‘Time to stand out from the crowd’

Steve Tough, commercial sales director at Masterclass, reflects on the Covid-19 pandemic and explains why retailers must do more to help customers appreciate what they can offer

As a nation, we have been required to spend more time than ever before living, working and socialising (via video calls) in our homes. This has meant that each and every room has been subject to intense scrutiny and adaptation to fit the evolution of lockdown life and home working.

Aside from painting walls and assembling flat-pack furniture, the more significant projects, such as kitchens and bathrooms, remain top of the priority list.

The past few months have been challenging to say the least, but we have been so encouraged to see how our staff and our customers have managed to pull together to ensure we can continue to operate as best as we can.

When we look at the retail market, it’s fair to say that some retailers have got back up to speed a lot quicker than others and been proactive in their approach to new business, the showroom environment and presenting designs to new customers.

Our own retail business has seen a 75% increase in digital enquiries during the pandemic and in the absence of face-to-face meetings with customers, it is now more critical than ever to ensure the digital experience is second to none. Masterclass Kitchens also saw an increase in website traffic by 125% and traffic from all our social media channels went up by 253%.

Lockdown also marked a milestone for us as we adapted quickly to embrace a digital approach with our latest product launch. We had planned to host our customers at face-to-face events over a two-month period, held at our factory, showcasing our new launch to them, but the Covid-19 situation meant this was not possible.

The digital unveiling was fantastically well received, with the core benefit being each and every customer could receive and view the live launch at the same time. We followed it up a few days later with a live Q&A session that allowed customers to ask any questions. We have had some incredible responses and it has altered our thoughts on how we speak to our retailer network going forward.

Presenting to customers digitally means that the designer needs to be fluent with every technical detail of the product. They need to ensure they know every feature, benefit and technicality of a product and, ultimately, be able to portray how these features and benefits will enhance the customers’ use of their new kitchen in the years to come.

The result will be a customer that values the products that are being planned into the kitchen design, not allowing them to make their comparisons with the competition based on just the colour of the door that has been chosen and the design.

It is my firm belief that as an industry, we need to become ‘order makers’ and not just ‘order takers’. We need to engage the customer in a deeper level of detail to allow them to fully understand and value the features and benefits of the products designers are specifying in their projects. If kitchen specialists merely design ‘boxes on walls’, they are allowing the customer to form a direct comparison between themselves and the multiples and sheds.

As a manufacturer, we must arm designers with the full range of tools they need and ensure we continue to offer better quality designs, products, technical and sales training and support. We firmly believe that in doing this, the customers will actually value the products and features planned into their design and the control of the sale remains in the hands of the kitchen specialists rather than in the hands of
the customer.

While some manufacturers are finding new ways to limit the impact on their businesses and help the economy recover, we are doing our very best to forge ahead and continue to innovate and produce outstanding products, at an affordable price point.

We consistently strive to stand out from the crowd and ensure that we continue to operate our business in the same diligent way that we have done for the past 45 years. We have overcome challenging times before, and we are not ones to dwell on the past, so let’s all pull together and look to the future as an industry.

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