In the past 10 years alone, we have seen three critical changes in consumer engagement online that are impacting furniture stores:
- More people are visiting your website than coming into your store.
- 70% of people who arrive in your store have completed research first, which is drastically higher than it has been in the past.
- A furniture buyer visits 1.8 showrooms on average before making a purchase — considerably less showrooms than 10 years ago, thanks to online research.
Based on our conversations with furniture store owners or marketers, they are aware of these trends and have seen these changes in the customer engagement path firsthand. Yet, many have admitted they haven’t changed their furniture retailer websites or their online strategies.
While there are a variety of reasons, we’ve found furniture retailers haven’t updated their website or strategy because of three commonalities:
- Furniture store owners think adding a shopping cart is enough.
- They think simply having the information about the products on their website will bring people into the store.
- They really don’t know what changes to make to appeal to online shoppers.
Do you fall into one of these categories?
Your website used to support your furniture marketing efforts because you saw many more shoppers in your showroom doing their research before making the actual decision to buy. Now, with the customer engagement path changing, shoppers complete pre-purchase research online before you even speak to them. You have to win the website customer experience the same way you try to win the showroom experience.
The Furniture Showroom and Customer Engagement Path
Think about your showroom experience. You would never have a showroom that only displayed inventory with a price tag and not arm it with a great sales team. You have employed a team of people whose goal is to get customers to “interact” with your store. You have spent countless hours training them how to best accomplish this.
You know that if you can get the customer to engage with your team, there is a MUCH higher likelihood the customer will buy from you.
Here’s the customer engagement path your sales team likely uses with a customer to help them make a purchase decision:
1. Greet and Direct
Action: You greet the customer and direct them where to go.
Dialogue: “Anything I can help you with today?”
Action: Inform the customer of any special promotions or deals.
Dialogue: “Great, did you know about our sale on sofas?”
3. Check In
Action: Check in with the customer again if the response you received was “just looking.”
Dialogue: “Do you know what kind of sofa you’re looking for?”
Action: Try to be a consultant and provide helpful recommendations.
Dialogue: “Let me ask you some questions so I can get a better idea of what you need.”
Action: Try to close the deal.
Dialogue: “Let me see what the best deal is I can get on this for you.”
All of this interaction helps the customer feel more comfortable asking questions and engage deeper, thus increasing the chances of a purchase. You intuitively know this about your in-store sales.
Your website needs to do the same thing.
Creating a Customer Engagement Plan
How do you make your furniture website engaging and enticing? You need to make it interactive.
Website visitors need to be able to receive information instantly in return for telling you more about themselves. Filling out a basic “request more information” or “contact us” form and then leaving while you make them wait 12 hours for a response is NOT interactive. You would never interact with customers like this in your showroom. Instead, you want the website visitors to want to engage and tell you more. You want the experience to be personalized to the website visitor.
Think about the customer engagement path your sales team uses in the showroom and how you can translate that into online tactics:
Welcome the consumer online like you do in the store, directing them where they should go on your website. Consider incorporating an online chat manned by your digital sales team that greets the customer as they visit the site.
Drive the visitor to engage with your website in a meaningful way and inform them of specials or promotions going on in store. For example, if they’re browsing sofas, then offer sofa-specific promotions during their experience. You can also use calls-to-action to entice them to unlock pricing or see different styles.
3. Check In
Offer engaging, unique and personalized calls-to-action depending on what page the consumer is looking at and the type of furniture they’re shopping for. If the online visitor has been on the site for a while, use dynamic calls-to-actions to engage with them. Also use CTAs to help keep them on your site if they’re about to exit.
Drive the visitor to interactive experiences, such as quizzes and assessments, that ask the customer questions to help narrow their search options. You can help your visitor determine their design style, provide recommendations based on their answers, and help them find the best product based on whether they’re searching for particular sofas or mattresses, for example.
After you’ve provided customized consultation through an interactive experience, ask the visitor to schedule an in-store appointment to help close the sale. Avoid the common “contact us” close at all costs.
No matter what stage of the customer engagement path the visitor is in, it’s important to measure consumer engagement — online and offline — and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and the corresponding metrics associated with those KPIs.
Recreating the customer engagement path online will ensure the website experience matches the showroom experience, increasing conversions of online visitors to in-store sales. Engage your online consumers to drive them to your store.