Consumers have been buying in record numbers this year, and sales are up significantly for many industries across the market. This is excellent news, except for one problem: many of those same industries are struggling to keep up with inventory, and consumers are left with long wait times for their purchases.
Depending on the industry and the product, customers are waiting anywhere from a couple of months to a year to get the products they’re purchasing. As a brand, how do you make it worth it to them to buy? How do you convince them to buy when they may not see their purchases for months, or even a year?
In order to keep sales numbers up, you need to change the way you sell. Creating a customer experience that sells — even when your inventory levels are less than ideal — is key here. Let’s talk about what that can look like.
ENGINEER AN IN-STORE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AGNOSTIC OF INVENTORY
Inventory is typically what determines the store environment and attracts customers to buy. But if your in-store inventory is low or even completely depleted, you need to find other ways to grab consumers’ attention.
Even without inventory on hand, you need to create a customer experience tailored to your product that allows the customer to see, feel, and experience your brand in a way that helps them decide to select your product.
Visuals, samples, interactive media, dealer expertise, education, special events — all offer ways to experience a product without that exact product being in stock. For example, displaying a base model along with samples of available customizable options gives the customer a chance to see your product in person, decide what options they want, and place an order.
HIGHLIGHT THE ADVANTAGES OF ORDERING
Having little inventory on hand means your customer can’t walk out of the showroom with the item they came for. This can lead to frustration and a loss of future business if you don’t make an effort to change the customer’s perspective.
One way to do this is to sell your customer on the advantages of ordering the exact item they want, rather than grabbing a model off the showroom floor.
Ordering allows for customization. The customer can order the exact product they want, rather than opting for the floor model simply because it’s convenient, even though it may not have everything they were looking for. When a customer orders ahead, they end up with a product they are happier with — one that meets their specifications in every detail.
The ability to order a customized product like this creates a feeling of exclusivity. Build on that feeling, crafting an atmosphere where customers feel like they are getting something truly special...even if that means they have to wait for it.
No one likes to wait, especially when they have just spent their hard-earned money on an item they’ve been dreaming of. Do what you can to make the wait feel like less of a burden to them — whether that’s offering incentives for ordering, or staying in contact with them throughout their wait time through emails full of helpful information such as getting ready for their product’s arrival, ways to use their new purchase, maintenance tips, and so on.
FOCUS ON DEALER EXPERTISE
The dealer has a level of expertise about your products that the customer needs. This alone can be a big selling point.
Ensure that your dealers are prepared to educate customers on your products — from customization options to technical details and maintenance tips. Give them everything they need to be successful in selling and servicing your products. Train them on what to highlight in the sale and how to deliver the best value to each customer. When you invest in educating your dealers, you’ll recoup that investment with better sales and happier customers.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU CAN INFLUENCE
As a brand, it’s time to really consider the tools and experience you can help cultivate in your dealers. Brands often leave it up to the individual salespeople to determine how the store experience should feel. They spend enormous amounts of money marketing who they are as a brand, only to have it all fall apart at the store level when there is no inventory.
To combat this issue, consider what you can influence, how you can be helpful to that channel. How can you equip and prepare your dealers to make their best sales?
If there was ever a time for creative problem solving, it’s now. Get creative in developing unique opportunities to connect with customers and build relationship with them.
For instance, consider hosting events and educational opportunities where you used to have products. Use these events to gather people who love your brand or are interested in your products, and keep selling your brand — remind them of why they need or want your product, and convince them that now is the time to buy, even if the end product won’t be available to them for many months.
GIVE YOUR RETAILERS DIRECTION
In the current environment, so many retailers are leaving their spaces blank or turning them into storage. If, as a brand, you don’t talk to your retailers about this, those spaces will stay blank. It’s not always intentional — they just don’t know what else to do without inventory to fill the space. They need your direction, and it’s in your best interest to give it to them.
In addition, when you make a product that has a lot of attachments or accessories that go with it, it’s not enough to leave it in the hands of the individual salesperson or the dealer to sell those accessories.
You need to design the space and planogram it, create programs to incent the behavior to sell those accessories, and train to the customer experience. In essence, you need to reward the behavior you’re looking for to create the experience you want for your customers.
TRUST MILLER WITTMAN TO HELP YOU CREATE A CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE THAT SELLS
The current inventory issues are widespread, so if you are in this boat, you are certainly not alone. In fact, at Miller Wittman, we are currently walking three international brands through this very issue.
The good news is that it is possible to develop an in-store experience that sells, regardless of your level of inventory. And creating a customer experience that sells will not only solve any current inventory issues you may be having, it will set you up for success in the future, no matter what challenges arise in the marketplace.
At Miller Wittman, we design powerful retail environments that provide the ultimate customer experience. If you’re ready to talk about how to create a better customer experience in your space, contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you!