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The Other E-Commerce - Part 2

Furniture World Magazine


Welcome To The Experience-Economy!

Faith Popcorn, the founder and president of Brain Reserve has been called "the Nostradamus of marketing." In her first book, "The Popcorn Report," she defined business and personal trends that helped define a decade. She informed us that people would be "Cocooning," and "Cashing Out!" She then coined the familiar terms "Nesting," and "Burrowing."

Her latest book is titled "Clicking." Clicking is what happens when people find ways of doing things that have come from the past that fit into the future. Click is when all the pieces fit into place. She states emphatically that the "home is definitely where the Click is." Care of the home is part of Clicking NOW!

We are going back home to retreat, to be with our families, to be with who "we" are. Spirituality, self-help books, and twenty different recipes of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" are hitting the best seller list and staying there. Thomas Moore, author of "Care of the Soul," says, "how you treat the space around you affects your mental & spiritual health." Feng Shui (the ancient Chinese art of placement) is becoming part of the mainstream. These consultants are helping us cocoon in our home offices. They're basing furniture placement on qi, or life force to encourage energy and creativity in our surroundings.

This is the best time ever to be in our industry. The consumer is going back home and we're going to make sure it's beautiful when they get there!

Here are some trends that exploded and are really making an impact!

We want our cocoons to be not only "homey," but house all the latest gadgets that will fit! Remodeling was up 8% from last year. Bed and bath grew to $16 billion up from $12 billion the year before. Interest rates and housing costs are contributing to more people owning their own homes today than ever before!

We're spending more time at home. Priorities are changing. The family, instead of the job, is now becoming Job #1!

Employees who have been downsized, Dilbert-ized, micromanaged, TQM'd, and re-engineered into the next millennium are moving out and seeking shelter in the safety of their cocoons. Office furnishings are becoming as much of a necessity as home theatre! Most homes today need two separate rooms to house all that computer equipment. One for the professional, the other to house all of "Billy" and "Suzie's" main frames!

Home sewing is making a comeback. More and more consumers are expressing their creativity through crafts. We're taking time for ourselves. We're curling up with the latest books of fiction and poetry, and we're curling into our favorite yoga positions.

Something that we haven't found in our cocoons is sharing our interests, our ideas, and our aspirations with PLU (people like us). "I'm part of a group." It's become "Us-ness" vs "Them-ness." We are surrounding ourselves with people who have the same interests. "Teach me, educate me, talk to me, help me grow."

Your customers are saying, "There's no one out there quite like me." Remember WIIFM! Today, it's WEIIFM ~ What else Is In It For Me? That's what they want to know! Car manufacturers are promoting seats that adjust to different body types. It's about up-close-and-personal. It's about you helping "me." It's about you caring about "me." Person to Person!

Icon Toppling
The words "company" and "loyalty" no longer have the close association they once had. What was that about a gold watch?

Have you seen the commercials on CNN where little kids proclaim, "I want to grow up to be a brown nose." "I want to claw my way to middle management." "I want to get paid less for doing the same work." "I want to be replaced on a whim." I want to be forced into early retirement." Getting a little skeptical, are we? We've been talking about these ads in my seminars. The ideas, and solutions that are discussed are just great!

Cashing Out
We're leaving the pillars of big business in the dust. Quality of life is more important than the job title. In fact we're writing our own job description and title. We're going out on our own. We're working from our homes. We're not "dropping out," it's more like we're dropping in! Dropping in on ourselves to see who we are now. In addition to setting goals we're making plans. We of the "baby boomer" set are the entrepreneurs. The real babies, 25-35 year olds, (do I sound jealous here?) are being called the Earlypreneurials. We're dropping in on who we are, and what we want to become.

The Vigilante Consumer
Whenever we decide not to make a purchase because of a company's "policies," we become a vigilante consumer. The underlying theme of this trend is a lack of trust. Consumers translate feelings into actions and wallets into weapons.

First, you don't have to be female to FemaleThink. "You have to be aware of differences and how to handle people in different ways."

This is how Faith Popcorn views FemaleThink. "This whole image of business will be altered; no longer seen as a war to be won by the competition, but viewed as a complicated mosaic to be developed, one relationship at a time. Femalethink is efficient, economic, and effective FemaleThink explains the very different way women see, hear, sense, want, approach, view, and purchase things."

Women sign the leases and write the checks for fifty percent of all new cars sold in the US - that's a $67 billion segment. Women influence 80-85% of all new car purchases. According to the IRS, of individuals with assets over $500,000.00, 40% are women.

Today, more than ever, do not try and "sell" a woman. She does not want to be sold! Resist the programming that most salespeople have to sell customers what they want to sell them, not what our customers want to buy.

Nat Ancell recognized this when he said, "We are still selling furniture the way we have habitually done it, rather than the way a woman wants to buy."

It's as if these trends were "custom-made" just for us! Let's discuss all the possibilities that we can use to "set the stage:"

As James Gilmore of Strategic Horizons points out, "Customers today want the "experience" and they're willing to pay admission for them. You must truly "engage" your guests." The value of the "experience" lingers. When you enrich the experience it leaves behind a memory, that they will want to share again and again! Plato said that "Human behavior flows from three main sources: Desire, Emotion and Knowledge."

Desire, Emotion, Knowledge
Engage them! Entertain them! Play! It's furniture! Make it fun! You must get them to "test drive" the upholstery. See it, touch it, feel it, want it, own it! They can't do that on the net!

Remember when we don't buy it's a logical decision. When we do "own" it's an emotional experience!

Let's go back to the Border's Books example used in part one of this article in August/ September FURNITURE WORLD. They have overstuffed upholstery in their bookstores that say, "Sit. Curl up. Make yourself comfortable. Stick around." We're treated like a guest in their home. We stick around. We read, we have some refreshments, we listen to CD's, we are educated, entertained, and engaged! We have not only bought Border's, we tell anyone we know of the terrific experience we had there. I have friends who go there on Saturday night their date night.

Why don't we, in the furniture business, do that? We already have the upholstery! If you carry only case pieces, put cushions on the dining room chair seats, set the tables and fill-up the wall units! Why not set-up a separate "library" in your showroom (the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library stocks over 800 titles at www.furniturelibrary.com (336) 883-4011). Why not have educational brochures printed up with your store's logo so that they can read them there and take some along for friends?

You're not going to lose any square footage. You already have the sofas, chairs, wall units, and tables. Just arrange them in a particular area that invites the consumer to "make himself or herself at home." Display books on the history of furniture styles, how to care for furniture, the impact of color, crafts that are making a comeback... you get the idea.

Have refreshments set up in this area. Have you ever been to Robb & Stucky? When you hit the front door the wonderful aroma of HOT chocolate chip cookies greets you fresh out of the oven. No matter your age you just regressed to "six!" Where are they? In their 85,000 square foot showroom in Orlando, they are not out front. That's okay. You'll find them!

Starbuck's just came out with a brand new magazine called "Joe!" (Just the name is brilliant!) Have you seen their wonderful, creative ads in major publications? They are great, and each one is different! What a terrific marketing idea! You can only get the magazine at Starbuck's. So --- once you're there - buy coffee - buy magazine (price $3.00) - sit - read aforementioned publication - buy more coffee. All the while you're enjoying the experience! Brilliant! What could we offer?

A newsletter talking about the latest trends, and colors in the world of home furnishings, decorating tips, how to care for their new case pieces and upholstered furniture. An "Ask Us" column answering questions that you've received from consumers. Articles introducing your consultants to the public. Pictures of contest winners that you promoted! What other ideas can you think of? Please send them all to Cathy Finney care of FURNITURE WORLD e-mail: russ@furninfo.com or fax 800-784-8488.


How-To seminars:

  • How to "Color Your World".
  • How to design a home office
  • How to care and maintainfurniture.
  • Childproofing your home.
  • How to get more storage & space in your home.
  • Room Makeovers!
  • Creating Space To Create!

Since more women are starting a business in their home, bring in your clients who are professionals in certain fields to teach seminars in:

  • How To Organize Your Office & Your Life!
  • Investment strategies.
  • Insurance coverage.
  • Time & Stress Management.
  • Personal Shopping Services.
  • Nutrition "on the road."
  • The lists are endless!

So far we are Entertaining, Educating, Enlightening and Engaging them in an Experience. But first, we have to get them through the door! This is where the Esthetics come in. The Esthetics are what make your guests want to come in, sit down, curl up, get comfortable!

Can't we change the signage on our front doors and windows? We know we have to wear shoes and shirts, already. Even that doesn't guarantee us service! Why not have signs that invite them to come in!

  • Welcome To The Home Zone.
  • Enter Laughing!
  • Let Us Entertain You!
  • No Smile-No Service! (That should get their attention!)
  • Become A Gold Card Carrying Member Of Our "Frequent Buyer's Club!"
  • Shopping Made Easy! Made Painless! Made Easy! Made Fun!

Invite the public into your showroom so they can "experience" you, your people and what you can offer them. Why you're there and how you can personally help them!

In the Law of Ergonomics and what I call "Humans #101," Personal Touch is everything. "We expect to be marketed to as individuals," echoes Ms. Popcorn throughout her book. We must become "Consumer Responsive" by creating closer ties with the consumer. Customers will become clients and respond to businesses they feel comfortable "bonding with." They want to be listened to and cared about "human to human!" They also want you to help them solve their problems. They don't want products - they want solutions.

Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of the book "Guerrilla Marketing," points out, "people would rather buy from a problem-solving consultant than from a product pushing salesperson!"

Mr. Ancell agreed, "In order to satisfy a customer you must know her problems in detail before you try to solve them."

You can't solve their problems, you can't relate unless and until you find out who they are! You must get their name as soon as you can in the selling relationship. We've discussed this before. Your name is the most important word in the English language. You cannot bond with a stranger!

When you get the name up front, it is very easy to get their address and phone number at the end. You cannot follow-up unless you know who they are and how to reach them!

Yahoo! is very successful. But, and this is a big but, 25 million users visit this site every month. Yahoo! never finds out who they are, where they live, and what they like! What a myriad of services they could offer these "visitors." The possibilities are endless. Amazing! You would never miss an opportunity like that, would you!

We must establish relationships with the consumers coming through your front door. The stronger the human bond, the stronger the business bond. Your follow-up filing system is the most important tool in your toolbox! It is your business, your future, your way of setting yourself apart, your way of establishing yourself as the ultimate professional. Reach out and touch someone ~ "Ethel!" ~ often!

This is my First Commandment of Retail." To really put this in perspective ~ What do you look like on your day off? Ah, ha! When I ask this question at my seminars, everyone stares at their shoes!

This point was made in a recent trade newspaper article that profiled a couple in their early 20's who bought furniture off the Internet. They were ignored and not taken seriously by conventional retail furniture merchants because of their age and perceived financial situation. A conventional retailer lost a big sale and all future sales these customers were likely to make. Worse yet, this retailer created a vigilante consumer. The sale lost to the internet had nothing to do with price. It had to do with service.

Mr. Ancell summed it up when he noted, "We have never enjoyed traffic of a continuing nature, and it seems to me we do more to drive traffic away by sacrificing the confidence of the public."

In the 90's we needed to "develop" a relationship with the consumer. The successful retailers of the 21st Century will strive to "intensify" relationships with their customers so they will become clients!

  • It's about making it an Experience!"
  • It's about "Entertaining and Engaging." Showmanship is the art of giving products and services a personality that is distinctly yours.
  • It's about educating your customers and your co-workers. If your people have the requisite skills, they will "soar" into the next Century!

As Harry Truman said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that really counts!" Or, to quote my motto which I've had printed on T-shirts ~ "When You're Ripe ~ you rot!"

It's about Emotion. See it, Touch it, Feel it, Want it, Own it!

It's about finding out who they are so you can build that relationship. Person to person. Human to human. Eyeball to eyeball! "Cathy" to "Mary."

  • It's about building TRUST.
  • It's about saving them TIME.
  • It's about convenience. "I do all of the work so you have none of the worry!"
  • It's about getting them to buy "you!" The name of your company is not "Sam.com!" They can't get you on the "net."

They can only get you live, and in person! Let them know that "Your Showroom" stands behind the product. "I stand behind you." That's what they want to know.

  • It's about going out of your way to service this customer so that they do become your "client."
  • "Dazzle 'em" with outstanding customer service!
  • Offer to go to their home so that you can really "assist" them. Help them own the room that they really need and want. Save them time. Make it easy and fun! Human to human!
  • "Stay in touch" so that you can help them with all their decorating needs. Room by room (it's follow-up or fall down!).
  • Get referrals so that you can assist all of their friends. (Why would their friends, and relatives need to go anywhere else?)

WOW! What an exciting time for us. People are going back home, and if we do this right... they will take us with them!
Nat said this much better than I ever could. "If we can hasten our approach to professional service for the women of America, our industry will prosper and grow to new heights. Never were our customers so conscious of their homes and never was there such an appetite to furnish them!"

The quotes featured throughout this article from Nathan Ancell were taken from a Pre-Market Issue of the "National Furniture Review." January, 1956! Thank you Nat.

Contributing Editor Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions or comments can be directed to Cathy care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.