Retailers’ guide to stone: How to upsell customers

Home Inside FCNews Retailers' guide to stone: How to upsell customers

July 7/14, 2014; Volume 28/Number 2

Sponsored by Emser Tile

(Editor’s note: This is the seventh of a 10-part series on introducing flooring retailers to stone and the opportunities the category presents.)

When trading up a consumer to natural stone from, say, ceramic tile, porcelain or another flooring surface, the word “price” or “budget” should not enter the conversation until the end of the process—if at all, experts say.

In the case of natural stone, retailers are selling a luxurious product that may last a lifetime, and will more than pay for itself.

Bob Baldocchi, director of marketing and sales support for Emser Tile, said price often enters the conversation far too early. “If you want to trade customers up, figure out what they are trying to accomplish. The more you listen the more you can direct them, and the more opportunities you have to trade them up.”

According to flooring dealers, many consumers already know—or think they know—that they want stone when they enter a retail store today. They may not know specifically what product they want, however, and that gives RSAs a chance to step up customers to higher-end goods.

At Abbey Carpets Unlimited Design Center in Napa, Calif., owner Janice Clifton said many of her customers are affluent and come into her store intent on buying stone. “What we do first is educate them on the maintenance and care of the products, and the diversity of stone,” she explained. “We want to make sure we manage their expectations.” In some ways stone is an easier upsell because it is uniquely different from other flooring products, and knowledgeable retailers can sell customers on the “value” of a product that lasts for decades.

That’s part of Judith Huck’s pitch. In her conversations with customers, the owner of Classique Floors in Portland, Ore., said her associates often reference the Oregon State Capitol, which features Carerra marble in its restrooms, the same marble floors that were first installed in the 1930s. “To this day, the floors still look stunning,” Huck said. Stories like this one are resonating with customers who want lasting beauty. “People are now putting Carrera marble in their bathrooms and other places … it is such a classic look.”

Some products go through many style, color and design trends, while others have to be replaced every decade or so; natural stone is neither of these. Stone has a timeless look, and is not subject to trends. “Because stone is so permanent it is easier to sell up,” Huck said.

Clifton added, “It’s not like carpet where you tear it out and replace after several years. Stone is permanent and, yes, that makes it an easier sell for us. Customers understand the long-term value they get with stone.”

Baldocchi said the first component to upselling customers on stone is making sure they understand its features and characteristics, and then to remove the fear factor that people may have about putting stone in their homes. “There is so much variety in natural stone and its possibilities are endless, so exposing customers to these possibilities allows for that move up.”

As well, creating a visually appealing showroom display is vital in the trade-up process, as it allows consumers to visualize these products in their homes. “One of the best things a retailer can do is listen to the consumer in terms of what she wants to accomplish,” Baldocchi said. “Sometimes retailers are too quick to show people what they like rather than listening to the customer first. Customers often come in for only a specific product or project in mind and retailers don’t probe enough to learn about the project, or the possibilities to add on to that project, which can lead to additional sales and trade-up opportunities.”

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