Digital Selling (Part 9)

Outlook: The future of digital selling

Eight articles with tips on how the kitchen and furniture trade can position itself well in the digital transformation are behind us. It's time for a look ahead. This time we talk to coach Leif Kania about the future of digital selling. And we find out: it could get jerky in the industry!

Nov 30 2021

This is what it looks like 

Corona brought momentum to digitalisation. Retail got new impulses, became creative to survive in the lockdown. Not everything was perfect, but progress was made. That's perfectly OK. Rome wasn't built in a day, after all. 

But you know what? Rome was built continuously! It all began, according to legend, on the Palatine Hill. The one hill became seven. With such ingenious things as a fresh water and sewage system, thermal baths or the Colosseum. For they had one goal: to expand the empire, secure power, live the good life. Not to be beaten up by the Gauls. 

However, as far as digitisation in the furniture trade is concerned, work already seems to have stalled on the Palatine. In the balmy Corona summer, many a hammer was put aside again. The sweet life continued to bring full order books. The pressure to build a digital coliseum dwindled with the infection numbers. 

Comfort zone seduces to old patterns 

Leif Kania perceived the situation this way: "In the lockdown, retailers with digital support sold well, especially fitted kitchens. But when things returned to normal and they were allowed to receive visitors again, hardly any work was done with the new tools. This was not even because the added value was not recognised. It was simply more comfortable to return to old patterns. If this continues, the future of digital sales looks bleak. At least in the furniture trade." 

Of course, it is quite human to stay in the comfort zone, the sales trainer admits. Then one finds reasons for not having to do something. Supposedly high costs, for example, or poor WLAN. But, Leif Kania continues: "An investment of, let's say, 2,000 euros per workstation is manageable and quickly recouped in view of good sales. As far as network speed is concerned: I myself work for my online academy with an LTE flat rate for 150 euros a month. That works wonderfully. From my point of view, it's important to keep the added value of the purchase in mind instead of telling yourself that you can do without it." 

Customers also like it comfortable 

And, of course, you can do without it somehow. At least as long as the shops are open. Since the furniture trade has only increasingly relied on digital tools in the course of the pandemic, the expectations of the clientele are in their infancy. But once consumers have tasted blood in terms of hybrid sales processes, they will also demand them, Leif Kania is certain. For the coach, it is already clear that the digital offer is very popular: 

"I was present at several talks during the Corona phase and can therefore say that the customers find it great to coordinate with the consultant online. For example, when it comes to planning details. The advantages are obvious: it's quick and convenient. Convenience is a high purchasing motive. Everything that has to do with comfort, convenience, simplification and prestige has grown in recent years. That's why I think it will be normal to digitally map at least part of the sales process in the future. And that's why it's also totally important to know: If you don't do it, it will go dark." 

Shining examples 

Meanwhile, individual pioneers are showing what the future of digital selling can look like. They are showing the industry the way, but also fuelling the aforementioned expectations and thus increasing the pressure on traditionally oriented studios. It is mainly franchises that know how to inspire digitally to such an extent that they repeatedly win prizes for their service. And start-ups that deliberately do things differently. 

The innovation drivers are breaking new ground in direct sales, provocatively relying on smart shopping experiences without discounts or pulling off really big things in the 3D sector. Strong concepts that are thought out from the end and thus prove how important objectives and structure are, even attract renowned investors. They, in turn, look for partners in the industry and find them where there is already a digital foundation. 

Emotional experience at the centre 

The successful concepts are not just about selling furniture. The focus is increasingly on the customer journey. The journey is the goal! By the way, the free guide "Convincing with digitalisation at the point of sale" from the Mittelstand 4.0-Kompetenzzentrum Handel also provides impulses here. Because one thing is clear: digital tools not only help to make processes more convenient and efficient and to save money and time, but also turn shopping into an experience. 

Arousing emotions in the form of fascination, enthusiasm or anticipation works particularly well via virtual worlds. Experimenting with 3D glasses is not only fun - when do you ever get the chance?! - but also helps to get to know the future facility. This in turn helps to minimise complaints, Leif Kania also knows from his time in sales. Back then, a 3D presentation cinema proved to be the highlight of the customer journey. The coach finds: 

"Today it's the 3D glasses - different, but also really exciting and cool. Cinema and glasses are tools with which I can inspire to the maximum, and I think that is still underestimated. This experience that you offer customers at that moment may not be offered by your competitor. This means that the customer links this wow experience to your studio, to your name and not to the competitor. I think this makes a lot of sense and I believe that things like 3D will determine the future of digital sales just as much as social media or needs analyses with graphic or virtual support." 

Stumbling block beliefs 

For retailers, it is now important to get creative and stay on the ball, says Leif Kania. Online seminars with tips are another way to stand out and win new customers. At the moment, this is more common in the construction industry, less so in the furniture trade. 

As a coach, he could help to get things done, train and develop employees and thus cushion the consequences of the shortage of skilled workers. The implementation itself remains the responsibility of the retailers. Often, however, there are old beliefs that block the way: 

'First in the morning, last in the evening' is a typical example, starting with the boss and continuing with the staff who don't have a Saturday off, because for many that is the most important day of the week. One accepts that people become dissatisfied and quit. It's much more expensive to train someone new than to give top people Saturday off on a regular basis." 

Many roads lead to Rome 

The future of digital sales therefore also includes finding new ways in terms of opening hours and availability. Leif Kania knows from his own painful experience that nothing is more demotivating than spending long Thursdays or open Sundays in empty shops: 

"Not only did the sales teams have a lot of fun working to deadlines. The closing rate was also much higher than with the conventional method. An exclusively reserved time slot suggests service, quality and a higher commitment. So if you don't have an appointment tool on your homepage today, you should improve it as soon as possible!" 

And now? 

So how can we herald the future of digital selling for good and not just sporadically in the kitchen and furniture trade? Leif Kania believes that competition will ultimately stimulate business: "Habit is just very, very powerful. And that's why I think the only way is through pain. Retailers not only have to understand that they are losing sales, but they have to experience and feel it when the customer buys from the neighbour because the neighbour simply represents the funnel better. When competitors succeed with something, everyone wants it. That has actually always worked well. Especially in this industry." 

Conclusion 

Caught out? Then get out of your comfort zone! Don't let the belief "Rome wasn't built in a day either" determine your future! It carries the risk of slippery slope. Become creative, for you too have a master builder slumbering inside you. If you are still on the Palatine, then keep swinging the hammer diligently! Work your way up hill after hill according to the building plan and thus strengthen your digital empire. Otherwise you might end up being beaten up by the Gauls ... 

By the way: If you are already building your coliseum, we have another bonus for you! You can look forward to an article on online marketing in January. Until then, we wish you a wonderful Christmas season. Come into the new year well and healthy! And feel free to let us know in the comments how you liked our series. 

Author: Christine Piontek

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