By Jacqueline Hinchcliffe—As the consumer shopping experience changes to become more tailored to one’s personal needs with the convenience of online shopping, store owners have adapted by setting up or shoring up their mobile operations. These mobile showrooms on wheels provide a more streamlined experience for the consumer by alleviating the need for her to visit a physical store. To some, setting up a mobile showroom may seem like an easy feat, while others might find it to be more daunting. One thing is for sure: If you’re planning to enter the mobile arena, it will require planning, investment and commitment.
FCNews reached out to retailers who have experienced success with mobile showrooms to get their best tips on how to do it just right.
Tip #1: Limit the sample selection
Michelle Bayer, owner, Floor Studs, based in Irvine, Calif., suggests bringing along a select amount of sample to show the customer in her home. “I either narrow down what my customer wants before I bring her samples to match—or I will bring a couple of different types of flooring to narrow down color and style on the visit,” Bayer explained. “My ‘showroom’ is completely tailored to each individual customer.”
Due to the setup of her husband’s business, Bayer was able to invest in mobile showrooms early on, resulting in great success. But like any flooring sale—whether it’s consummated on the showroom floor or in the customer’s home—determining the right product for the customer is still the key.
By tailoring each individual experience, the process instantly becomes smoother, each sale becomes unique and the number of variables are decreased, according to Bayer. For her, engaging with the customer helps control potential issues better. “I try to educate my clients—not sell them,” she said.
Tip #2: Hire the right people
For years, Chris Friest, owner, The Floor Doctors, based in Des Moines, Iowa, has been using an out-of-commission ambulance as a moving billboard. Friest found an opportunity to spearhead the emerging mobile trend in his area and repurposed the ambulance into a soon-to-be operational mobile showroom.
His strategy for success entails a practical approach. “You can’t just send your inside salesperson on a mobile deal,” Friest said. “Some of your best candidates might be your curb or door-to-door salespeople.” Friest made an outside hire to operate the mobile showroom, bringing in someone who had prior experience with in-home sales. “You can shave days, if not weeks, off the sales process if you have a skilled salesperson in the home,” he explained.
When it comes to a specific target market for the Floor Doctors, it’s rural areas that may not have the convenience of an in-store shopping experience. Friest saw an opportunity to fill this space. “Instead of going to the store three or four times, why not have the samples right there in your driveway?” he said. “You can take the measure, look at the samples and close the deal right there.”
Tip #3: Support mobile biz with digital tools
By covering a large amount of rural territory in locations such as Indianapolis, Louisville, Columbus and Cincinnati, it only made sense for America’s Floor Source (AFS) to invest in a mobile operation that is capable of servicing customers where they live—at home. The key, according to Brad Dresbach, chief branding officer at AFS, is to promote—and support—the business accordingly. That means going above and beyond just having the obligatory trucks and samples. “The biggest piece is letting people know it exists,” Dresbach explained. “If you open a store, people see it. If you develop a little fleet, in some ways they don’t see it but in other ways they see [the trucks] all over, so it’s a marketing challenge. It is vital to have a landing page on the website specific for the mobile showroom.”
Not only will this make more people consider shopping at home but it will also aid the salesperson in making the sale. “The key is to get the data to the salespeople,” Dresbach noted. “Integrate your website into your lead management system so it’s not just an afterthought. You get very few people that say they are just browsing; they’ve made a certain amount of commitment already. If the salesperson does their job correctly, you are losing very few leads.”
Starting with the website, Dresbach said AFS is helping people shift their shopping behavior. “There’s a mindset of, ‘I need something, I’ll go drive to the store that sells that.’ We are saying, ‘No, there is a better way to do this. We will come to you.’ We are positioning this as a superior shopping experience.”
Tip #4: Creatively seek out prospects
Jimmy Poulos, founder and president of Flooring 101, based in Oxnard, Calif., emphasized the importance of finding prospective shop-at-home customers. He suggested starting with your store website first and then negotiating with mills to give you leads.
“The mills want to give leads to a retailer who can close them,” Poulos said. “You tell the mills you have a good shop-at-home division. You negotiate the business, you give them every day for selling their leads. Ask and you shall receive.”