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Nancy Klosek

Strategies for Selling to Women Spotlighted at Nationwide Virtual PrimeTime

By Nancy KlosekMarch 31, 2021

Bridget Brennan, author of “Why She Buys: Winning Her Business and Why,” stated in her presentation to retailers at Nationwide Marketing Group’s PrimeTime event March 18 that while certain conditions were not within their control – most notably, the pandemic, that they were “100 percent in control of customer experiences.” With that assumption, she proceeded to highlight the motivators that they could best leverage to capture and retain female buyers.

Brennan stressed that forging an emotional bond with women consumers could be powered by four main motivators, all of which can serve as strong influences in both women’s decision-making about choosing a store and in their remaining loyal to that choice moving forward; she then illuminated these with strategies about how to enact them.

One of the four motivators, she said, is to make women customers feel “connected. Look at your merchandising materials. Audit them. Do they use emotionally engaging language to match the way [women] think about their homes?” She said that words and phrases that suggest repurposing home spaces, or that talk up the importance in communicating to customers about wellness maintenance in the home, such as emphasizing allergy-free bedding and using the Sanitize cycle on a washer, were helpful.  On the ecommerce front, she recommended writing “better descriptions – don’t just provide ‘cubic feet’ measurements for refrigerator interiors, but rather, say, ‘This side-by-side freezer can hold 16 frozen pizzas.’ Don’t bury your story in your website.”

The next motivator is to make female buyers feel “inspired. If you’re not inspiring, you’re not selling,” she said. “Your customers can only be as enthusiastic as you are.” She encouraged dealers to ask “discovery” questions beyond “Can I help you?” and to merchandise products “in context,” along with complementary accessories.

Another motivator she cited was to help the customer feel confident about her buying choice, encouraging retailers to emphasize their policies of service after the sale, and making sure to be pro-active about following up on any aspect of the transactional experience.

Strategies for Selling to Women
(Pexels photo by Karolina Grabowska)

Finally, Brennan exhorted listeners to make female customers feel appreciated for their business, by using “gracious thank-you language like, ‘You’re welcome!’ instead of “Not a problem!’  Celebrate the purchase, by sending an email or a thank-you card in the mail – it’s a small thing [but will be remembered].” She also advised doing regular follow-ups to keep top of mind with female clients for when their next needs arise.

In the post-webinar Q&A session, Brennan acknowledged that women buyers very much miss shopping in stores “in the way they used to, taking their time and interacting with salespeople. But over the past year, retailers have opened up consumers to new ways of shopping. Within the four walls of a store, you can fully engage the five senses. The opportunity now for brick-and-mortar stores is to rethink how to deliver [similar] experiences that you can’t get online.”

Nationwide’s Wrede Projects ‘Continued Momentum’ in 2021 Appliance Sales

By Nancy KlosekMarch 31, 2021

Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, consumers have spent a record amount of time cloistered in their homes. But it has not only taxed their health and their stamina. COVID took a heavy toll, too, on their appliances, setting the stage for breakage, replacement and even upgrades – and providing the independent member dealers of Nationwide Marketing Group the chance to position themselves as solutions providers who, in the words of Nationwide VP Home Appliances Doug Wrede, remained resilient, took creative approaches, and whose performance was, he said, “nothing short of inspirational.” And he projected “continued momentum” in appliance sales through 2021.

Wrede gave this assessment during one of the opening speeches of Nationwide’s Virtual PrimeTime, which launched in mid-March online for the buying group’s membership via a streamlined platform that offered presentations and buying sessions, with replays of the presentations continuing for a month.

“You rose to face each challenge,” Wrede said. “You were there.”

And so were consumers, ready and willing to buy, and making the appliances sector a winner in terms of units sold.  “The kitchen is the centerpiece of the home,” he said, and “the continued focus on the home is why I’m so bullish on the year ahead.”

He cited home equity figures clocking at a $194,000 average per household, which is expected to drive continued strong home improvement spending.

“Despite the many headwinds of last year, including factory closures, price increases, production adjustments and backlog in demand accumulating into the hundreds of thousands of units, the tailwinds in opportunities ahead are beginning to shape up brighter and stronger in our industry,” Wrede said.  He noted that home appliance usage is three to six times higher in homes than earlier, and that accelerates the replacement cycle, with more discretionary spending aimed at the kitchen rather than outward at travel and tourism activities.

 Doug Wrede

Wrede added that while inventory recovery is somewhat tempered by “sustained high demand,” he cited “stronger” Q1 shipments due to higher factory yields, fewer promotional models’ availability and less discounting carried over from 2020.

All signs, he said, point to a continuation of the upward sales swing for appliances. He further noted that Nationwide’s performance as a group in terms of unit shipments of appliances – up 17 percent closing out 2020 – far exceeded the 6.4 percent industrywide uptick in shipments.

Wrede also talked opportunities that are presenting themselves to dealer members for 2021. They include diversification into different brands to fill need gaps, or into other categories, such as outdoor goods. He also cited luxury appliances as a lucrative sector to enter for dealers who are not already there, and said John O’Halloran had joined the Nationwide team to help members build out into that space as an aspirational category.

Stay tuned to Dealerscope for more show coverage in the next days.

Nationwide PrimeTime Talk Focuses on Disruption as Opportunity

By Nancy KlosekMarch 31, 2021

Trends forecaster Michael McQueen, in his Synchrony-sponsored “Post-Crisis Kickstart” presentation to Nationwide Virtual PrimeTime attendees March 17, offered the buying group retail members some powerful advice about turning adversity into opportunity – particularly germane in wake of what has perhaps been the most disruptive year ever for their businesses.

“You need to respond to disruption in a brilliant way,” he told viewers, pointing to behavioral changes forced by COVID leading to the rise in adoption of remote shopping in the last 12 months among three in four consumers. He added that the trend is expected to endure, with seven in 10 consumers likely sticking to that way of making purchases in the post-pandemic period.

How to respond, McQueen said, is to view these changes by looking past their generalized impact and being ready to take note of and relate to segmented groups of consumers by meeting them on their own terms.

As an example, Millennials don’t respond to emails as frequently as Baby Boomers, but rather favor social media as a communication method. And Gen-Z shoppers – a demographic McQueen said comprises “your future customers” – need to be related to in a completely different way. He noted that they hold $143 billion in spending clout and also have the power to sway their parents’ buying habits; they listen to social influencers, and they are passionate about issues such as sustainability. The best way to reach them, he added, is “to market through them, not to them.”  

Of all the points McQueen drove home to his audience, perhaps the most salient was when he encouraged Nationwide members to “think revolution, not evolution” – which entails “rethinking your assumptions, and those about your customers… “These 12 months have been a catalyst for revolution,” he said. “Sticking with the way things have been won’t work. Don’t miss the opportunity to be revolutionary.”

Nationwide Virtual PrimeTime Zones In on the Customer Journey

By Nancy KlosekMarch 31, 2021

Rob White, vice president of marketing for Nationwide Marketing Group, took viewers of the Virtual PrimeTime Show March 17 on a walkthrough of the changes in consumer purchasing habits in the year since the effects of COVID-19 began to be felt. The overarching message in his talk, “Understanding the Customer Journey & the Impact of COVID-19,” was that retailers must be sure to accommodate and support digital shoppers all along the route to the buy.

Putting viewers of the presentation in the shoes of the consumer, he used the example of “Betty,” a fictional but typical buyer in need of a new washing machine. White explained that part of the process in Betty’s shopping journey includes “a phase of consideration and then active evaluation” – and that journey in COVID times now begins online, in-home, and on a computer or other device, rather than in the store.

He told retail members, “If you’re not relevant [to Betty] at this stage, she won’t ever consider purchasing from you.” And he added that what really makes a retailer relevant to this shopper, especially if Betty is buying under duress (i.e., replacing an unrepairable or outdated washer), transcends product features, benefits and value, extending to engendering peace of mind after the transaction.

“The journey doesn’t stop after the sale,” he said; its continuation includes the touchpoints of delivery, installation, service, warranty and beyond. “Loyalty is a powerful word, and if you do all these things right… the next time she’ll skip consideration and evaluation and head right back to your store and your website.”  

While the customer journey is linear on paper, he went on to say, in reality, it’s complicated with considerations on both rational (i.e., models and buying channels) and emotional levels. “Emotional is not easily defined – it is driven by feelings and a path to assurance” – a sense felt by the customer that they are getting unbiased information, and that they can count on help with issues such as navigating confusing new product features.

White told members that Nationwide has dedicated teams at the ready “to help you understand your customer’s journey” by providing strategies that are regularly being “tested, adjusted and automated,” because, he added, today’s customer journey “won’t be the same tomorrow,” as it is changing along with consumer behavior and technology.

Nationwide Virtual Understanding Customer Search Routines

He noted that COVID-19 has revved up the need for retailers to improve their digital skills, citing a recent article that said online buying as a method of purchase accelerated in several weeks’ time during COVID to a point that it might have taken multiple years to evolve to, in non-pandemic times.   

Adding to the urgency of getting up to speed in digital, he said, is research showing that even 30 percent of shoppers 65-plus plan to do more online shopping in future.  Moreover, shopping locally is also a growing preference – but to capitalize on it, retailers must recognize and cater to the fact that that, according to a survey he cited, 95 percent of local-shopping consumers will now be very mindful of physical protection and social distancing, and may seek a “no-touch/low-touch” experience when they choose to shop in person.

“Retailers who embrace these trends will quickly render competitors obsolete,” White said. “The preference for local and loyalty go hand in hand. It’s something big box can’t compete with.”

Nationwide Virtual PrimeTime Talk Views State of the Economy

By Nancy KlosekMarch 31, 2021

In a Wells Fargo-sponsored webinar at the mid-March-held Nationwide Virtual PrimeTime, Sarah House, the company’s senior economist and director, presented group members with figures to back up her contention that things are looking up for the economy. The nation is benefiting from “tailwinds” such as increased vaccine distribution, falling COVID case numbers, and the cumulative effect of the government stimulus packages – the latest checks of which are being mailed across the U.S. as this is written. However, she added, pulling out of the crisis created by COVID will be a “delicate balancing act.”

Research that House shared with viewers of the webinar generally tracked a yearlong timeline from February 2020 to mid-February 2021.  Graphs displayed painted an overall picture of cautious optimism, with consumers now “in a better position to spend.” Visits to retail and recreation locations plummeted from 10 percent early in the pandemic to -47 percent by late March, but were on a recovery trajectory in March 2021, registering at around -13 percent, with more restaurant visits being made and more travel undertaken, House said.

Nationwide Virtual Prime Time - Wells Fargo Retail Sales Chart

Regarding consumer spending patterns, she commented that “COVID turned everything on its head,” with the hardest hit area being the discretionary services sector (meaning non-essential services such as restaurants and entertainment). Spending on durable goods, however, is up nearly 20 percent from a year ago – and it will likely continue to increase, but with a share shifting back towards services spending as conditions across the country improve.

She noted that the “forced thrift” visited upon consumers due to multiple factors had caused a record jump in savings behavior, because consumers were “at home, not taking vacations.”

House further observed that now, “There’s lots of fire power among consumers to spend, once they feel it’s safe to go out,” adding that increased confidence among buyers would likely build, moving toward 2022.

One of House’s charts showed various retail sectors and how they fared in the pre-pandemic-to-February-2021 stretch. So where are consumers spending? Online commerce, unsurprisingly, was by far the biggest winner, with “non-store” retailers’ sales up 27 percent in that slice of time. Sales of building materials were also up 16 percent, and sales of for-use-at-home sporting goods like trampolines and fitness equipment ticked upward by 15 percent.  Those retail sectors that lost the most momentum included restaurants (down 17 percent) and clothing merchants (down 13 percent).

Electronics retail stores – most of whom also carry appliances – the data show, reported sales that were down just 4 percent. House added to her observations that the Federal Reserve, having learned from earlier experience, “has been reactive to the crisis to keep the financial system from seizing up, as it did in 2008.” And she offered an optimistic future scenario with regard to employment. Job losses were more modest during this past year for those who have segued to working-from-home status, with losses being more keenly felt in the lowest pay-level sectors. Generally speaking, though, employment projections indicate a “relatively fast recovery by the end of 2022. Worker demand is there and employers are ramping up their hiring.”