Retail revolution

Retail sales are currently strong, and yet the retail landscape has changed beyond recognition. Bethaney Larkman, marketing manager for Distinction Doors, explores some potential challenges and considers what we can take forward into the brave new world.

The collapse of big-name retail brands is now commonplace; the way we shopped changed almost overnight, which had an impact on the entire supply chain.

Grocers were the ‘face’ of this disaster as the news showed people grappling for the last loo roll and pack of pasta.

The closure of non-essential stores and empty grocery shelves exposed the vulnerability of physical retailers. As the shutters came down on shopfronts, the digital shop door was left wide open, and people flooded in.

We know by looking at our own digital performance during June just how much impact lockdown had: Distinction website traffic users increased 50% year on year and we had a record number of sessions on door-designer and direct quote requests. Request a Brochure click-throughs increased by 200%.

A report released by KPMG – Global Retail Trends 2020 – said: “Prior to Covid-19, consumers were increasingly jumping channels as they moved through the sales journey, and retailers will need increasing sophistication in their omnichannel approach in order to ensure customer experiences are seamless going forward. In this environment, business as usual would be challenging at best.”

So, what does this mean for those of us working in the fenestration retail sector? In short: we will need to nail our cross-channel strategy; the integration of the different research and purchasing methods available to consumers, eg, online, showrooms, in the home and over the phone. This may require investment but long-term it will be vital. It’s worth identifying the areas that you can do successfully and the parts that would be better suited to a partnership.

At Distinction, for example, we provide additional marketing support for our customers. Whether it’s advising on the most popular door styles, colours and glass for a new showroom, or providing branded digital and printed sales tools, we can help you develop your omnichannel presence.

With home visits restricted (or, at least, undesirable in the short-term), the onus has transferred to the consumer to seek out the physical product. In June we experienced a 90% increase in Showroom Locator viewings, compared to the previous month. This was a 65% increase tea on year. Now, while many showrooms were closed during lockdown, this figure indicates a shift in consumer behaviour.

Also, with uncertainty around the viability of exhibitions and consumer wariness about sales representatives in the home, showrooms and permanent exhibitions, such as the National Selfbuild and Renovation Centre, will now play an even greater role in driving enquiries and sales.

Channelling the omnipresent approach, it’s worth bearing in mind that showrooms don’t operate in isolation. They require an excellent customer experience: up-to-date website/Google my Business listing; literature; samples; and engaging brand ambassadors (employees).

While our industry is a world away from the consumer data collation of retail giants, there are lessons to be learned from their decisions and experiences. It’s no coincidence that Marks and Spencer relaunched its loyalty scheme, Sparks, just weeks after the restrictions on non-essential stores were lifted, for instance.

Increasingly, data will provide leverage, and with the headache of GDPR firmly behind us, there is every reason to invest time and energy in data collection and usage. The insight that data provides will be invaluable in developing strategy and shaping your business for the new world. Consider that pre-Covid-19 data will also need to be reviewed for relevance and suitability.