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Winning Website Tip #4 From PERQ : Best Lead Management Tips for Home Furnishing Retailers

Furniture World News Desk on 8/16/2018

Adopting AI and other interactive technologies to deliver a more personalized message to furniture customers may seem counter-intuitive when it comes to optimal lead management, but many home furnishings retailers and industry experts find it’s exactly the right approach to reach customers at the right time.

“Before, it was kind of this unknown thing, this spray-and-pray method where we would get leads but we didn’t have anything to track,” says Dan Marchione, Analytics Director for Gallery Furniture, a Houston home furnishings retailer that decided to change its business model and ramp up its digital marketing efforts after experiencing declining sales.

“Now, with interactive web engagement tools, we’re able to track that person from an unknown website visitor to a known person, to becoming an actual customer,” Marchione says. “We can’t track the ROI of the newspaper ads or the TV commercials, but you sure can when you get the actual lead form from somebody, and that turns into personal, identifiable information.”

Best lead management requires furniture retailers to start the conversation online and use their websites to build a relationship with customers by providing engaging experiences and helpful information. Here are some best lead management tips for home furnishings retailers:

Personalize Follow-up for Best Lead Management
At Gallery Furniture, Marchione says they split the leads into two categories; with one bucket getting directly assigned to sales staff and another bucket directed down an online nurturing journey that sends personalized emails to the customer at various stages with specific incentives or discounts.

The directly assigned leads typically come from customers who’ve taken online quizzes or assessments on Gallery Furniture’s website, providing sales staff with critical, personal information about who that customer is, the type of furniture they looked at on the website, what their budget is, and when they want to buy.

A more general sales campaign, like Gallery Furniture’s annual Labor Day sale, may attract more people into the showroom, but the category-specific leads that are assigned right away convert to sales at a much higher rate, Marchione says. Calling, texting or emailing a prospective customer with personalized information and incentives to buy the exact item they searched for online — and at the right time, when they are actively shopping for a new sofa or mattress — is remarkably effective.

“Reaching out to people in person with an inviting call to action, actually speaking to them on the phone, people like that attention,” Marchione says. “Every now and then, we get somebody who’s annoyed or whatnot — but, by and large, people who have given us their phone number, email address, first and last name, etc., they’re expecting us to follow up.”

Frank Lopes, vice president of FB Digital and Forrest & Blake Marketing & Advertising, agrees that customers who take an online assessment or fill out a lead form for more information are truly open to engaging with a retailer.

“I don’t believe they don’t want the personal contact,” Lopes says, but some customers may be resistant to the typical pushy salesperson. “My belief is the customer wants control over that personal interaction. If you can give them more control over the interaction, they’ll be less hesitant or less resistant to actually engage.”

Use AI to Collect Data for Best Lead Management
In the home furnishings industry, a retailer ultimately wants to sell more furniture to more customers. The process by which their customers reach that final destination can be long and complicated, or one that’s simple, easy and fun. To achieve the latter, home furnishings retailers need to embrace AI and collect the right kind of data which will ultimately improve their bottom line, says Jason Pires, CEO of Furniture Branding, a California home furnishings marketing agency.

Furniture Branding offers marketing automation for its furniture company clients to deliver a more personalized experience that’s customizable to each customer. It tracks potential customers across multiple platforms and delivers helpful content at each stage of the customer’s buying journey. “We nurture them during this process. It gives us the intelligence to know what they need and when it’s the right time to sell to them,” Pires says.

It comes down to really understanding the customer contextually and delivering a great experience at the same time, he adds. “You need to make the right recommendations or be there when they need you, and not be there when they don’t want you or don’t want to be annoyed,” Pires says. “It’s very complex, because it goes into understanding human behavior and psychology and being able to read between the lines.”

AI makes searching for furniture online easy, especially when websites display
products by visual sort and serve up similar items sold by a home furnishings retailer, says furniture marketing expert Bill Napier. You don’t have to understand rocket science to add AI technology to a furniture retailer’s website, Napier says, and it costs about the same as selling one sofa per month.

Some retailers remain reluctant to invest in AI or other interactive technologies. They view it as an extremely advanced process to meet the same goals they had 20 to 30 years ago, Jason Pires says. “That is the paradigm shift. In the past, they didn’t have to work this hard. But there are tools out there that track customer behavior in real time in a much more scalable way.”

Train Your Staff to Practice Best Lead Management
The best lead management for home furnishings retailers often boils down to personalization, timing, and coming across as being helpful and courteous above all else. Retailers need to adopt technology to automate that process and train their staff on how to incorporate the information they learn through technology.

Companies that don’t invest in their sales teams and provide training on personalized lead follow-up are just wasting money on lead generation solutions, says Jordan Barrick, Vice President of Quality Furniture in Mesquite, Texas. “Getting the data of the customer is the most successful part. Knowing if they’re an empty-nester or what stage of life they’re in, their income bracket … We’re getting that without ever talking to the customer, so we can hit the ground running.”

Gallery Furniture’s Marchione agrees good staff training is key to successfully melding technology with basic human interactions. His company recently hired Dr. Graham Bodie, an expert in listening skills, to train Gallery’s salespeople on how to become professional listeners. “It is remarkably powerful,” Marchione says.

Gallery’s sales staff not only listens to customers, but they also build reciprocity by feeding customers who shop in the store showroom or offering them something to drink. They even dote on customers’ kids by taking them to a big playground in the kid furniture area, letting them interact with live monkeys in an in-store arena, or watch sharks and other cool fish swimming around the store’s 10,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. “We don’t provide daycare, but we do have cool stuff for the kids,” Marchione says.

Providing a memorable experience online or in the store gets the conversation started, and a well-trained sales staff keeps the conversation moving forward by delivering timely, helpful and personalized messages when following up on all leads. “Timely follow-up is key. The person you don’t call isn’t going to buy anything,” Marchione says.

More about PERQ: PERQ (www.perq.com), boosts website conversion through its online guided shopping solution which leverages artificial intelligence to dynamically change existing websites to deliver the next best step in each buyer’s shopping journey. As experts in online consumer engagement and behavior, PERQ leverages over 10 million consumer data points, along with real-time visitor behavior.

Founded in 2001, PERQ solutions are used by more than 1,000 businesses in the home furnishing, auto retailing and multifamily industries. Its brands have been named to the Inc. “500 Fastest Growing Companies in America” list on three separate occasions. In 2017, PERQ won the Gold Stevie® Award for lead generation software and Product of the Year in the Big Business Awards.

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