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Winning Website Tip #9 From PERQ: How Three Home Furnishing Retailers Use Technology to Change the Way They Do Business

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Technology represents today’s industrial revolution and businesses experience change at an exponential pace. More than 80% of home furnishing shoppers do online research prior to a big purchase, yet 90% of those purchases still happen inside a store.

 

Navigating these ongoing changes requires retailers to transform both sides of the business transaction. For stores that manage to keep pace in this digital age, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to convert online shoppers into in-store sales.

 

Here’s how three brick-and-mortar home furnishing retailers endure these changing times by transforming how they do business.

Brick-and-Mortar Stores Endure

With the technology boom also came the fear that retail brick-and-mortar stores would cease to exist and salespeople would become unnecessary. Today in the U.S., online sales transactions only account for about 16% of total retail sales and is only predicted to reach just under one-third of all retail transactions by 2030.

 

“Don't be intimidated by being online and competing,” says Rachael Sylte, Marketing Director at Judd & Black Appliance, a family-owned independent appliance and barbeque company with six locations in Washington. “You need to be where your customers are, but that doesn't necessarily mean you participate in e-commerce. While most research is done online, the vast majority of appliance purchases still happen in a brick-and-mortar store.”

 

Now that websites serve as an additional showroom for retailers, it’s important to maximize the data it provides. Not only does a store’s website need to provide helpful information to consumers, it should in turn provide retailers with valuable insights about shoppers’ online behavior and personal buying preferences. The challenge that remains for many retailers: how to best utilize that consumer data to convert website visitors into showroom traffic, in-store appointments and sales?

 

“We invest so much time and money into digital advertising to direct people to our website and it can be difficult to convert them into actual sales,” Sylte says.

 

Retailers Face Common Online Challenges

Steinhafels, a fourth-generation home furnishings retailer in Wisconsin and Illinois, uses its website data to engage leads based on what they shopped for online and convince them to make an in-store appointment.

 

“Our beautiful showrooms and expert sales staff set us apart from other retailers, so getting online shoppers into our brick-and-mortar stores is a main goal for us,” says Dani Dagenhardt, Digital Marketing Specialist at Steinhafels.

 

Greenbaum Home Furnishings, a 60-year-old family-owned home furnishings retailer in Bellevue, Washington, also struggled with how to build a relationship with online customers before they visit the store.

 

“Furniture retailers needed some change, not only in the way we market, yet in the way we approach other things,” says Jon Greenbaum, Advertising Manager at Greenbaum Home Furnishings.

Stores Improve Website Experience to Assist Online Shoppers

All three home furnishing retailers decided the best solution was to meet consumers online, where they do the majority of their shopping, by adding web conversion technology powered by artificial intelligence. The website experiences gather data from consumers as they interact with the store’s online quizzes, personalized incentives and planning tools.

 

“Since almost all consumers research larger purchases online, our goal is to provide all the information they need on our website,” Sylte says. “Now, visitors are more engaged, view more pages and spend more time on our site.”

 

Sylte says the addition of an online scheduling tool so customers can book a design consultation appointment at their own convenience improves the store’s odds of converting a website lead into a purchase by enticing them to visit the store.

 

Once inside the showroom, the store’s sales staff can easily reference a consumer’s online data profile to know exactly what type of home furnishings the customer searched for online and see personal information extracted during the interactive assessments on the store’s website, like their preferred design style or ideal type of recliner.

 

“The in-store consultation piece encourages the visitor to finish their research with one of our sales associates, which greatly increases our chances of closing the sale,” Sylte says.

 

Focusing efforts on improving the website by adding AI technology enabled Steinhafels stores to streamline its lead management processes. “Using our website as a selling tool makes our sales associates’ lives easier,” Dagenhardt says. “When people come in for their in-store meeting, our sales team already knows significant information about the customer’s furniture interests and needs, making it easier for the sales associate to find the customer their perfect product.”

 

Greenbaum reflects how collecting more detailed customer information through the interactive website experiences changed the store’s entire retail experience, for both its customers and its internal staff, saying the successful integration proved it’s possible to achieve even deeper and earlier engagement with leads.

Retailers Use Online Data To Nurture Leads

The stores gain important insights through the online assessments, such as the customer’s preferred sofa and design style, and learn exactly where a customer is in their buying journey. Data collected on the Steinhafels’ website revealed 39% of customers who completed the sofa assessment said they were ready to purchase within 90 days and 27% were ready to buy right away. Sales associates can focus on those more immediate leads while the remaining shoppers continue their research.

 

The AI-driven interactive experiences also help brands build relationships with consumers before they come into the store. It remembers shoppers by name every time they return to look online, picking up right where they left off and delivering personalized touches. Depending on where a customer says they’re at in their buying journey, they experience different paths to conversion.

 

Customers automatically receive personalized emails that coincide with the results of their appliance assessment or other online engagement. Timely emails re-engage and nurture prospective customers, driving them back to the website until they’re ready to purchase.

 

“Being able to contact the people who visit our website has been incredible,” says Dagenhardt. “Reminder emails keep Steinhafels top of mind and are a great way to get a prospective customer back into the buying funnel.”

Marketing Intelligence Derived from Data

In addition to individual lead profiles, the home furnishing stores receive detailed analytic reports that precisely break down which digital marketing sources drive in-store sales and other important marketing intelligence insights to help retailers make better decisions backed by data.

 

For Judd & Black Appliance, figuring out which online marketing efforts were effective proved difficult before adding the AI technology because of limited tracking capabilities. With more in-depth website reporting that identifies individual leads and accounts for multi-touch attribution across multiple visits and devices, they can now clearly see which online channels drive conversions inside the store.

 

“We match our customer database against the reports the website provides so we have concrete sales numbers,” Sylte says. “There is no guessing if it works — we get an incredible ROI.”

At Greenbaum Home Furnishings, the team routinely analyzes the online results and discusses ways they can improve. Greenbaum says he does not view their investment in advanced technology as a static purchase.

“We are very much about measuring and improving,” Greenbaum says. “It’s been a learning curve in terms of what we need to provide the consumer to make it a good process. But, it’s definitely evolved the whole retail experience and continues to improve.”


More about PERQ: PERQ (www.perq.com), a marketing technology company founded in 2001, empowers businesses and the online consumer experience through innovative solutions powered by artificial intelligence.
 
More than 1,000 businesses in the home furnishings, auto retailing and multifamily industries leverage PERQ’s Marketing Cloud and technology to give them more visibility into their digital marketing efforts and sales.

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