DIY retailer B&Q is set to launch its B&Q Spaces planning and design tool to allow customers to plan their kitchen, bathroom and bedroom projects online
Customers will be able to plan their redesigns at their own pace and B&Q claims it will reduce the need for appointments with the scarce number of instore specialist designers, as well as reducing the appointment time from two hours or more to 20 minutes.
Mike Durbridge, omni-channel director at B&Q, told delegates at the Internet Retailing conference in London today that the online design and planning system would launching in stores in the next few weeks.
Refitting a kitchen, bathroom or bedroom is usually a six-month customer job, explained Durbridge. “People don’t wake up in the morning, buy in the afternoon and fit it the next day. Currently B&Q offers a linear purchasing journey, where customers can sit down with a specialist member of staff, who will design their remodel – which can take hours to design and days to even book an appointment."
But as Durbridge pointed out, customers don’t think in a linear way when making a purchase of this size. They frequently change their mind and ask for advice and recommendations.
“We need to change the way we work to meet the need of our customer,” he said.
Customers will be able to create their own designs using a B&Q web application, which can be saved to edit later from home. They will be able to collaborate with friends and family using Pinterest, Facebook and email to message others for opinions and input.
“You could invite your tradesman onto the site,” said Durbridge. “That collaboration is important in terms of emotional engagement.”
Rather than sending B&Q staff on training courses to become specialist designers, all staff will be able to help customers use the online tool.
“It is the technical enabler to transform the culture for colleagues in our stores and how it will change their working lives,” said Durbridge.
He described how the culture in B&Q between retail and online needs to be more aligned, because staff in some stores think online retail replaces purchases made in store. When it comes to sales reporting, if online is not connected to retail, retail won’t be engaged and may see online as a threat to personal targets and objects in store.
Durbridge said that, when he joined B&Q in early 2013, it was to change the reward model to connect online sales to stores that depend on geolocation technology.
“Clear reporting drives those behaviours in store, once online is no longer seen as a threat. It also helps to understand the economics of an omni-channel business,” explained Durbridge. “Our customers don’t shop or behave that way, they work across all channels.”
“Wi-Fi on its own irrelevant,” said Durbridge. “But, as an enabler, what you want to do from an omni-channel perspective is fundamental.”
The retailer hopes to implement unlimited free Wi-Fi throughout its stores by the end of the year. Durbridge said B&Q staff were calling for the same experience as customers, but HR rules need to be overcome first.
“No B&Q colleague is allowed to use their mobile phone on the shop floor – it’s a sackable offence,” said Durbridge. “It should have been a sackable offence in 1995, but today we want them to help our customers using the same technology they’re using.”
Durbridge also said free Wi-Fi increases the time customers spend in stores.
“Men look at a B&Q store as DIY porn – it’s an exciting trip, they look forward to it,” he said. “But women get in, get what they need, and get out.”
Using analytics from store Wi-Fi, B&Q can cater to the different customers, especially couples who may be shopping together. Durbridge said men tend to look at the website for technical specifications, while women look for inspiration which is giving B&Q insight on key future strategies.