Your website is your other shop window

Darren Taylor, MD of Hampshire-based kitchen retailer Searle and Taylor, relates how he finally bit the bullet and revamped his website to match his showroom

I am not usually that bothered by statistics, but a couple of recently published surveys have certainly caught my eye.

Firstly, the Webrooming vs Showrooming Report from PushON that came out in January highlighted that when it comes to researching big-ticket items, consumers will look online, but 79% will then visit a retailer to purchase – and kitchens are big-ticket items.

Then I noticed that the KBB retailer survey, also published in January, highlighted that 95% of independent kitchen retailers have non-transactional websites. These conclusions were not at all surprising to me, because only an insane person would think to buy a luxury kitchen – or any kitchen – online without going to visit a showroom or meet the designer. In essence, kitchen websites should provide information and most of all, inspiration.

The KBB retailer survey also delivered some other fascinating figures, in particular about how we independent retailers market our businesses. Overall, only 31% of all respondents thought their website was fantastic and the perfect shop window for them, while a staggering 61% of kitchen retailers thought they were OK, but had firm plans to make them better.

I used to be in that 61%. For years, I had plans to make my website better, but it just kept falling to the bottom of my list of priorities. In fact, on any given day, you would find me apologising to someone about it – always making a little joke about how rubbish it was to my staff, a potential client, a supplier, even my mother. It became a standard part of my sales pitch, accompanied by a hangdog face – “er, please come to my beautiful showrooms, but maybe just ignore my website.”

Another statistic from the KBB retailer survey states that just 37% of retailers believed that fewer than half of their customers had looked at their website before visiting their showrooms. I suppose that is possible if your showroom is on a busy high street with lots of passing trade, but countless showrooms, including one of my own, are not. I knew that a lot of potential clients were looking at my website in order to get directions to my showrooms, if nothing else. This meant that their first experience with my business was not at all like looking in my actual shop windows.

Change your tone

So, I phoned a friend who writes content for websites and asked her to take a look at mine and report back. Her findings didn’t make easy reading, but they spurred me into action. She said that I had to invest in my website in the same way that one invests in a beautiful display – to provide inspiration. I needed to remove any self-taken photos and get proper professional photography, and I also needed to change the tone of the wording on my website. She explained that while it is important to talk about the business, who you are, what you do and make, it is equally important to engage with the person reading the website. The old version constantly used ‘we’ and what we did, without ever referring to the word ‘you’, as in you, the client.

The photography was a big outlay, but the return on that has been amazing, as it has not just been used for my website. Every kitchen that has since been photographed has then been regularly featured in glossy magazines, and some have been used as case studies, which is fantastic for my brand.

Sound and vision

I also had my showrooms professionally photographed, and they are now featured on the website, too. Because we make bespoke kitchens, it is often difficult to describe a pocket door, or a pop-up spice rack, but they are all featured as videos on my site, so people can view short films of them in order to take inspiration for their own kitchen.

I am happy to report that I am now much nearer the 31% of retailers who think their website is fantastic. People regularly enter my showrooms and tell me, and my team, that they have looked on my website first. One very nice lady, who has since bought a kitchen, reeled off sections of my website back to me that she had practically learnt off by heart, which was a bit odd, but heartening.

The one thing I have learnt is that a website is always a work in progress. No sooner am I satisfied with how it looks than a piece of content needs to be uploaded, new imagery has to be added, I take on another supplier, or my promotions change, so it has to be updated. My shop window would never feature a promotion that has ended, and my website is my other shop window.

While my site is non-transactional – like 95% of us, I do allude to starting prices for kitchens. This is not necessarily to help sell, but to deter people from thinking that they can purchase a full bespoke, hand-painted kitchen from me for £5,000…

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