Whilst restrictions are now lifting, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused established business practices to be turned on their head. However, the experiences of the last year have shown that some of the changes have proved to offer tangible benefits and are likely to now be a permenant feature of merchant operations moving forward. One example is that of the ‘virtual showroom’, with a number of approaches delivering successful results. PBM reveals more.
Combining sales and marketing support with rewards to its most committed stockists, Lakes has recently signed up its 150th customer to Lakes Partners — its ‘mutually beneficial partnership programme’ that was launched in March 2020, immediately before the first lockdown.
Developed to drive awareness and help Lakes’ stockist partners sell more, the programme offers tailored support through different tiers to allow customers to choose the level that best matches their current capacity and commitment. Last summer, Lakes expanded the programme to include exclusive access to its innovative online showroom — described as a pioneering lead generating tool that allows trade and end-user customers to browse and favourite Lakes products, request joint-branded brochures, and contact stockists directly to ask questions or place an order.
Accessed via a stockist’s own website, the online initiative has proved to be a timely boost to a sector constrained by the closure of physical showrooms. Paul Burnett, Commercial Manager with Lakes Partner Gibbs & Dandy, said: “We added the online showroom to our website because it allows our customers to browse all of Lakes products as we don’t have space to display them all in our branches. It’s easy to direct customers to the embedded website if they need more information and can easily browse at home too, and all without leaving our site.
A similar philosophy of maximising the newly-realised benefits of virtual communications and enhanced digital services underpins the thinking behind the partnership between Jones Digital and Virtual 360° Tours Glos. Creating a “totally immersive, virtual reality tour that is tailored to KBB showrooms”, the service is able to provide a “stunning visual aid” to market any showroom location, using the high-tech Matterport 360 camera to create “pinpoint accurate 3D tours”.
The partnership cites statistics which report that websites which offer virtual tours gain 83% more interest than those without and Jones Digital’s Peter Jones said: “Having the added benefit of a virtual tour is a proactive way to have an edge on the competition and serve an already captive audience without needing your physical store to be open. We have already begun to disrupt the narrative of our industry, transforming how retailers are able to communicate and engage with their customers and this is why we are overwhelmed by the positive results so far.”
Scott Currie, Managing Director at Virtual 360° Tours Glos, added: “Peter and I found we had a common goal — to unreservedly support the specialist retailer. From there, we decided to team-up and share the benefits of digital storytelling as with the addition of a virtual showroom tour, you can support everything you say to your customer with well-rounded visuals and interactive mapping of your showroom and all-important product displays. We have found that serious customers will visit a virtual showroom up to seven or eight times, so you can be safe in the knowledge you’re able to engage with self-selecting clients who are keen to spend with you.”
In just six months of the partnership, 106 Showroom Tours have already been filmed and completed which are said to have generated 632,507 unique visits and page impressions to its clients’ online showrooms.
For more information, go to:
Virtual 360 Tour: www.virtual360toursglos.co.uk