Customized home furnishing in India – impress your customers

Customized home furnishing in India is not a new thing. Like many other sectors, this has also been largely unorganized and a major overhaul in the way it operates is long overdue. The first wave of innovation was brought in by Godrej few years back with their custom modular kitchen offerings. While they might have not translated this into a big business model, a slew of other companies followed this idea and are now operating at larger scales.

We now have a good number of local operators in every city offering customized furnishing products for the entire house. Also present are some really good online firms like Urbanladder, Snapdeal, Fabfurnish, Homelane, Pepperfry and  CustomFurnish. Housing as an industry is never going to decelerate given the way our population is growing. There could be pressure on margins but the market as such will continue to grow. The same applies to these home furnishing firms as well. Hence I see a good number of firms jumping into this bandwagon in near future.

What is currently wrong with this industry

In Metro Cities, an average 2 BHK requires about Rs 3 lacs for entire home to be furnished. A 3 BHK furnishing cost hovers around Rs 5 lacs. Of course, there are a variety of choices a customer can make which would vary the final prices (like the type of body material, internal material, joints, shapes, sizes, etc). One really irritating thing you will find with all the current firms is the way they present you a quotation after getting the basic measurements. They just print/mail a flimsy 1-page Excel spreadsheet quoting prices as high as Rs 5 lacs. What makes these companies think customers will “accept” such rudimentary ways when they are expecting high value business transactions?

How other industries handle customer interaction

You do not have to look too far to understand how it should be done. For example, lets take the example of a car manufacturer. Actor Ranbir Kapoor goes to weddings, hair saloons and other places in this Renault TV advert. As a customer, you get impressed by the car and walk into a nearby dealer to buy it. rk-rk

What is the one thing a sales rep in dealership will ALWAYS ask you to do? “Sir/Madam, why dont you take a test drive”. No matter which car company or dealer, they will ask you to take a test drive. They do it because no matter how the car is made or how it is advertised, every customer is unique and every customer appreciates, connects and uses that car in a unique way. Most important thing for the salesperson is to create a connection between the car and the customer.

Ways to improve customer engagement while making a sale

Custom furnishing industry today tries to sell their products/services by following means:

  • Show some pictures of what they have done at other customer sites
  • Throw up some designs based on customer specifications
  • Just in thin air, explain to customer how the final product would look like

While all these are needed, what is missing is enabling the customer to visualize how their current kitchen/bedroom looks like when the products are installed. That is the most important thing. Remember the car dealer example – customer sits inside the car, his/her family also gets in, they drive in a real world road that the customer uses regularly.

Translating these best practices to home furnishing world

Key thing to make a lasting impression on customer’s buying experience is enabling them to see how the design fits into their homes. It is not as difficult or expensive as you might be thinking

Kitchen01 Start with hand sketching. Once the designer/consultant/architect goes to the customer’s home for measurement, next step should be to take few minutes there itself and present hand sketches of various configurations and how they look in customer’s home. These sketches can be drawn with pencil on paper or by using a tablet device.
Tablet device is advisable so that you show the customer various color combinations and furnishings fitted into customer’s home – virtually. This makes a lasting impression and helps customer in taking quicker decisions. A a company, you have to ensure that the personnel on ground can make decent sketches. But then, you would not hire a designer who cannot draw, would you?
Another way to impress customers is by using wooden blocks. For example, have prebuilt wooden miniatures for various types of shelves in a kitchen. Imagine you are playing with Legos blocks. Now, looking at the customers Kitchen layout and usable space, place these wooden blocks to create a complete model. This model makes a good connection with the customer and also has the advantage of getting assembled at the customer site itself in less than an hour. No expensive software or materials are required. wooden-dollhouse-furniture-plan-toys-kitchen
3d_drawing Pushing the envelope further, another way to make a quotation all the more appealing to customer is to provide 3D drawings of customer kitchen with various types of shelves. As this is software driven, there are no limits to what you can do. Color combinations, material combinations, configurations, sizes etc, everything is visualized by customer as it would look in their own kitchen.
This is obviously a costlier option and cannot be done while at the customer premise.
One last uber cool thing that can be done is to use 3D printing. Once there is enough confidence that the customer is interested in your designs, the ultimate way to wow your customer is to present a 3D printed model of their kitchen, with chosen configuration and colors. Yes it costs some money, but given home furnishing is a high value business, companies should invest more to influence customers decisions. 3d_print

Summarizing it all

Customer furnishing business is an expensive one due to high cost of raw material and scarcity of skilled labor. Hence it becomes imperative for such companies to make the customer believe in their vision and product. This starts with an effective buying experience that not only makes the customer feel and visualize the product, but also enables these companies to demonstrate what they can offer within the requirements/constraints of the customer.

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