One of the most important parts of the home building process for the overall satisfaction of the buyer is the design center. While the broad strokes, including house plan and budget guidelines, are often established ahead of time; while prospective buyers typically have some access to the design center and the most consequential choices they’ll have to make, the vast majority of the home design decisions are made in a single marathon session in which a design consultant is available to answer questions and serve as a general guide through the process.
A Different Kind of Planogram System for Home Builders
Like any type of display merchandising, planograms are a valuable tool for home builders—namely for measuring the performance of their design centers. There’s a catch, though. Traditional planogram systems primarily track sales figures for individual inventory items so as to help keep suppliers and sales associates keep the shelves optimized for sales and looking their best. Planograms for home building design centers work a little differently. As BUILDER Online explains, the aim of retail stores is “to keep visitors on-premise for as long as possible with as many distractions as possible and prevent them from leaving until a purchase has been made. Also, a retail store is usually a serve-yourself setup….A design center is all about focus, control, and reducing distractions. Home buyers must enter the store and then walk through its entirety, accompanied by a consultant to guide them. It’s crucial that buyers aren’t overwhelmed by all the decisions they’ll need to make.”
One way to do this is to personalize the design center for the buyer. The best example of this is the buyer’s color palette. One of the most common tips for home buyers in preparing for the design center meeting is to pick a color palette—and then stick with it. Some homebuilders are taking this a step further by creating a modular design center that can highlight choices that are consistent with the buyers’ previously stated preferences and choices.
Smarter Planogram and Merchandising Software
Creating opportunities for upsells and higher sales figures is one priority and include a handful basic metrics that most planogram and merchandising systems will track. However, maximizing short-term sales isn’t the only priority. In fact, in our opinion, it shouldn’t even be the top priority. When presenting different materials, colors, and design options on the showroom floor, clarity of presentation is critical to the overall experience. Buyers should be able to see the materials, colors, and hardware firsthand, while also having a sense of the added cost and added home value for each option. You want to create an environment that inspires the buyer to make creative, strategic investments without you also want to make it as easy as possible to focus on the choices at hand. Even in the best of circumstances, buyers will likely be exhausted by the end of the process, but that doesn’t mean they should feel frustrated and overwhelmed as well. The most successful home builders over the long run are the ones who are committed to the satisfaction of their buyers and homeowners.
As a home builder, how do you measure this satisfaction and how do you leverage it into a more successful home building company? The short answer is to get more data and then know how to act on this data. Knowing the percentage of buyers and the total number of design choices that are revised after the design center meeting can be key metrics for measuring the performance of your design center.
Whole Neighborhood Planning
Creating incentives for diverse product selection is another thing that’s different about merchandising strategies for home building design centers. For example, when a retailer sees sales of a particular product increase suddenly, they’re likely to offer this product premium placement in their planogram to maximize sales. With home builders, there is a limit to this wisdom in terms of whole neighborhood planning. You don’t want to end up three homes in a row that all look exactly the same. Many home builders and HOAs have rules about this sort of homogeny in their community planning. Design centers that highlight choices which are less common—but every bit as valuable and popular—can reduce how many future buyers are prohibited from getting their first choice.
Floor Planning Software
Floor planning for your design center is also crucial for creating the best experience for the home buyer. More than just merchandising displays for specific design choices, you need to think about the areas between the displays. Do you have enough space between the displays, and is this space helping to give the buyer a moment’s rest before the next decision point? You should think of these areas between home design displays as miniature “decompression zones” for the buyer. Do you stand to offer a better overall experience by eliminating one of the display areas altogether? Is your virtual design center and showroom floor displays working in concert together? How can you bring together floor planning software, merchandising experts, and your own home design consultant team to deliver the best home design center experience in the industry?