KBB retailing in a post-Covid world

How can KBB retailers adapt to the ‘new normal’? Alex Ainge, MD of Compusoft, explores this question and gives KBB retailers practical ways to build up their business with this new way of working

As I write this in February 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic and all the restrictions that come with it, rumble on. A new lockdown is set to remain in place until at least March, and even with mass vaccinations currently being administered, there is no apparent easy route back to normality as we knew it, back in 2019.

Over the past year, KBB businesses have been forced to close their doors and find new ways of operating and engaging with customers. Retailers have had to be inventive to attract potential clients. From online appointments, virtual showroom tours to connecting on other online platforms, retailers’ determination and creativity have been great.

And while, at some point in the future, things may go back to how we remember them before the pandemic hit, there is also a chance that some of the changes brought about by Coronavirus, might stay with us for the long term. If this is the case, how do we adapt to the ‘new normal’ and continue to thrive?

Online marketing

With footfall currently non-existent across showrooms, and unlikely to return to ‘normal’ levels any time soon, online marketing and social media engagement is even more viral for generating precious leads.

There are plenty of ways to improve your online presence – with a combination of a website and presence on social media platforms. All your online channels must be properly integrated to engineer a user journey that is much more likely to convert interest into an actual sale.

Firstly, your website must be SEO-optimised, clear and engaging. There is no point having a great website if people can’t find it. You’ll need keywords that your target audience are likely to be using dotted throughout the copy. You should aim to keep sentences short and snappy to keep visitors engaged.

Ensure that you have plenty of images of both the products you sell and completed projects. Case studies are a great way of demonstrating what you’re capable of and a blog is a great way of bringing visitors to your site if you link your blog to your Instagram feed.

Social media engagement

Try to have as many avenues for interaction open as possible, as any of these could be the route to a decent lead. Social media is good for a direct, immediate chat, but not so good for anything longer form, so make sure your email address is clear and that you respond quickly to enquiries.

Platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, offer a simple and straightforward route to direct contact with existing and potential customers. Here, you can showcase your latest work, and give interested parties the opportunity to chat with you. Being open in this way and encouraging that one to one communication also really helps to promote greater levels of trust in your brand.

Remember that your previous happy customers are one of your greatest assets and that these social media platforms are where this word-of-mouth recommendation is most likely to be spread. Make sure you encourage your customers to leave reviews and positive comments on your Facebook and Instagram feeds.

A customer satisfaction questionnaire could be a good way of generating this information. In addition to the usual questions one might expect around the quality of the work, and attitudes and promptness of fitters, you could also include more topical questions around hygiene, safety and compliance with Covid-19 restrictions. These could be important considerations for customers, and all this information would offer greater peace of mind for anyone looking to purchase a kitchen at this time. 

Traditional advertising

Advertising is often something that is not too high on the agenda of most small independent KBB businesses. Many prefer to simply rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. But, for those not able to get online or communicate easily with those in their local community, this might be an avenue worth exploring, particularly while showrooms remain closed.

Of course, independent KBB businesses simply don’t have the level of advertising and marketing budget enjoyed by the big multiple retailers and sheds. Most independents can’t engage the consumer via their TV. But although independents are unable to put together slick, shiny ad campaigns and get them on the box, there is plenty you can do on a local level, to try and stay ahead of that competition.

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Local radio advertising is significantly more affordable than TV advertising, and it’s obviously going to be focused on your target audience because it is local. With people working more from home, and older people staying in and potentially shielding, there is a good chance they’ll have the radio on, so choosing a day time slot might be the best bet.

Local glossy magazines too, are a favourite for many retailers. Ads here are fairly inexpensive and can be used to complement a larger ad campaign that you might have running in a national interiors’ magazine.

Also, ensure you’re featured on the ‘Find a retailer’ sections of the websites of all your suppliers – that way, if they’re advertising, and someone is interested and visits the brand site, they will be more likely to find you.

The key is to a good message is to keep it simple and really focused on your target audience.

Sell what makes you special – your attention to detail, the level of personal service you can offer, which the sheds simply cannot. Focus on the fact that your business model is about quality and tailored service, where the sheds’ business model is about volume.

During this pandemic, the ideas of investing in the local community and buying local have become increasingly important, so put yourself at the centre of this ethos.

Flexible working

It’s highly likely that after lockdown restrictions end and showrooms and offices can open again, a significant percentage of the workforce will continue to want to work flexibly, perhaps with a few days in the office, and a few at home.

Homeworking is now familiar to nearly all of us. Managing the life/work balance becomes complicated when those two, normally separate compartments, are intermingled while kids might be at home too. But there are ways that you can remain sane and be just as productive while working at home, and this involves some separation.

Make yourself a routine and try not to stray from it. Figure out a start time, plan a break for lunch and take it, ideally away from your screen. Make sure that when you’re done for the day, you are done. Put away the laptop even if you must respond to emails on your phone.

There’s a chance that while working from home, you might forget to turn off the ‘off’ switch, as the trigger of leaving the office or showroom is no longer there to prompt you. But being ‘on’ all the time could lead to burning out, so sticking to the routine is important, particularly if you think you might be working from home for longer than a month or two.

Many of us are now used to virtual meetings via Zoom and Microsoft Teams and can communicate easily and instantly via chat platforms like Slack, but now business and showroom management is possible using the new cloud-based version of our kitchen design software, Winner Flex.

Winner Flex puts everything you could possibly need for your kitchen retail business, all in one place and accessible from anywhere, so that customers can be flexible about where they work. Users can work on the same designs in the office and at home with access to all projects and catalogues, with settings updated to the cloud and accessible everywhere.

We’re all in this together!

Ultimately, we know how stressful this time is for many of our customers right now, and this tool has been specifically designed to offer peace of mind, as retailers know they can work where ever they are, and with whatever life throws at them.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many of your clients will be working from home and that the requirements for their kitchens may well change as a consequence. It might be the case that rather than having a kitchen that is entirely open plan, customers may opt for a more zoned design, which incorporates some private or semi-private working space away from the main activity of the kitchen.

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