The Three Rs That Drive Consumer Buying

Over the past few months, my washing machine has begun to act possessed: Half the time, it sounds like it’s trying to make a break for it, while the other half, it goes so deadly quiet, I can’t tell whether it’s stopped working entirely or is just quietly plotting against me (perhaps with the help of the dryer, which is acting equally suspicious).

Although I’d like to pretend it’s just a phase that all washing machines go through, deep down, I know it’s probably time to shop for a new washer/dryer.

I did a little pre-shopping this weekend and, like most of my iPhone-toting friends, I multi-tasked, pulling up reviews of the models on my phone as I looked at them. As I did so, I couldn’t help but wonder, does this make me one of the “new” consumers we keep hearing about?

For the past few years, everyone’s been talking about how consumers have changed: their priorities, their product preferences, the way they think and plan and buy.

Yet as I walked up and down aisles of washer/dryers – a little overwhelmed, a little confused, trying to be practical, yet tempted by all of the bells and whistles that I don’t really need (but boy are they cool!), and wishing someone would just tell me which one to buy – I don’t know that I’ve changed so much as a consumer.

Yes, I’ll comparison shop online, look at different models and read the reviews (because hey, it seems only right that I do something smarter with my smart phone than just play Angry Birds). But in the end, I’ll probably ask people I know and trust for a product recommendation, and I’ll buy from a reputable company with a salesperson who makes me feel comfortable.

Interestingly enough, this makes me like a lot of other “new” consumers – who may have new priorities, thanks to the lasting impact of the recession, but who aren’t that “new” at all when it comes to their desire to buy quality products from people they trust. In fact, in one of the most interesting findings from the latest KBDN survey, the three Rs (referrals, reputation and rapport) were shown to be the top three factors driving the buying decision (see related Survey, Page 38). Social media, Web site content, showroom displays and product selection were far less important in closing the sale than establishing your firm as a trustworthy source, winning referrals and establishing a good rapport with prospects. Even the ever-present budget issues were cited as less important buying influencers than trust.

So what does that mean to you as a kitchen and bath design professional? While today’s consumers are certainly more tech savvy and value-conscious than in years past, in the end, it still begins and ends with the connection you make with them.

The survey, which polled kitchen and bath dealers and designers across the country about what consumers want, how they shop and what motivates them to buy, also had some positive news about spending, with those polled seeing an increase in consumer spending on kitchens.

Additionally, prospects are visiting fewer showrooms than one might expect – with nearly 60% visiting only one or two showrooms before making their buying decision, according to survey respondents. Of course that doesn’t mean they’re not “cyber visiting” showrooms to narrow down their choices, which only underscores the importance of having a strong online presence. But, if the survey is any indication, once you have them in your showroom, they are yours to win – or lose. And that’s where trust comes into play.

There’s no doubt that a lot has changed in the past few years, and that includes the consumer. But it’s important to remember that beneath the high-tech, iPhone-toting, value-conscious exteriors, most consumers still have a little bit of that slightly overwhelmed, trying to be practical yet tempted by all of the bells and whistles, wishing someone would just tell them which one is best feeling.

Whatever they’ve researched, whatever they know, whatever their design dreams are, they still choose you because they trust your skills, knowledge and ability to understand their needs. Take care of that trust, and you will continue to have customers for many years to come.