Digital and physical channels are converging. By learning from successful retailers, you can keep step, offering the best buying experience possible
You’ve most likely heard that Amazon is launching brick and mortar bookstores, starting with Seattle and recently announcing new stores in Portland and San Diego. According to Amazon, books for sale at its stores will be selected based on Amazon.com customer ratings, pre-orders, and sales, among other criteria. Amazon has recognized that there is value in physical stores as a part of the buying process. Meanwhile, stores like Restoration Hardware and West Elm are offering customers selected items in their stores. Don’t see what you like at the store? No problem. Want to see a product in a different color? No problem. A sales associate will hand over a tablet, and buyers can see products of all shapes and colors, then order online at the store (Photo: Courtesy Quadrant Homes).
This type of convergence of digital and physical channels has also had an enormous, positive impact how builders sell homes. Here are four tactics we use to enhance the experience for buyers:
1/ Give buyers what they want. At Quadrant Homes, the design studio has taken on more of a retail look and feel. We’ve also been able to zero in on popular items, giving us more flexibility on what we carry, and using less space to store these items. For instance, Restoration Hardware only shows a small collection of actual SKU items available. In reality they have more than 80,000 SKU items in many different styles. Similarlly, we’re transitioning from trying to show our whole catalog to showing a more curated, manageable collection of choices, all the while knowing we have more to offer. Buyers appreciate the easier browsing process and the hand-picked options. As the builder, we get to home in on what’s selling, and we have less items to organize and store.
2/ Provide tools to make the buying process easier. Homebuilders are providing tools so buyers can digitally configure floor plans from home or a sales center. They can search for information, come visit the sales center with tablet in hand, do more searching there, and go home to continue to search. This lets us deliver the right information at the right time. Once we know that they’ve picked out a floor plan, we can share examples of the most popular options, or the most popular configurations for a particular floor plan, and deliver that as a follow-up to the visit.
3/ Make personalization easy. Our recent work with Bobby Berk, the celebrity Millennial interior designer, is helping us design our Pardee Homes Inland Empire design studio to be more of a brand experience (think Apple). When customers visit one of our design studios, we’ve pre-set them up to choose what they want in their home while getting an inspiring and captivating experience. Huge design studios (and those fading, dusty omnipresent carpet samples) are no longer necessary—or even practical—because we can offer so much online before our buyers even visit.
4/ Embrace contemporary design. Digital and physical convergence, online shopping, brand experience are all moot points if you aren’t offering more up-to-date design. Our shift in merchandising has moved towards contemporary design, architecture, furnishings, and finishes as part of the same package. This is extremely attractive to both our Millennial and Boomer buyers. Contemporary elevations at Pardee Homes Las Vegas are selling approximately 50 percent better than our more traditional designs. “Modern” design can be tricky to define; it’s not all about hard edges and neutral colors. The current trend is to mix it up with other styles like a contemporary take on a traditional farmhouse style. Eclectic design choices are encouraged.
Builders are emulating retailers by offering an enhanced digital experience, modern design, and the personal touch of curated information. In doing so, they are creating easier ways to get buyers into homes. Through the convergence of digital and physical worlds, builders can offer more convenience to buyers. As consumers have less time and less patience to research and shop, you as the builder can offer accessible, deeper information to help guide the home buying process.