Roughly 25 years ago, sales “funnels” were all the rage in the specialty pool and spa/hot tub industry. There were sales funnels about the path to purchase that spoke about different customer touchpoints, and there were marketing funnels that showed the more money that was poured into the top of the funnel, more sales would pour out the bottom. Today, however, these business models are broken and no longer work.
In fact, many businesses are probably seeing this in their marketing and advertising efforts today in terms of how they are not providing the results they once did. Consumers no longer want a scripted salesperson, they want a custom environment. Part of the reason this has changed is due to the evolution of technology and how it has altered the shopping and buying process.
Today’s consumer is changing at a rapid pace. The majority of the population now carries smartphones—some having more processing power than a desktop computer. The amount of data one receives in a day between their smartphone and computer is astounding. For instance, consider the following statistics:
- 294 billion e-mails are sent every day, or 204 million per minute.
- Six billion Google search inquiries are performed each day, or four million per minute.
- 3.5 billion Facebook messages are posted daily, or 2.4 million per minute.
One can easily see the population is being swarmed by these communication methods and, in fact, are influenced by it. When a friend posts, pins, or tweets something, others also look and read these messages. The more friends who post and comment about a product or service, the more the consuming public want it. It is the old adage of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Plain and simple, people want what others desire, want, or have.
So what does this mean for specialty pool and spa/hot tub retailers? First of all, it means the buying process no longer starts in the retail store and the physical location is no longer the first impression a consumer has of a business. This is because the buying process starts online and, therefore, this is where the consumer gets their first impression of a particular business. Think about it, before the Internet was widely used, where did the consumer go to find information about a pool? Maybe the Yellow Pages, saw ads in a newspaper, or simply stopped by the pool store they drive by every day on their way to work. Now, of course, everyone goes online. This is why a retailer’s website or social media page has become the consumer’s first impression. Therefore, in addition to the type of content and information being shared with the consumer, it is extremely important to also consider the following:
- Social media tie-ins;
- YouTube videos;
- Online purchasing capabilities;
- Design galleries; and
- Frequently updated content.
Consumers are now weighing all of this information about a business and comparing it to competitors. In fact, social media has become far more important in terms of consumer influence than a business’ website, as this is where a lot of people get ideas on what they want. Visiting online communities such as Pools, Spas & Patios’ ‘Backyard Lookbooks,’ or Houzz, to browse pool installations or to get information about a retailer or pool builder are good examples. These places are where the buying process now starts.
Armed with information
By the time a consumer finally visits or calls a pool and/or spa/hot tub retail store they know what is out there: the brands being sold, how they are made, what the warranty is, product reviews, etc., and is now looking for someone who can build their dream backyard.
All of this is part of the process of how to become an omnichannel or multi-channel retailer. This retailing method is a seamless approach to providing the consumer with an experience through all available shopping channels (i.e. brick-and-mortar stores, computer, mobile, TV, radio, direct mail, magazine, website, and social media). Consumers love buying from a brand that appeals to them across all platforms. In fact, one study found:
- 44 percent want the ability to buy online and pick up their purchase(s) in a store.
- 62 percent also want to buy items online and make returns in store.
- 84 percent of store visitors use their mobile devices before or during a shopping trip.
- 22 percent of consumers spend more as a result of using mobile devices; just over half of these shoppers report spending at least 25 percent more than they had intended.
- 75 percent of respondents said product information found on social media channels influenced their shopping behavior and enhanced loyalty.
The interesting part is 44 percent want to buy online and then drop by the store to pick up their purchase. This gives retailers the perfect opportunity to ‘wow’ them once they come in.
This is why the brick-and-mortar store needs to be the icing on the cake. It needs to impress the consumer; therefore, it can no longer just be an environment of boxes on shelves. The store has to create an experience and it has to appeal to the target demographic—the connected consumer.
Stay in touch
Retailers such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Lululemon, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom are premium retailers who are not just surviving, they are thriving in their highly competitive markets. This can be attributed to how well they are connected with their customer base and, thus, are true omnichannel retailers. They not only provide premium services and products, but also connect their brand with the consumer, and incite them when they get to the store.
As mentioned previously, the business’ website and/or social media efforts are a consumer’s first impression, but it is not what wows them. From the moment the consumer enters the door and steps into the store it should project and reassure them that it is the place where they should spend their money.
To do this, keep in mind as consumers shop, they use all five senses; therefore, the store needs to appeal to all of them.
- Sight—clean, well-lit stores with attractive displays lead consumers to buy more product.
- Sound—play music with an average of 40 to 50 beats per minute (bpm).
- Scent—Aromas such as the ocean, coconut, and vanilla relaxes consumers and puts them in the buying mood.
- Touch—Use displays that are merchandised in such a way that motivate consumers to pick them up or touch and feel them.
- Taste—Have a coffee bar, bottled water, or soft drinks available as a way to welcome customers, making them feel like a guest.
This type of experience is what consumers are now expecting from a specialty store. And this is exactly what pool and spa/hot tub retailers are—specialty retailers selling premium products. Further, to command premium prices, a first-class environment needs to be provided.
The difference can be related between buying a vehicle from an economy dealership and a luxury sales office. For example, the latter, in most cases, understand who its customers are and tailor the shopping experience to this market. Luxury car showrooms have coffee bars (some serving brand name coffee), theatre room, putting green, workstations, shoeshine stations, conference rooms, along with free snacks and Wi-Fi. The idea is to make the consumer feel as comfortable as possible during the buying process as well as in the event the car is being serviced.
Speaking of service, new customers want retailers to know who they are and what they have purchased so they can be sold products and services that are custom tailored to what they want or need. No longer is it acceptable to ‘shotgun’ products to them, they have to be relevant.
The consumer is in charge
At the end of the day, consumers want a better buying experience. They want to connect with retailers and their brands across all platforms. The biggest revolution in retail is the consumer is now in charge and they are demanding the brands they do business with to become omnichannel—those that do not risk losing their business.
This article was written by Ted Lawrence and originally appeared on Pool & Spa Marketing [link].