[EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on the response to the annual “Showroom Showcase,” we are introducing a regular column that focuses on a single showroom to discuss why it was built the way it was, how it is used by the sales team, and the effect it has had on the business.]
When Eric Crawford started The Loop in Boise, Idaho, back in 2005, he didn’t think he needed a showroom. “My philosophy was it’s better not to have an experience center because that’s just a bunch of cost of square footage and maintenance and inventory and everything else,” he says. “I can be more price competitive by not having one or charge the same amount and be more profitable.
“But what I realized was that the majority of clients in our market have never done anything like the solutions that we offer. They’ve never spent $50,000 or a $100,000 or half a million dollars on a system. So, they are coming to us looking for solutions, and a showroom is needed for them to see, feel, and understand the solutions available.”
When The Loop moved to its second space, it included a showroom that displayed the gear, including various touchpanels, racks, mounts, speakers, and televisions. They even showed off an impressive rack, both front and back, that powered all the gear in the showroom, but the clients were not interested in the behind-the-scenes work — they were looking for The Loop to make the gear selections; their concerns were more about the features they could expect.
Now in its third location, The Loop has tried a new approach. “One of the lessons we learned from the previous space is that our industry is constantly changing,” Crawford says. “And our showroom needs to be able to adapt to that quickly, easily, and inexpensively.”
The answer for The Loop was to create a series of what Crawford calls “storyboards” that hang on the wall and explain the various services the company can provide. This was also when he realized that, rather than a showroom, his clients were looking for an experience center; a space where they could touch, feel, and experience lighting systems, automation systems, tunable lighting, surveillance, and more, first-hand.
“The storyboards allow us to share the story about The Loop, from the almost 20-year history and industry-leading certifications to each ‘system’ that they can add to their home or business, whether it is lighting systems, window treatments, AV, or so much more. It allows them to easily evaluate each vertical that we offer and determine if it is important to them. We try to avoid mentioning specific brands and talk more about the features that the clients are getting, because we’ve found that our clients are more interested in the final experience than the brand name on the device.
Related: Scenes From a Showroom
“Every single storyboard uses the same platform. They’re all the same size, they all use the same mounting system, they all have low-voltage and high-voltage behind them, so we are able to make changes quickly and inexpensively. What we can do on any one of those is pop the display panel out and snap in a new or different one. We’re already making some changes and we’ve only been here for a year.”
The Loop does include some traditional demos, including a home theater area and a smart lighting section that appeals to local designers. “There’s an area here where we have five recessed Philips Hue tunable white bulbs that are tied into Control4,” says Crawford. “The purpose of that space is for designers to come in with their color swatches and then go through different colors of white — what does this blue look like under 2700? What does it look under 3000? How about 5000?”
The lighting area also provides the biggest “wow” for customers. “There are two areas in the demo space that we notice are the most powerful,” says Crawford. “One of them is clients realizing that, when they’re building a home, they no longer need to have a light switch for every single load. The second one is when they see the Nora Iolite series, which is a completely trimless, recessed light. When people see that they’re getting the same light output from a 2-inch or a 4-inch LED that they would be getting from a 6-inch standard housing, and that the design of that light completely changes the look of the room because now when you’re looking across you’re not seeing all the fixtures, you’re simply seeing the light being produced, they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I want that.’”
The evolution of the space has come from a knowledge of the Boise market and from Crawford knowing how The Loop is positioned in the market. For example, he mentions that in Idaho custom installers face challenges because of the lack of regulation in the area. “In the state of Idaho there is no requirement to have an architect on a residential project, nor does the system integrator need to carry any certifications or complete any testing,” he says. “This results in some building companies and complementary trades seeing all low-voltage companies as being the same. This was a critical messaging part of our experience center — to show that The Loop was different than many of our perceived competitors.
Related: The Showroom as a Destination
“That’s why when we tell our story to potential clients we start by saying, ‘In Idaho, our industry is unregulated, but we want to share with you that we’ve self-regulated to give you the assurance that we know what we’re doing.’ Then we talk with them about infrastructure and the wiring and why it is an important part of every project. Then we go into safety and security on the infrastructure side. Next, we talk about the integration of all these systems and the potential benefit of a platform like Control4. And we close out helping them understand today’s recessed lighting options, including both color and design, so they have the tools they need to create their home the exact way they desire.”
The focus on integration is how The Loop presents itself to its market. “When I teach classes at CEDIA Expo, I share with other integrators that they need to define what sandbox they are playing in,” says Crawford. “That’s really important. We have a competitor here in town that does high-end, 2-channel, name-brand electronics. That’s the sandbox they play in, and we don’t. We made a very conscious choice not to do so because we’ve realized that is not our core competency, so we refer those kinds of projects to that competitor.
“Figure out the sandbox where your integration company is going to operate, and then your experience center needs to tell that story. If your story is high-end audio, then your experience center needs to share that story. If it’s integration, like with us, it’s very much about that story of integration and bringing everything together.”
For more information, visit theloopboise.com.