Kitchen & Bath Design News

MAR 2015

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20 | Kitchen & Bath Design News | March 2015 DPH Perspectives { Sarah Jenkinson } W e all know the famous quote from Henr y Ford, "You can have any color as long as it's black." Today that attitude seems shocking and downright wrong. We've been taught that choice is a good thing, as choice is associated with freedom. We want to have the choice to decide with whom we associate, the jobs we can hold and the products we sell. When people have freedom of choice, it enables them to control their destinies. Malcolm Gladwell ex- plains in a famous TED talk that having multiple options is a good thing, because there is no one perfect prod- uct that meets everyone's needs. To reinforce this, he cites experiments conducted by psychophysicist How- ard Moskowitz, who is best known for reinventing spa- ghetti sauce. Moskowitz was hired by Campbell Soup to help its struggling Prego line. At that time, At the time, Ragu domi- nated the bottled spaghetti sauce market. Campbell Soup was perplexed. It believed Prego had superior quality ingredients and better favor and adherence to pasta. Yet, consumers were not buying it. They tasked Moskowitz to fx the problem. Working with chefs in the Campbell Soup kitchen and conducting tast- ings of different options, Moskowitz concluded that there was no such thing as a perfect spaghetti sauce. Instead, he found that there are perfect spaghetti sauces. He discovered that Americans fell into three spa- ghetti sauce groups: those who like spicy, those who prefer plain and those who like extra chunky. In the early 1980s when Moskowitz was conducting his experiments, no one pro- duced extra chunky sauce. When Prego introduced it, extra chunky took the mar- ket by storm and generated $600 million in sales. Starbucks offers nearly 80,000 drink combinations. Whole Foods has more than a half dozen types of salt. Do spaghetti sauce producers, Starbucks and Whole Foods know something others have yet to discover about consum - er decision making? TOO MANY CHOICES? Many choices are expected in both our personal and business lives. However, what happens when there are too many choices? How do kitchen and bath custom- ers respond when they enter a showroom and see 15 dif- ferent mushroom-shaped cabinet knobs or a wall of faucets available in 32 de- signer fnishes? Search for farmhouse sinks on Houzz.com and you will have to sift through 77,000 different options. How can the Internet re- searcher make heads or tails out of 77,000 farmhouse sink choices? Most consumers who cannot fnd what they're looking for in the frst few clicks move onto something else or give up their search. The number of choices available in almost every decorative plumbing and hardware product category is staggering. Choice gives us freedom to select, but too many choices make our heads hurt and can actually drive us away. That is the theory behind psychologist Barry Schwartz' book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less . Published more than 10 years ago, Schwartz ar- gues that too many choices have a counterintuitive efect. Instead of providing a sense of well-being, too many choic- es increase levels of anxiety, depression and wasted time. Schwartz' theories were reinforced by Robb Best during several presentations he made at DPHA Annual Conferences and regional meetings. Using the prin- ciples of neuroscience, Best ofered guidance on how to structure sales approaches that correspond to the way the brain operates. He re- lates that, when showroom sales professionals ofer too many choices, the brain shuts down. The result is paralysis. Best explains that con- sumers overwhelmed by too much information can't process all of the options available to them. They simply walk away. Best's conclusions were reinforced by a Vanguard study of one million employees in ap- proximately 2,000 diferent workplaces. The study found that for every 10 mutual funds an employer offered in employee 401K programs, participation declined 2%. If an employer gave its staff 50 fund choices, vol- untary participation would decline by 10%. That meant 10% of employees were willing to bypass employer contributions to their 401k plans – free money. Why? Be- cause choosing from among 50 options was simply too difcult and took too much of the people's precious time. Now what is the Internet's number-one calling card? We have it all. If you know what you want, we'll get it for you right now and ship it for free! But what if you're not sure what you want? This is why the Internet, once considered adversarial to brick-and- mortar showrooms, is rapidly becoming a retail showroom's best friend. Where does a home- owner turn when faced with 77,000 diferent farmhouse sink options? They search Google for farmhouse sinks for a local showroom. They then visit that showroom to obtain qualifed guidance to help them walk through the selection process and pick the best suited farmhouse sink for their home or project. THE SHOWROOM'S ROLE Now that the tide is turning in the favor of brick-and-mortar showrooms, we have to stay focused on presenting the right products and preparing showroom staf to work with overwhelmed clients. In many showrooms, sales professionals let the custom- ers select products. They are often viewed as order tak- ers. It's not that these "sales" professionals do not have a superior knowledge base. Most do, and know more than their customers regardless of how much time a customer has spent doing independent research. They either volun- tarily or involuntarily leave the decision to the customer. Perhaps they don't want to be accountable for direct- ing customers to a wrong decision (though, in most cases, its more likely to be the best decision). It's easy to simply put the burden on the customer and say, "Which product do you want?" There's also another factor to consider. Too many choic- es can be confusing, but the complete absence of choice can be equally detrimental to purchasing decisions. Daniel Mochon wrote in the "Journal of Consumer Behavior" about a phenomena he called the "single-option aversion." Mochon explains that Williams-Sonoma did not understand why its custom- ers were not buying its $279 bread maker. It was the only bread maker that Williams- Sonoma offered, and yet it sat on shelves. A funny thing though occurred when the company brought in a sec- ond, more-expensive bread maker that sold for $429. When the second machine was introduced, almost no- body bought the $429 model, but sales of the lesser-priced version doubled. Is there a reason why sales of the cheaper model started to take of when a more expen- sive alternative was put on the shelves? The answer is yes. Williams-Sonoma custom- ers most likely did not know what a bread maker should cost. Was $429 too much? Customers did not know until they were ofered an alterna- tive. The higher-priced bread maker served as a reference point so that the cheaper model was perceived as a Showrooms Beneft Online Competition Consumers are increasingly relying on showroom professionals to curate the wealth of information out there on the Internet and help them make the best choices. "Consumers want choices, but not too many of them, because when consumers stare at a wall of faucets or 24 diferent cabinet knobs, they get confused and can't process diferences."

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