Tips for merchandising in store and beyond
By Carissa Gingras
Pretend you’re an interested customer looking for the latest new lawn tractor. You stop by an independent outdoor power equipment dealership and walk inside. What do you see? If it’s dusty shelves, an empty showroom, outdated signs promoting last month’s sales, or even haphazardly hung banners, would you want to make a significant purchase there? Customers expect an attractive and clean atmosphere when they walk into a dealership, no matter its size or location. This attention to detail signals quality service to consumers.
According to research carried out by Russell R. Mueller in May 2013, displays can increase sales in excess of 540 percent, and a well-planned hot spot — like next to the register or near the front door — can increase sales by 229 percent. With some simple merchandising, a clean store and a well-stocked showroom, the customer-dealer relationship can start off on the right foot and ultimately lead to sales.
At its most basic definition, merchandising can be anything that contributes to a sale and usually refers to the variety of products available for sale and the display of those products. Getting customers into your store with sales, promotions and marketing is one thing, but having them leave with a new purchase or a solution to a problem is a whole other ballgame. To be of the most help, your point-of-purchase (POP) materials should show that the products you’re selling identify a problem that customers have and that a specific product will solve that problem. This kind of top-notch merchandising, done correctly, can point customers in the right direction when they are visiting a dealership.
Superior merchandising can also help educate a shopper in a busy showroom if a salesperson is otherwise occupied. Multimedia elements on packaging or displays can also help boost the presence of products. Add audio, video or other interactive elements to POP to engage customers while they look and get a feel for products. At Briggs & Stratton, we’re testing a wide range of technologies in our merchandising to make sure it’s informative and helpful to consumers.
Have the right mix
Your square footage may limit how many products you can keep in stock at one time, but it’s important to carry a variety of products so your dealership isn’t pigeonholed by a season or particular need. If lawn tractors fill your showroom floor and all trimmers, power washers, generators and push mowers are in the back or sparsely located in the rear of your store, it would be easy to peg your dealership as only good for one thing. This is great if all your customers are only looking for lawn tractors — but chances are they need more than that one product to keep their home and yard in shape.
Along with a variety of products, offer a variety of prices. By carrying opening price-point, mid-market and premium products, you give your customers a chance to compare models and decide what works best for them.
Consistency is key
Whether it’s to do some browsing and check out the latest products or pick up a small part for a repair project, there’s a reason every customer walks in the door. Make sure their search for solutions is as easy as possible by being consistent throughout the dealership. The best kind of in-store displays, signs and posters — and even the innovative products for sale — will solve a problem for the customer.
To achieve consistency, check to see that all signage and displays match up with the messaging from vendors. Let’s say the hangtag on a piece of lawn equipment says that it is “the best in its class” and “for serious users with serious needs” and recommends users purchase this item if they have more than the average lawn to cut. In the showroom, this item is physically located next to midrange or budget models, and none of the models it’s located next to has this kind of language on its own hangtags. This placement would send a confusing message to the casual browser. Is this a top-of-the-line mower for a yard with a few acres to mow or for a small front-yard lot? Why does it seem to cost so much more than the other mowers that must be similar since they’re grouped together?
Customers may not have prior knowledge of what they’re looking for when they walk into a dealership, and clear and simple information will get them pointed in the right direction. Grouping like models or brands together is one way to achieve consistent messaging between manufacturers and dealers that benefits the consumer.
Go beyond the store
Even if you have a well-presented dealership, merchandising within a brick-and-mortar store can only go so far. Dealers can further their merchandising efforts once customers have left the store with messages about new products or specials on parts to a website and social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. With a little effort, you can build a small base of interested consumers, thus extending the reach of your showroom so customers can “visit” from the comfort of their own homes.
Of course, up-to-date information is critical for a successful online relationship with consumers. Take simple steps like making sure the current inventory is displayed online, and the correct dealership hours and contact information are available. Or, try making timely updates to websites to reflect the current season for outdoor power equipment. Put a snow blower front and center as a featured product in late fall, just before the snow starts to fly, and change the image to a power washer once spring cleaning comes around.
E-blasts or e-newsletters are also a great way to keep in touch with customers when they’re not at your store. Offer sign-up for a newsletter in store near the checkout or online through your website. These communications can of course advertise deals or new inventory, but they can also remind your loyal customers of service department hours or contain helpful tips for any home chores and projects they may be facing. By leveraging every communication channel available, dealers can keep the conversation open between the store and the consumers.
Tap into vendors for merchandising help
Vendors can be a key partner in merchandising. They often have access to new materials, as well as unique experience regarding displays and even general atmosphere of a store. If any of the displays, signs or marketing efforts isn’t working well at your particular store, check with your specific vendors and manufacturers to see if they have any solutions or plans for changes on the horizon. As a resource, they might be able to alternate materials like a different color banner that fits in with your shelving or a logo carpet near a display containing that brand’s parts. Chances are if there is a POP piece that isn’t fitting in well in your showroom, other dealerships feel the same way.
Bottom line: Merchandising can make a sale, if executed correctly
A messy store with confusing information and outdated displays can make purchasing outdoor power equipment a poor experience. Being presented with an empty showroom is no way to start off an experience with a potential customer looking for the latest in equipment offerings.
Instead, get your customers excited for a purchase with a variety of available products, an attractive store that has consistent messaging and some additional communication reach that goes beyond the showroom. Work with vendors’ and manufacturers’ resources for displays or other POP options. Make sure all seasonal equipment and even some out-of-season models are shined up and ready for viewing. New and old customers will receive an impression of your store when they walk in; make sure it’s the impression you want to give. It may just lead to more sales and an improved customer experience.
Carissa Gingras is marketing director of consumer engine and service with Briggs & Stratton Corporation. In her current role, she focuses on developing communications for dealers and consumers in the outdoor power equipment industry. She has more than 20 years of marketing experience working with both national and global companies, including General Electric, Honeywell, Ashley Furniture Homestores, Bridgestone/Firestone and Bon-Ton Department Stores.