Who would have guessed that during a time when we have been told to stay apart that the fundamental action of building connections would determine our success? When sharing space was impossible, retailers innovated to reach customers in novel ways (for some). Garnering many a surprise, sales increased, defying odds.
At this year’s BrandSource virtual Summit 2021, titled “Double Down,” Jim Ristow, CEO, AVB/BrandSource, explained: “A year ago, we were afraid, and still may be; but rather than let fear grip you, you took action.” At a time when predictions suggested 20- to 30-percent declines for independent retailers, Ristow said BrandSource dealers showed “courage, resilience and adaptability to help drive significant market share gains.”
Successful retailers took advantage of AVB’s digital marketing and e-commerce platform. “Highly engaged members who embraced it enjoyed a nearly 30 percent increase in business last year and outpaced appliance and furniture industry growth by 15 percent,” Ristow noted.
Omni-commerce trends that were predicted to gain popularity in 2030 are 10 years ahead of their time, pointed out VP of Merchandising Chad Evans. Certain elements are needed to survive this climate. These include:
- Implementing a true omni-commerce shopping experience
- Selling an experience, not just product
- Focusing on reverse logistics and customer service
- Providing instant gratification (with in-stock inventory)
- Supporting local communities
AVB’s advanced marketing technology, or MarTech, integrates and manages the online and in-store experience and has assisted members in creating this retail atmosphere much earlier than expected. The rapid shift of focus and energy has paid off. Evans reported that the independent channel has increased market share fivefold, more than any other point in time. Additionally, BrandSource retail has been outpacing the industry in both appliances and home furnishings. In fact, for first time, big boxes, like Lowes and Home Depot, have fallen below one point of share gain.
The success brick-and-mortar locations have experienced is not lost on e-commerce giants like Amazon, who are setting up physical locations to further serve their customers, Evans pointed out. Things are not “going back to normal,” he added. “We can survive AND dominate.”
Continue learning, be a teacher.
The best way to ‘dominate’ is to continue learning and teaching — a mantra emphasized throughout the Summit. Retailers need to become a “culture of listeners and teachers,” advised Marcus Sheridan, best-selling author of They Ask. You Answer, and founder of River Pools & Spas. “Studies have shown that buyers are 80 percent through the sales process before they actually talk to a salesperson,” he said.
By addressing customers’ worries and fears head on, you become trusted, he added. For example, dealers need to talk about pain points. According to Sheridan, there are five main subjects that affect every buying decision:
- Cost: Explain what drives cost. Don’t be afraid to mention competitors.
- Problems: Discussing problems with products results in more business and builds trust.
- Comparisons: Speak honestly about product differentiations and let the customer make the decision.
- Reviews: Review both pros and cons.
- What’s the ‘best’?: Lean in, and give the customer exactly what they want.
“If you lean into what the customer wants today, you don’t hide from questions, you go at them,” said Sheridan.
This means getting the “buy-in” from your team; making sure your sales team works closely with the marketing team; and beefing up your digital real estate by hiring someone to manage video production/posting.
Getting this buy-in can catapult your business. Ryan Avery, best-selling author and keynote speaker, suggested that dealers shift from being “a” leader to “the” leader.
Stephanie is the Senior Managing Editor for Connected Design.