Online and offline

The right approach for every type of customer

Do you know your target group’s biostructure? Do you know if your customers are red, blue or green thinkers? No, we’re not referring to the colour of their furnishings but rather to their purchasing behaviour. For ambista, furniture expert Markus Neumann explains what this all means. 

Apr 16 2020

Competition in the furniture industry is fierce. Differentiation based on product alone is now virtually impossible. Digital stores, online ordering tools, shopping apps and Instagram channels have captured both the market and customers. 

Countless retailers vie for the attention and the confidence of consumers. These developments are forcing long-established furniture stores to take a new approach – both online and offline – moving away from function-driven sales and towards individuals, their lifestyles and making their dream homes a reality. 

According to Dr. Kai Hudetz, Managing Director of Cologne-based retail research consultancy IFH Köln, “Anyone who hopes to attract and retain customers in the future will need to make a deliberate effort to adapt to meet the requirements of the digital age by putting a greater focus on their customers.”

Activities that may still have been profitable in the pre-digital era are now showing their limitations: filling the shop floor, advertising without any real strategy – assuming someone will come along and make a purchase. After all, people will always need furniture. That’s not the way the furniture trade works any more.

But many retailers aren’t sure where to start – they add items they like to their range, employees arrange the sales floor according to personal taste, shops place adverts in magazines based on the best of their knowledge (or lack thereof), business owners are glad of each staff member they manage to hire or retain and train their teams to handle customer doubts as part of their sales pitch. An approach that still had some impact 20 years ago doesn’t translate into sales today.  

To survive in the digital age, furniture retailers need to change their way of thinking. Because it’s not enough to half-heartedly start up an online shop and simply transfer a wildly inconsistent marketing strategy to the digital world. It’s high time that companies focused their full attention on their customers.

But what does actually attract today’s customers? What persuades them to buy? How can the shopping experience – whether online or offline – be made into an event? Is it all about the best deal? High-quality materials? Fast delivery? What works for one customer no longer works for another, which makes the sales process really difficult. People simply don’t all think the same way – and they’re more demanding than ever.

The only thing that really boosts sales is a clear customer journey that’s attuned to the target group’s biostructure as identified in an analytical process. This is the most effective route to successful sales – but first, furniture retailers need to know their target group and its biostructure.  

Purchasing decisions based on biostructure  

Our personalities are determined by our brains – how we think, feel and organise our lives. A biostructure analysis reveals a person’s individual strengths and preferences. By knowing or identifying a person’s biostructure, it’s possible to understand what motivates them – and what they buy. Many customers actually have no idea why they purchase certain things or why they’re attracted to them.

And how does this structure develop? The regions of the brain interact differently in every individual: the intuitive and instinctive brainstem (red), the emotion-driven and impulsive diencephalon (green) and the cerebrum (blue), which is responsible for rational thought and imagining the future. All three are active at the same time in each person’s brain; it’s the balance of the individual combination that makes the difference. No combination is better or worse – each is precious, fascinating and unique.   

People in whom the red region is strongest, for example, are generally assertive and dominant and exhibit a natural authority. They love status and challenges, are competitive and tend to seize the moment.

Those with a dominant green region have a strong need for contact. They largely make decisions based on gut feelings and have good instincts. Blue-dominated people favour logic and distance. They feel a need to keep people and situations at arm’s length in order to scrutinise and analyse things. 

Home profiles – red, green or blue 

This biostructure is used to generate “home profiles”. On the basis of this scientific application, it’s possible to precisely determine a person’s taste as regards their home. The three dominance types can thus be divided into three home types: customers who overwhelmingly exhibit red thinking belong to the “castle type”.

Lords and ladies presiding over castles value possessions and like to show off what they have. They want everyone to see that their estate is run to the very latest standards. The castle type attaches great importance to prestige and stands for exclusivity, quality and order. Everything is lavish – from the interior decoration to the building footprint, the garden and the number of square metres over which the home extends.  

Green-dominated individuals – the “nest type” – favour cosiness and harmony. Their domestic hideaway radiates security and warmth. All the rooms are small and inviting, with no corner left unfurnished. Nest dwellers hold tradition, souvenirs and a sense of togetherness in high regard. Guests are always welcome.

The snail shell is the preferred home of blue-dominated people, with residents appreciative of perfection, planning and expertise. They want to protect their private domain and are happy to shut themselves away from the outside world. The rooms are clearly arranged, and order is a priority everywhere. Fans of snail shells love practical furnishings that they can modify and whose function they can adjust. 

Everything according to the target group’s biostructure... in both bricks-and-mortar furniture showrooms and online shops 

Home profiling forms the basis of a holistic strategy. When you know the biostructure of your target group and you understand how it thinks, you can orientate everything else around it: your product range, marketing, the layout of your displays and sales floor, colours, your way of addressing customers, your visual language and wording – and more besides.

Furniture retailers can offer customised advice, take a more focused approach to buying and selling products and also train their employees to meet particular requirements. The key to this strategy lies in transferring it correspondingly to the online world! After all, retailers can and must cater to different preferences in their web offering, too.  

Red-dominated individuals, for example, love luxury, but they also like to see multiple price tags in a large format – special offers, bargains and discounts. They’re attracted by anything striking and brightly coloured. So, add flashing and sparkling effects to online bargains, play around with colourful pop-up windows, apply pressure: “Only three items remaining.”

Show off using status symbols on your home page and prominent testimonials, put the emphasis on quality and exclusivity. But don’t be under any illusions– red customers are not loyal; retailers needn’t bother trying to retain them. Red-dominated shoppers will pursue the next bargain, wherever it leads them. 

It’s particularly important to adapt the digital customer journey to suit your customer’s biostructure: those dominated by the red region of the brain want the experience to be quick and painless. Buy now? Yes – click. Blue thinkers like to leave products in their basket a little longer. Check, compare, come back later. To attract them, it’s worthwhile offering the option of a customer account.

That way, blue shoppers can do some research, gather their favourite products, archive them and track the purchase and delivery process. In any case, blue customers love facts of all kinds. They’re happiest when furniture retailers give detailed product descriptions, from internal and external dimensions to materials and colours through to the tiniest titbits of information like how translucent the fabric is, how to clean the product, environmental footprint, energy consumption, firmness, screw fastenings, coatings ... everything and anything there is to know. 

Where a company boss and their team tend towards the green spectrum, for example, it’s sensible that the business should make green customers its main target group. For example, photos of people laughing, images of nature and a warm address are persuasive to nest-types shopping online. “This sofa’s looking for a home. Would you like to adopt it?”

Green thinkers need the herd and have to be able to picture a piece of furniture in context – in other words, in a furnished living room. Does it radiate cosiness? Is there space for friends and the dog? People with this profile don’t respond to pressure; they’re all about decor. If you display bed linen, vases, candles, runners, picture frames, illuminated stars and bedside tables attractively alongside the beds in your online store, green shoppers will lap it up  

In summary: a customised and bespoke approach is needed 

Furniture retailers who want to survive must digitalise. But not in a haphazard fashion. Once identified, it’s vital that the biostructure of the target group is stored if the furniture trade is to function in a digital world as well as in an analogue one. This is the only way of ensuring that customers are treated as individuals in accordance with their personality type in all departments from the first contact through to the assembly of the furniture.

By doing so, the furniture retailer secures two decisive benefits – a digitalised, cross-departmental customer management process and, at the same time, a market advantage over the competition. The examples outlined above should give you an idea of why it’s important to have a clear focus. These days, people want a tailor-made solution to match their personal requirements.

Those who don’t want to be left behind by digital competitors must upgrade their processes. And find a strategy that works hand in hand online and offline and merges to form one common image. The two worlds must both address the same biotype. The customer must be able to find the same products and prices, the same atmosphere and the same shopping experience in the physical store that they can see online – and vice versa.

Having established your positioning, all your business decisions can be based around it. If you know your customers and pay as much attention to your online store as you do to your bricks-and-mortar shop, you’ll make a lasting impression and put your company on a secure footing for the future. When it comes to holding your own in the market over the long term, there can, therefore, only be one solution: selling in accordance with biostructure.

After all, buying and selling furniture means communicating with people and satisfying individual home-living ideals.  

If anyone truly understands the furniture retail trade, it’s Markus Neumann. As a sales phenomenon, he has been invigorating the international interiors scene for decades. CEOs, managers, salespeople, fitters and buyers can sense that he not only loves his industry – with 30 years of experience in furniture retail, twelve of which as the Managing Director of a successful furniture retailer, over ten years as a consultant and trainer in the furniture sector and more than 1,500 days spent delivering training for furniture companies, he clearly lives and breathes it, too.

With every new initiative, the industry influencer offers more than sales training, more than persuasive patter and questioning techniques. What makes cooperating with Neumann unique is his holistic approach to corporate strategy, which is aimed at securing long-term future profits for furniture stores.

He creates a company culture which places the focus on the customer and the employee as individuals. Because his business is an authorised consultancy firm for the “go-digital” campaign run by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and a training provider for certified courses in furniture retail, his customers are able to apply for grant funding of up to 50 per cent from the German federal and state governments and from the EU towards his consulting and training services. 

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