffee bar, there is also a lounge area, all designed so customers can just sit back and relax. It’s a destination location, not an in-and-out store. They experience everything. Ultimately, it’s all about how you get to ‘yes’ with the customer.”
The new 22,500-sq.-ft. location functions as a luxury brand showroom featuring demonstrations of technology and connectivity, in-store kiosks, and live product vignettes. The store includes “live” kitchens, laundry displays, a coffee lounge, a designer conference area, and a connected experience.
Regarding that “meet them where they are” marketing approach, Nien explained the relaxed atmosphere is perfect for the touch, feel and play experience the location is centered around.
“We want to follow them on this journey they’re taking and educate them along the way,” Nien said. “We focus a lot on connectivity and demonstrate how all the things in their home can talk to each other, connect and make their lives so much easier.”
Nien added that Howard’s’ goal is to develop real relationships with their customers in an effort to have a confidence emerge that makes them feel they can get everything they need for their home there.
Adlou expanded on this concept of “making life easier” by saying, “This approach is also about freeing the customer’s time so they can spend it doing things with their families as opposed to cooking, doing laundry and other household related chores. The innovation and technology behind these products are all about making life easy, and we provide that education that helps them take full advantage of all the things these products can do.”
The trio also discussed how they are noticing a bit of a demographic change in 2020, as Howard’s is now seeing a shift in their core buyers to more Gen X and millennial shoppers, including a 15% growth in millennial customers earlier this year.
Howard’s has expertly used this customer-centric, experiential retail approach to help drive customer retention and strengthen the bond between their staff and customers.
Check out this engaging Insider Talk discussion here.