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The industry's look at incentives when buying furniture

The focus on home and freed-up holiday budgets have fuelled furnishing in the past year. Cocooning has received a boost. So has digital processes, which are now an essential part of the service offering. But how long will the Corona boom last? So let's look at lasting incentives to buy. Or as kitchen consultant Carmen Tappeser would say: "People are always building!" And even beyond starting a family or moving house, there are impulses for new purchases. Or not? 

Feb 02 2021

The thing about environmental protection 

In a recent press release, the VDM identified sustainability as a driver for new furnishings in addition to a feeling of security. Ecological concepts and products made of natural and recycled materials continue to gain ground. But for which customers do they actually provide incentives when buying furniture? 

Carmen Tappeser has a clear answer for her sector: "Not for us at all. Neither do customers look for certificates of their own accord, nor are we approached about sustainable furniture or environmentally friendly manufacturing processes." 

As a psychologically trained coach, Leif Kania has an explanation for this: "The majority of people are simply too selfish. They say to themselves: 'For saving a few birds in some corner of the world that I don't know and don't want to go to, I'm not going to give up seating comfort or have to pay even more money!' That's unfortunately the way it is." 

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Leif Kania is a trainer and coach for the furnishing industry, drawing on over 20 years of sales and management experience in the kitchen and furniture trade. The former managing director of a large VME company with craft and commercial training knows the problems of his customers first-hand and knows how to solve them sustainably. As an accredited trainer according to Insights MDI®, the industry expert focuses on the recognition of individual strengths, which allow sales teams and managers to reach their full potential according to their personality. The focus of the sales training courses is on type-specific advice as the key to increasing sales.
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Tipping the scales: actively addressing sustainability 

BMK President Hans Hermann Hagelmann is more optimistic: "I can well imagine that it does not influence the primary purchase decision, but it does tip the scales as soon as the buying process starts. At the latest when someone is wavering between two alternatives, a good salesperson can follow up: 'But as I understand it, you value sustainability. Then you would be much better off with this product. As an argumentation it is certainly important and in many areas today almost a must." 

It follows from this: If retailers want to score points with sustainability, they should not expect customers to jump on the bandwagon on their own. Incentives to buy are set by those who take action and find out whether interested parties are open to the topic. 

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Hans Hermann Hagelmann studied business administration in Bochum and Frankfurt before embarking on a career in marketing and product management in the early 1980s. Among the professional stations of the business graduate are Pepsi-Cola in Offenbach and BASF in Mannheim. In 1990, Hagelmann switched to the furniture industry and initially worked in the supply industry. In 1999, he became a member of the management board at Nolte Küchen, and in 2001 he became managing director for marketing and sales. At about the same time, he joined the board of the marketing company A30 Küchenmeile and was spokesman of the board of AMK from 2004. He held both positions for around ten years. Since 2013, Hagelmann has not only been the owner of 3H-con Unternehmensberatung in Bad Oeynhausen and 3H-Distribution for the kitchen brands Pronorm and artego in France, but also President of the German Association of Medium-sized Kitchen Retailers (BMK). In 2017 he completed additional training as a certified business mediator.

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Appliances: incentives guaranteed when buying furniture 

Appliances also make a contribution to environmental protection through economical consumption. But when asked whether this is an incentive to buy, it quickly becomes clear that the purchase is not necessarily green-motivated. This is also confirmed by a KPMG study. 

Carmen Tappeser knows: "Today, the energy efficiency of appliances is a very high priority for new buyers. However, this often goes hand in hand with the volume. Since many have an open-plan kitchen, it is important to them that the dishwasher does not drown out the TV." 

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Carmen Tappeser has an affinity for furniture and interior design in her blood. Her mother is a seamstress in a furniture store and thus responsible for the creative side that the kitchen consultant and vintage lover also shows in her private life when she tailors her clothes. Her father - who has been working in the furniture industry for over 30 years - was and is Carmen Tappeser's role model in her profession. She likes to discuss furniture topics with him passionately. It is therefore not surprising that she turned her back on her original career in hotel management after completing her training. In 2010 she ventured a career change in a furniture store and discovered her talent for consulting, planning and sales. Since 2013 Carmen Tappeser has been working in the kitchen retail trade near Cologne. Customers appreciate her direct and honest way of communication.

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Inviting identification 

What was that about selfishness? People only buy what promises a benefit - i.e. what reduces their electricity bill or is comfortable. Environmental protection, however, has no direct added value. It remains to be seen whether the CO2 tax will change this. 

In order to set impulses in terms of sustainability and not only to attract people for whom the topic fits into the value system, emotional advertising that tells stories, causes a stir and invites identification is helpful. A sink manufacturer and an appliance manufacturer, for example, are currently demonstrating this. And if the customers bite? How likely is it that interest in a new appliance will turn into a whole kitchen? 

Hans Hermann Hagelmann says: "During the consultation in the kitchen studio, the question often comes up whether the old appliance can be exchanged for a new one. The salesperson will answer: 'Of course, we just have to see if the dimensions fit. What kind of kitchen do you have, how old is it...?' That's how the sales talk begins and I estimate that in 60 to 70 percent of cases a new kitchen is planned at the end." 

The modern furnishing feeling 

In all likelihood, the kitchen will then also comply with the rules of modern planning. Open floor plan, living comfort, coordinated surfaces - or are these even per se incentives when buying furniture? The experts agree: building and living trends influence design. But the trigger tends to be a new phase of life. 

Carmen Tappeser gives an example: "The children have moved out and you want it to be chic. I have some customers who want the whole house - kitchen, living room, bathrooms and wardrobe - to be furnished in one piece. That means the same front everywhere, the same style." 

Hagelmann adds, "You see it, you hear it, you get offered it, and if a young couple builds today and asks friends how they built, you won't hear from anyone that a separate kitchen was planned. The next step is walk-in wardrobes. Or that the bathroom is attached to the bedroom." 

The generation question 

Can age-dependent buying incentives be identified? Carmen Tappeser observes: "The younger generation is more interested in features in appliances and great design, the older ones often choose things that have stood the test of time. What you can't tell by age, however, is taste. For example, significantly more younger customers are buying country kitchens today, something that used to be more popular with the older generation." 

Hans Hermann Hagelmann confirms: "Young people and families pay attention to functionality, later the focus is more on quality. And on ergonomics! First-time buyers don't have a pull-out in the base unit, because that costs money. I, on the other hand, would no longer be willing to get down on my knees to get a pot out of the back of my base unit, even if I only need it every three months!" 

Is the price really hot? 

Talk about money! If you believe big-box stores and brochures, discounts are the impulse par excellence. But do they really provide incentives when buying furniture? Or do advice and design score points? 

Leif Kania knows from successful trainings: "Many customers look at the price. But in the end it's always the advice. If you do this excellently - i.e. argue with the customer benefit instead of 'normally' and increase the value of the goods by up to 100 % in the perception - you have set the greatest incentive to buy and everything else is then secondary. In a hit list I would therefore say: advice, price, design." 

Carmen Tappeser sees it similarly: "The design of the show kitchen attracts customers to our showroom. The advice decides whether an appointment is made and the price, coupled with the service, whether the customer buys. I would say that customers today are 50/50 on quality. Likewise, the 'extra effort' is worth something to many. If one deals with topics that other salespeople dismiss as secondary, this can also be an incentive to buy. Better advice often makes the difference here." 

Colour and material trends 

In the press release already mentioned, the VDM talks about glass, metal, wood and other natural materials, dark living concepts, pastel and natural shades and powdery nuances with a grey component. How much do colour and material trends determine purchases? 

Leif Kania: "On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say 5. In the high-end sector, it certainly makes sense to pick up copper and brass, but not in other areas. Ultimately, the customer will notice trends and then possibly ask for them in the furniture store. So it does push." 

Carmen Tappeser is more reserved: "I often hear, 'It looks great, but I think I'll soon get fed up with it'. Then we usually stick to classic colours like white, magnolia or grey. The manufacturers' figures also reflect this quite clearly." 

Hagelmann is also cautious about trends: "Well, I wouldn't put it on priority 1, but it's part of it. Whether all the effort behind it, which the industry does or has to do, is always justified, that's another issue!" 

Seeing online = wanting to have? 

Trends are propagated in home design magazines, but not least online. Do social media and influencers provide special incentives for buying furniture? 

The BMK president takes a differentiated view: "That it is due to these incentives that the industry sells more, I would not hold that hypothesis. But that it pre-informs, gives people a taste, inspires and sets impulses - yes. And all in all, this will also increase the closing rates in the trade." 

Carmen Tappeser says: "Young people often come to us with pictures from Pinterest. I think the platform is the pioneer in terms of interior design." 

Incentives to buy are also type-dependent 

No matter what the incentive is for buying furniture, the goal is always the same: customers want to feel good. How, however, is a matter of personal feeling. And since The Life of Brian at the latest, it should be clear: WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS! So why, asks Leif Kania against the background of personality analysis, are product benefits often communicated one-dimensionally in retail? 

"Often a general advertisement is made and people are happy because they like it. But because everyone ticks differently, I should also pick them up differently - especially in social media. The extroverted type is open to a video with people who laugh and have fun, while for the analyst I have to back up the same product with numbers, data, facts and seals. Again, that would be far too theoretical, too unemotional for the first type." 

Kania's advice: "Treat others as they would like to be treated - not as you would like to be treated! Even the most well-researched target group consists of individuals. If I take that into account, I can improve communication and create even more incentives to buy." 

Author: Christine Piontek

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