Five Questions with Room & Board

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the oversized fabric swatches at Room & Board are fantastic marketing tools because they allow customers to truly see what they’re going to get when they’re looking into purchasing furniture pieces with custom upholstery.

The Room & Board Marketing department put me into contact with Sarah Garcia, a Design Associate in the Oakbrook store, who was kind enough to answer five questions about the fabric swatches and the marketing strategies in place at Room & Board. Here’s what Sarah had to say:
  1. How did Room & Board come up with the idea for the large fabric swatches?

    Several years ago we recognized the benefit of the larger samples as a working tool for design associates and customers. We worked closely with our upholstery vendors to implement the samples and our store visual team to create the best experience for our customers.

  2. Have you been able to judge the impact of the big swatches on furniture sales? Can you tell a difference in the way customers behave in the showrooms because of the large swatches?

    The large fabric swatches in the stores create a strong tactile and visual experience that increases customers’ engagement and interest. It's not uncommon to find sofas or chairs with large stacks of fabrics draped over them as customers contemplate their options. It's so easy to envision how your furniture will look when the fabric is draped over the frame. The large swatches also allow customers to interact more with the furniture, giving them the opportunity to sit on the fabric and get a sense of how their upholstery will feel once it’s on the piece.

  3. Room & Board will ship up to ten swatches of fabric to a household for free. How did this come about, and has it been successful?

    The idea of providing fabric swatches originated in our Shop From Home group. It was a logical progression and a natural part of the phone conversation to be able to offer the ability to show customers what their fabric would look like prior to a piece being delivered, but only if you were on the phone with a Design Associate. Several years ago, we made the swatches available online and as a result, saw a direct increase in upholstery sales.

    As a rule of thumb, usually when fabric swatch requests are up, we see an uptick in sales. Customers seem to appreciate this option whether they live near a store or not. All small fabric swatches are available in each store location for customers to take with them.

  4. In an industry that seems to be dominated by sales cycles, Room & Board seems to buck that trend and hold its prices constant throughout the year. So what defines the R&B brand and what makes it different from its competitors?

    We have established partnerships with small, family owned companies and artisans across the country with whom we collaborate to create quality furniture to last a lifetime (some of these partnerships go back 20 years!).

    Our design associates do not work on commission, allowing our customers to shop at their own pace and build relationships with people they feel comfortable working with. We are available to assist with everything from floor planning and offering advice on options, to providing in-depth product information. At Room & Board, customers have the flexibility to customize many products to truly make a piece their own (beds, chairs, sofas, pillows, dining chairs, solid wood cabinets, dining tables, rugs, mirrors, etc.).

    Customers can choose to shop at a store, online, or over the phone, and will receive the same high level of service – an excellent and consistent customer experience is what we strive for at Room & Board.

    Our outstanding delivery associates are also well versed on product knowledge and always ready to answer questions (in addition to removing their shoes when they come into your house to place your furniture).

  5. Would you ever consider having two of each large swatch per store and allowing customers to pay a deposit and check a swatch out for the night so they could take one home?

    Due to space constraints in the showrooms we only have one sample for each of our design centers, however we are always happy to bring samples to a customers home as part of a design housecall, and we also allow customers to check out samples overnight.
Add This to Your To-Do List
I said it in my first post on Room & Board and I’ll say it again:

Take a step back and look at what you sell and how you present your products or services to your customers. Is it really, REALLY easy for customers to picture the end product? If not, how can you make it easier? Brainstorm a few ideas and pick one to put into use. I’d love to hear what you came up with and how it went.

There’s never a lack of ideas.

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