EVENTS

Learning from the Store of the Future

BY HBSDealer Staff

Las Vegas — Eugene Andreassi doesn't want anyone to be lulled into inaction.

Specifically, Benjamin Moore's VP of retail services started off his presentation here at the National Hardware Show with a quote from Bill Gates:

"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."

Benjamin Moore, which has certainly been anything but lulled as it rolls out its Store of the Future redesign, had to do a great deal of research before it sprung into action, however. In a presentation titled "Benjamin Moore's Store of the Future: Redefining the Retail Paint Store Experience," Andreassi outlined these findings.

Here are a few key points:

  • This is a no-brainer to independent retailers who champion customer service, but a Deloitte study found that conversion rates increased by as much as 9% when customers were assisted by highly knowledgeable store associates with strong interpersonal skills. In this sense, people still matter — even though we're talking about design.
  • Don't let your customer get frustrated. Time spent searching has a negative effect on experience and can damage the customer's opinion of the store — and make them less likely to add to their basket.
  • Forget about decor. Your merchandise should be the decor. Think about how you can showcase your products with purpose.
  • Use lighting to draw attention to specific products: underlighting; backlighting; spotlighting. "Human beings are not unlike moths," he said. "We're all drawn to the flame."
  • Minimalism is where merchandising is heading. In this sense, the key is to make the merchandising component almost skeletal. Remove anything that interferes with the image of the product.
  • Consider how you can hit an emotional chord with your customers. What do people love to watch? Your store is the theatre, and you deliver the performance.
  • Visibility into the store is critical. Make sure your windows aren't blocked, because people love to see inside.
  • How peaceful is your entryway? Customers shouldn't feel stressed as soon as they enter your store.
  • Consider how you can show (as well and tell) with your products.
  • A concept store can significantly improve the shopper experience (as in: they'll spend 18% more time selecting color in-store).
  • Don't make someone stand on their toes to grab a paint chip. Customers should be physically comfortable.

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Ames quest: great outdoor spaces

BY HBSDealer Staff

Las Vegas — In a room stocked with new products — including super-strong brooms and durable snow pushers — Camp Hill, Pa.-based Ames Cos. launched a nationwide contest in search of America's great outdoor spaces.

Unveiled here at the National Hardware Show, the "My Epic Outside" contest will award two winners a new set of lawn and garden tools and planters from Ames, Jackson Professional Tools, Razor-Back Professional Tools, Southern Patio, True Temper and UnionTools, all of which are brands in the Ames family.

To win, contestants need to upload the photo of their creative outdoor space built using Ames tools to the contest website. The contest runs through June 9.

VP of marketing Stacie Pacheo pointed to some of the epic projects that have been built over the years, and centuries, with Ames tools — the B&O railroad, the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. botanical gardens.

"Ames is proud to make tools that have helped homeowners and professionals alike create some of America's greatest outdoor spaces, and we want to see them," she said.

Also at the show, the company unveiled new and improved tools, including the Supersocket brooms from Razor-Back, coming in December. The brooms are reinforced with a 7.5-inch heavy duty steel brace, allowing the company to claim a 50% strength boost (MSRP $45).

Coming in October, True Temper's Break-Resistant Blade Shovel will bring strength to the snow-shoveling category. The entire blade is a durable polycarbonate material (MSRP of $30).

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Ten nuggets of omnichannel knowhow from Will Aubuchon

BY Steph Koyfman

Las Vegas — Will Aubuchon didn't hold back with the morbid metaphors during his stage session at the National Hardware Show.

"Death and demise have always been part of the retail tradition," he said, before inviting viewers to a retrospective of the "retail cemetery" of extant brands and "intensive care unit" of the struggling stores on the brink of extinction.

"The entire sky is not falling, but there are unidentified objects falling more and more from the sky, and they do have the ability to kill you," he said before outlining the multifaceted threat of Amazon. Did you know that 63% of American households are members of Amazon prime? Exactly.

The fourth-generation owner of Aubuchon Hardware — founded in 1908 and now a major proponent of futuristic retail via its Aubuchon Go initiative — acknowledged that committing to omnichannel was a hard and scary thing to do. However, commitment is all or nothing, "and in a sick kind of way, it's kind of fun too."

Here are 10 of his best tips for navigating the leap.

1. It's all about making things as seamless for the customer as possible. Amazon arguably leads the way with 1-click ordering, its subscribe & save feature, and Amazon Echo (for hands-free shopping).

2. If you don't have a buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) program, you might not survive the contemporary retail revolution. For example Walmart has been rolling out pickup lockers, apps, store redesigns, a pickup discount, and new store formats to allow pickup in tandem with getting groceries and gas. Some more accessible goals for the independent retailer? Look to Aubuchon's example. Customers can order from any device, have Aubuchon assemble the order in minutes, and then notify them when it's ready.

3. To sweeten the deal for your loyalty program, consider including customer-specific discounts and saved payment methods.

4. Don't just think about the front-end experience: consider how it's going to work behind the scenes at your store. At Aubuchon, employees know there's a new digital order when there's an audible sound at the store. Plus, a ticket is printed, there's a visual indicator at the POS, and they're currently working on the ability to send a message to the earpiece.

5. The pickup experience at the store should not be an afterthought either. Make sure it's right up front, and make it a visually appealing part of your store.

6. Customer experience goals are crucial when rolling out an omnichannel initiative. For instance: make it easy to reorder items, or offer precise delivery estimates.

7. When it comes to software as a service, "there's no white knight," he said. Getting multiple services to work together is complicated and hard, so be wary of providers who overpromise on their flexibility, and consider investing in your IT staff instead.

8. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, force yourself to become a frequent omnichannel shopper at Home Depot.

9. Your ultimate goal is realtime inventory, so it never hurts to begin improving accuracy today.

10. If you choose to skip omnichannel for now, the one thing you absolutely should have? Mobile-friendly emails.

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