Retail experts Bob Muenkel, Resident, and Alan Vonder Haar, Miskelly Furniture, discussed the critical role of brick-and-mortar retail.
HIGH POINT — Honoring the customer journey is a key way for brick-and-mortar retailers to encourage client engagement.
That’s just one of the recommendations from experts on the retail panel “The Critical Role of Brick and Mortar” during Furniture Today’s recent virtual Bedding Conference. The panel consisted of Bob Muenkel, vice president of retail engagement for Resident, a native direct-to-consumer company which now offers a variety of home furnishings both online and in store; Alan “Dr. V” Vonder Haar, senior retail analyst for Miskelly Furniture in Jackson, Miss.; and moderator Dave Perry, Furniture Today’s bedding editor.
“The sale is made when the confidence in the outcome supersedes the fear of making the wrong choice,” Muenkel said, “Well over half of the customers won’t make a purchase online. They are going to buy in a store. So it comes down to asking the right questions and partnering with them to help them complete their journey in the store.”
He added, “You need to partner with them and walk alongside them. Think of yourself as a guide.”
The panelists agreed that when shopping online, many customers are left with only look and price to guide them in making a selection. When they come into a store, however, they generally pick out better bedding.
It’s important to know your product, ask the right questions and find out what problem the customer is trying to solve, the experts agreed.
“There is an old saying: Need brings them to the door, but want brings them to the desk. We can help with narrowing the assortment,” Muenkel said. “We partner to take care of them.”
He added, “It’s also important to remember the online journey is just as important as the door swing. Taking the customer from screen to store will be critical going forward.”
Vonder Haar said Miskelly started investing in the company’s website last September, which proved to be advantageous when the stores were closed due to the pandemic. One of the company’s sleep stores started offering web chat, and sales at that location are now 81% ahead of it stores that haven’t yet started offering a web chat option.
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of communication. Miskellyhad an issue with long wait times for customers coming to pick up items. “We were able to create patience with customers through communication,” Vonder Haar said.
Resident predicts that a new smaller showroom model for local retailers will put the direct-to-consumer brands much closer to where the customer lives.
“We are creating an app that will offer immediate real time access to people and products, so there is no more waiting to track down information,” Muenkel said. “I predict this will be the next big thing.”
Missed the Bedding Conference? You can still register to watch the sessions at beddingcon.pbmconferences.com