Brand Source’s Lawrence: Consumers Still Crave the In-Store Experience
iBeacon program in-store aid presented at SummitMarch 19, 2014 By Nancy Klosek
Brand Source CEO Bob Lawrence, in a “State of the Group” report to his membership at its annual Summit in Orlando Tuesday, said that in a connected world, “consumers are still looking to buy at brick and mortar” – but he stressed that the experience has to be a premium one, and that consumers have to be ushered to dealers’ doors via a similarly premium online experience.
Lawrence said the group had achieved $14 billion in sales last year through its 4,000 members, and that as of today, consumer electronics is its largest category, accounting for 45 percent of sales, with appliances making up 35 percent and the balance divided among furniture and other categories.
Lawrence presented sales stats to the general membership. He told them that for 2013 vs. 2012, all major categories carried by the Brand Source members consistently bettered those for the industry. In audio, group business rose 7 percent where industry business decreased 4 percent. Custom integration business rose 31 percent vs. 7 percent for the industry. Appliance sales were up 7.2 percent vs. 4.5 percent for the industry. The bedding category was up 5 percent vs. 2.1 percent for the industry. And furniture sales were up 4.1 percent versus just 0.7 percent industrywide.
Those figures, Lawrence said, plus the promise of sales of higher-margin UHD 4K and OLED TVs later this year, were a great basis for the group to leverage their advantage as educating specialists by improving their web presence – the first stop for most buyers today.
“Fifty percent of people who come into your store have already been to your site,” Lawrence said. “Your site is your store… Today, you need to embrace technology to increase footprints in the store,” he said, before detailing elements of 2014’s Brand Source “toolbox” – a mix of programs that he said would help dealers achieve those dual premium experiences. Here are a few highlights of what he presented:
• iBeacon: This retail tracking technology which, when a customer downloads an Android or iOS app, broadcasts data to the customer’s mobile device that includes retailer-specific information, demo videos and information on special deals or particular SKUs in a store, is being adopted for Brand Source members. “This will change POP materials forever,” he said.
• Expert Reviews: The program permits is a service that monitors and helps dealers to manage their online reviews, in addition to scanning 19 review sites to check whether there are reviews in existence there. Lawrence said 86 percent of customers use online ratings, and there is an 84 percent likelihood a customer will initiate business with a seller who has a five-star review rating.