The human brain is an amazing and complex mechanism. Researchers and neuroscientists have been studying it for centuries, and they’ve found that perception of our environment occurs every waking hour of every day. And it’s all driven by our receptors – our eyes, ears, skin, nose and mouth – which enable our brain to not only perceive our world but predict our future feelings and reactions.
Why is this important to you? Because retailers who understand this concept are winning over consumers far better than those that don’t. Today’s shoppers research products extensively online. However, the use of visual stimulation is the only sense they’re able to use to educate their brain. When shopping for durables, though, this is usually not enough. They expect and NEED a much more engaging and personalized experience. Especially Millennials, who seek hands-on activities and stimulation. And that’s where your brick-and-mortar store and your brand need to step in.
Do some research on retailers who are winning because they’re offering a unique shopping experience: Toys “R” Us, Audi USA, American Girl, Nike Los Angeles, lululemon, Lowe’s Holoroom. You’ll find brands and stores attracting more in-store purchases by improving the experience. Ultimately, they’re building a cult following of consumers. So, what can you do in your store to build customers for a lifetime, customers who tell all their friends and family about your brand?
If you’re selling any of the following categories – appliances, consumer electronics, furniture and/or bedding – it’s not easy to touch all five senses. Certainly, they can see and touch your products, but they can’t hear them unless you’ve made them live. Additionally, you can’t get them to experience smell or taste unless you’re demonstrating or having cooking classes. That’s why I’m a strong proponent of immersing your business in the outdoor living category with grills and outdoor heating solutions.
Pun intended, this is the hottest of any of your current categories.
Outdoor cooking products offer you the ability to touch all five senses. However, you do need a few key elements:
- Be committed to the category by looking relevant (800 sq. ft. or more) and representing all fuel types: gas, lump charcoal and pellets.
- Demonstrate grills on a regular basis. Who doesn’t like the smell of barbeque? Who doesn’t like delicious, free food samples?
- Have at least one sales associate who is an outdoor cooking enthusiast. Their knowledge and zeal for the category will infect your entire sales team.
By following these simple steps, you’ll find yourself not only selling to your existing customer base but a whole new set of consumers.
But selling grills is only part of the story. Sure, it’s nice to sell a category where you make 32%+ gross margin (G.M.) and the consumer is actually a happy shopper. But, more importantly, you’ll be selling consumables such as rubs, sauces, accessories and fuel that offer much higher margins. Oh, and by the way, this consumer comes back to your store on a monthly basis versus taking years to return.
Here’s an example of a small- to medium-sized operation that gets it! Orsini’s Appliance Sales & Service in Martinsburg, West Virginia, just opened an 8,200-square-foot showroom that incorporates nearly all of the categories mentioned above. They’ve positioned their grill section in the front of the store with some very creative merchandising: a sampling station for rubs and sauces; a tailgating section with the use of a Chevy truck bed sticking out of the wall; murals to hype the brands represented and outdoor feel; and lots of fuel on display for easy selection and carry-out.
In addition, Orsini’s has a 1,000-square-foot outside experience building with three glass garage doors and two roll-up side doors. All products are live so they can conduct demonstrations and cooking classes, and there are cameras over every cooking station that allow them to create videos for You Tube and also feed their in-store digital signage screens.
PJ Orsini’s entrepreneurial spirit, drive to succeed and recognition of a hot category that can touch all of the senses will benefit him for many years to come.
Isn’t it time you came to your “senses”?
This article was first published in the January 2020 issue of The Retail Observer.
John Laing is the director of outdoor for Nationwide Marketing Group