As C-tailers compete against other luxury goods dealers, are our products' looks as important as their performance when it comes to making the sale? Depends on whom you ask.
By Nancy Klosek
For C-tailers, selling luxury-level goods as part of the entertainment package is common practice. However, it's undeniable that how the products look—almost as much as how they're presented, and even how they'll eventually perform—helps determine how well they sell.
Witness the success of flat-panel TVs among consumers who don't care so much about picture quality but crave "flat" mostly because it looks so good in their living rooms, even when it's turned off. Lots of flat panels with questionable video performance get sold every day, but one could argue that many consumers could care less about it. They want the look.
Witness, too, the success of the iPod. It wasn't the first in its category, but it's had the most profound impact. Its canny blending of design and ergonomics has even had an effect on design in other categories. Sound quality? Not much of a factor for most consumers, relatively speaking.
Looks count for much in the way products from all consumer categories are bought and sold. In CE—depending on the category, and on whether the sale is at retail or as part of an install—looks count for either more or less, depending on which manufacturers and C-tailers you ask.
"Design is the starting point for any customer conversation," says Nathan Tawil, general manager of The Source, a San-Antonio-based C-tailer whose business is still skewed to around 70 percent retail. "It attracts them. Ergonomics, of course, are also important, but for customers who are 'just looking,' a good design stops them dead in their tracks."
Once a consumer's attention is arrested, says David Ransom, general manager at Ransom's Audio Video, a two-location C-tailer based in Fond du Lac, Wis., "you still have to be active, because products don't sell themselves. It's all about the audition and demonstration given by the salesperson. You have to create real interest by presenting a life benefit—having the customer picture himself or herself on a deck on a Saturday night holding a Margarita. But you still have to ask for the sale."