How do you compete with a big-box store? Most local businesses have asked themselves this question. The answer, in the case of Coast Appliances, was to implement tools that allowed them to connect with customers in a different way.


With 17 locations across Canada, Coast Appliances isn’t necessarily small, unless you compare them to big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Those two alone accounts for almost half of major-appliance sales to Consumer Reports members. Big-box stores like these often have more resources and can be hard to beat.


While Coast Appliances has traditionally and primarily focused on selling to multi-family builders and corporate accounts, Scott Wong, Marketing Manager at Coast Appliances, says that in the past few years they’ve been branching out to the retail sector. This means competing more with the Lowe’s and Home Depots of the world. As he told us, “We’re trying to grab a larger piece of the retail pie.”


Thinking out of the box.


Many of the Coast Appliance retail stores are situated in industrial areas where there isn’t a lot of natural foot traffic. “Our customers often have to make a special trip to come and see us,” Sales Trainer Greg Purgavie told us. “A lot of our business has to come from previous relationships and word-of-mouth.”


The Coast team has been focusing on finding ways to make it a more delightful experience to visit their showrooms. “We’ve been doing a lot of renovation in our stores”, Scott told us. “We’ve added live kitchens where we put on cooking demonstrations and that sort of thing. We also represent more than 50 different brands and have a large inventory, so we likely have any appliance a customer is after.”


On Greg’s side, he’s made it a point to have the best sales force in the market. “We focus a lot on teamwork and culture. Our sales teams work with each other as well as with the customer,” he told us. “So it’s a lot less cutthroat than at other appliance retailers.”


Greg and his team also take special pride in having one of the most knowledgeable sales forces out there. Each salesperson goes through a constant and continuous training program throughout the year. Additionally, many employees throughout the company have been in the business for 30 or more years and are comfortable dealing with complicated logistics and specifications, making it much easier for the customer to get the right appliances for their needs and budget.


With all of these factors, Greg and Scott are confident in Coast’s store experience. But even when you have everything dialed in at a store level, it means nothing unless you can get more people through the doors.


Starting with reviews.


When Scott started to look more closely at ways to increase sales opportunities, he found that negative reviews were hurting them. “People would go online to look at ratings and there we’d be at the bottom of the heap,” he told us. “It wasn’t a true reflection of Coast; it was just that the only people leaving reviews were those with complaints. Every company gets negative reviews, but for us it was the only side we were showing.” They wondered how they could fix that.


That’s when Scott heard about Podium. He signed up and turned it on. Suddenly, getting five-star reviews was as easy as pressing ‘send’. The company on a whole earned more than 900 five-star reviews in the last half of the year, simply by having an effective way to ask for them. Scott was excited about the results they were getting, but he was especially excited about what came next.


The one change.


Scott told us about a phone call he had with his Podium rep, Jason, a few weeks into the preliminary stages of exploring Podium. At the time, Coast Appliances didn’t have any form of online chat. Customers were only able to connect with Coast through phone or email. “Jason showed me Webchat and I definitely felt that this—along with the review platform—had the potential to really help Coast,” Scott told us.


It’s not that Scott had never thought of adding a chat feature to the website. They were just worried that it would create more problems than it would solve.


“Personally, with a chat feature, I always wondered, ‘Who’s going to sit here and respond to everything?” Scott told us. “And then when I saw that Podium Webchat worked through text messaging and that we could assign them to the appropriate branches, I instantly saw the possibilities with the platform.”


That’s when he put the wheels in motion with the Coast team to have Webchat added to the Coast Appliance website a few weeks after launching Podium Reviews.


Convenience meets ROI.


Since launching Podium Webchat and Reviews, sales leads have steadily increased in a way that has definitely opened up eyes at Coast. The program has essentially paid for itself. With the recent launch of Coast’s new e-commerce website, Podium has become an important tool in Coast’s fight to establish itself in the extremely competitive arena of major appliance retail.