There may not be a more prophetic insight from Apple founder Steve Jobs than his statement, "Some people say, 'give the customers what they want.' But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do...People don't know what they want until you show it to them."
Think about coffee before Starbucks. Did anyone know they wanted a triple shot, skinny, vanilla latte with no foam? Did you know that before 1932, diamond jewelry was a rarity? Then DeBeers came along and convinced people that diamonds are romantic and that you should put one into a ring as part of asking for a life-long commitment. By 2013, the diamond market generated more than $70 billion in sales.
The U.S. has become the largest wine producer in the world, generating $60 billion in annual sales last year, double from the sale of wine in 2002. What do diamonds, smartphones, coffee and wine teach us? Similar to homeowners looking to build a dream kitchen, the key to the consumer's heart and wallet is not to ask what they want because they don't really know. Instead, look to influence their decision making by focusing on educating and making emotional connections.
The dominate educators in the wine industry are wine critics who publish reviews based on point systems such as the Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Wine & Spirits among others. These critics, similar to some restaurant and theater critics, can have tremendous influence not only on demand but also on pricing. When Wine Advocate publisher Robert Parker gave the 1982 Chateau Petrus a perfect 100 score, the price of the case went from $300 to $3,000 almost overnight.
Expert reviews drive the wine industry, and this is not dissimilar to the impact both positive and negative reviews can have on a showroom's operations. The lesson for kitchen and bath showrooms: