What follows are compilations of the answers from the second part of our survey about retail advertising among home fashion retailers, managers and designers/decorators, which ran in the June 1998 issue of D&WC. These questions were more detailed than those in Part 1. (D&WC, July 1998, results reported in D&WC, November 1998.) Respondents had to provide percentage estimates, usage rankings and opinions that required time and consideration.
Most responses in Part 2, as in Part 1, came from independent specialty store owners and managers, also from decorator shops and interior design studios. These results should be especially interesting to anyone involved in those retailer/supplier areas. Marketing people in any area should find some helpful information in the rankings and opinions that follow.
• Question 1: Sales Volume per Category
The first question we asked was to list the percentage of window covering sales by major categories.
1. Residential (homes, condos, etc.) 100% Residential sales only 25 Between 75% and 90% of sales 56 20% or less 19 In-home sales? 94% 75% or more of sales 61 50% or more 70 In-store sales? 61% 50% or more of sales 31 less than 50% 38 2. Contract (offices, restaurants, etc.) 75% In-home sales? 70 50% or more 45 25% or less 62 In-store sales 45% 50% or more 45 25% or less 62
Confused? Very understandable. To me, the answers verify results of past surveys and those we've all observed in our industry:
• Residential sales are the core business for window coverings outlets. However, 75 percent of the total do report varying percentages in contact sales.
• In both residential and contract markets, most reporting stores with custom products rely more on in-home sales than those in-store. As noted before in Part 1, this is undoubtedly true to a greater extent for specialty and interior design stores/studios than in other kinds of home fashion outlets.
• Question 2: Best Contact Sources
What are your best sources for custom and in-home leads? (Ranked in order.)
1. Word of mouth 100%
Certainly, one of the best, if not the best source for window covering customer leads. Fifty-six percent rated word of mouth first and the remaining 44 percent rated such personal advertising as second.
2. Community involvement 62%
Closely related to word of mouth for the number of contacts that bring in solid sales leads.
3. Directory Ads 56%
All respondents ranked this excellent lead source at least third or higher.
4. Newspaper Ads 44%
All respondents ranked these fourth or higher. This year's percentage is more than double the 18 percent reported in a similar survey 10 years ago.
5. Model Homes or Home Shows 43%
Also much higher than in past surveys.
6. Storefront signage 33%
Walk-in traffic is a good source, too.
7. Consumer "how-to" clinics 19%
Also a higher percentage than in past surveys.
8. Telemarketing 6%
Apparently, specialty stores/studios do not consider cold calls as effective as reported 10 years ago. One reason might be the adverse public reaction to the overuse of telemarketing in all marketing areas.
Some individual respondents reported other sources for sales leads including such activities as new home list calls, radio and television spots and holding networking breakfasts.
• Question 3: Advertised Benefits
Which benefits are emphasized in your custom and in-home marketing? (Ranked in order)
1. Free Consultation 75%
Sixty percent of the total ranked this benefit either as first or second.
2. Staff experience and accreditation 65%
Most responses ranked this benefit equal in value to free consultation.
3. Brand name association 60%
Rated high, mostly first, second or third, as a benefit to stress for custom and in-home sales.
4. Samples, color swatches 60%
These were considered consumer assistance necessities and a major sales aid benefit for all home fashion salespeople.
5. Free measuring 50%
Only half the responses listed this benefit as an important incentive for in-home/custom sales.
6. Full color photos/books/folders 38%
Another consumer information aid considered important for in-home selling.
7. In-store displays 19%
Important assistance for walk-in traffic to make in-home decisions.
8. Fee with purchase rebate 12%
Obviously, not too many consider this sales incentive as a good tool to spark in-home sales.
Only one respondent listed sales discounts as an important factor for in-home sales. Many would argue, however, that just the reverse is true.
• Question 4: Supplier Services
Which supplier services were considered most helpful? (Ranked in order).
1. Sample book programs 87%
Most of this majority ranked such consumer aids as the No. 1 or No. 2 service provided by suppliers.
2. Salesperson services 70%
Almost half also rated this service as most important.
3. Brand name association 62%
The importance of brand name was recognized by a majority of respondents.
4. Consumer information materials 50%
Retailers rely on manufacturer's folders, brochures and related materials to help their customers in product selection.
5. Point-of-purchase displays 35%
Seems like a low percentage for this necessary service.
6. Web site information 25%
This percentage likely will increase in the near future as more retailers and suppliers communicate through the Internet on pricing, policies, ordering procedures and inventory status to increase efficiency.
7. Advertising slicks 18%
A healthy percentage rely on these and other graphic aids from suppliers for advertising assistance.
• Question 5: Customer Knowledge
Where do customers learn most about window coverings and home fashions? (Ranked in order).
1. Home decorating magazines
2. Word of mouth
(friends, neighbors, etc.) 88%
These top two rated equally, considerably higher than other information sources.
3. In-home decorator/designers 62% 3. 4. Model homes/Home shows 56% 5. Cable TV home shows 56% 6. Manufacturer's ads 50% 7. TV programs/commercials/infomercials 44% 8. Newspaper "Living" sections 38% 9. Retailer newspaper/magazine ads 30% 10. In store photos/displays/vignettes 28%
All of the above are guesstimates, really. Other than the top three categories, all were rated fairly close as indicators of fashion awareness. It is interesting to see how retailers rate information sources they perceive to be helpful to consumers and prospects.
• Question 6: Where Customers Buy
If prospects use your ideas, then buy elsewhere, where do you think they buy? (Ranked in order)
1. Mass merchandisers 88% 2. Home building centers 70 3. Mail order warehouse catalogs and ads 56 4. Department store 50 5. Decorating retailer store 44 6. Specialty window covering store/department 44 7. Internet Web site 38
Naturally, an irritating subject for independent specialty stores and studios. The high ratings for the first three classifications indicate respondents concerns with low-price volume merchandisers. Again, these answers are guesses, probably by disappointed owners and salespeople whose suggestions are used, but not their products.
• Question 7: Measuring Results
How do you measure the results of your advertising and promotions? (Ranked in order)
1. Sales volume 100%
Any advertiser will first check on sales increases, if any, during a time after an ad or promotion piece is used.
2. Number of leads generated 70%
The same reason as above. Both were ranked either No. 1 or No. 2.
3. Ad coupons form print materials 38%
An easy and reliable way to track customer awareness and response.
4. In-store traffic 31% 5. Telephone follow-up 12% 6. Outside research (agency or freelance) 12% 7. Media research figures 12% 8. Split ad comparisons 12% 9. Free offer follow-up 6%
These rankings show that most retailers still prefer to "eyeball" their research. They check sales, traffic, leads and coupons rather than invest and rely on statistical figures from media and agency polls and studies.
• Question 8: Where to Spend
If you could double your ad budget, where would you spend it? (Ranked in order).
1. More direct mail offers 70%
Direct mail, in all its varied concepts, has grown in popularity with retailers over the past 10 to 15 years. It offers numerous ways to target specific audiences.
2. Add a Web site home page 56%
Retailers are very much aware of the impact and long-range potential for Internet marketing.
3. Increase shop-at-home ads 43% 4. Increase volume and size of newspaper ads 38% 5. Increase store-image displays 38% 6. Expand in-store displays 31% 7. Increase TV commercials 18% 8. Increase radio commercials 12%
Interesting questions and answers. Retailers are always faced with difficult planning decisions. It's helpful to see what your peers would do with more funds to invest, especially in subjective, non-scientific areas such as advertising.
• Question 9: Value of Your Program
How do you rate the value of your overall ad program?
Very important 50% Somewhat important 38 Rely on word-of-mouth 11 Don't know less than 5%
• Question 10: Value of Supplier's Program
How do you rate the overall value of suppliers' brand-name ads?
Important 70% Of some importance 25 Don't know 5
Our thanks to all who participated by mail, fax or e-mail. Your peers in our industry category thank you, too. Let's hope the answers and observations will assist you in your marketing planning.
John J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and retail advertising programs.