So, the question that remains is this: How does a furniture store use online marketing tools to drive traffic into their store? What kinds of online tools are most effective? But more importantly, what exactly does online success look like from the perspective of a brick-and-mortar retail space?
We recently had a chance to chat with two heads of digital marketing for two different furniture retail chains: Joey Gunn, the Vice President of Knight Furniture and Mattress; and Jordan Barrick, the Vice President of Quality Furniture.
During our conversation, we learned more about each store’s overall furniture digital strategy, the tools and services they utilized to translate online visits into in-store traffic. We also discussed what the horizon looks like for the furniture retail industry.
What is your Digital Marketing Strategy and What Tools Do You Use?
When a potential buyer plugs in “furniture sales” into a search engine, they’re likely to be provided dozens, if not hundreds, of options. It’s the job of digital marketers to stand out in the field, and both Gunn and Barrick began with similar approaches.
Barrick has helped establish Quality Furniture as a household name in the Mesquite and Canton, Texas areas. He explained that he adopted a three-tier marketing approach. “I use search text ads for prospecting, display ads for retention, and video advertising for those not in the buy cycle. That’s our branding strategy,” he said.
As opposed to partnering with a marketing firm, Barrick found success using self-service tools online. Outside of work, Barrick has been pursuing his business degree, and has invested a ton of personal time learning to deftly pursue leads in the online realm.
“The main thing is sticking with cost effective solutions,” Barrick said. “It’s challenging to understand those analytics. I try to utilize as many free programs as I can. I took classes just to understand stuff; your average retailer is not going to know web design, but I’m a bit of a different story.”
At Knight Furniture, Gunn initially took a similarly self-educated approach, working to increase their online stock by conventional means.
“We do the normal stuff that retailers do, like Google Adwords and Facebook advertising,” said Gunn. “Another thing that we spent years trying to perfect was making the website copy organically relevant to search content.”
Gunn later explained that Knight Furniture actually changed their name to stay up with the times. After 105 years of business, they added “Mattress” to their end of the name in order to stay relevant in keyword searches. “Even though we sold mattresses, and it said mattress on our website, the Google algorithm didn’t put two and two together often enough,” he said.
What Does Digital Marketing Success Look Like for Furniture Retail?
The success of any and every marketing campaign, be it digital or physical, is measured by the amount of new business it brings to the retailer. Online, there are many ways to capture leads, each with their own benefits.
“When I need leads,” said Barrick, “I go search-based. When I have a decent amount of leads, I can use video. But search-based is often the cheapest option for us. That’s where I’m pulling in most of my new leads.”
Many customers begin shopping online when they realize that they want to make a purchase at some point. This means they’ll be highly motivated and open to sales persuasion, especially based on what they see when they do a web search for their ideal sofa or bed frame. When asking about the buying cycle, Barrick was enthusiastic about the results of digital marketing.
“We’re getting customers way down in the buy cycle. They’re ready to make a decision, all across the board,” Barrick said.
Gunn’s team managed to find success through a design style quiz that helped consumers hone in on their aesthetic. He points out that success in digital marketing doesn’t necessarily mean that sales through the website will go up.
He also shared that any furniture retailers interested in doing digital marketing should make sure their sales process is equipped to follow up on and capitalize on those leads. “It’s awesome to be sitting there with an inbox full of prospects who were on your website, but if you don’t have a way to follow up on it, it’s wasted effort,” he said.
What’s the Future Look Like?
While both Gunn and Barrick are excited for the lead generation opportunities found online, they both are confident that the sales and customer experiences will likely stay physical, as opposed to heading to the web.
“Furniture is one of the biggest and emotional purchases you’re going to made,” said Barrick. “Younger generations may enjoy shopping online, but you’re going to get burned by a bad mattress and end up going back to the same furniture store your parents did, to find the same mattress your parents had bought you.”
They also explained that in many cases, online retailers may only have one or two options for each piece, meaning less customization. An online user may be saving time initially, but will have to sacrifice the personal touch and more immediate inventory found in a store. Still, Gunn was equally optimistic regarding the model of a brick and mortar furniture space.
“I do think the landscape is changing and that people are more comfortable buying online than previous generations. Before now, it wasn’t as trustworthy. Logic tells me ‘yes, of course, we may see an increase in online sales,’ but people want to touch and feel and see the pieces. As long as they continue to want that, we’ll continue to see the majority of sales done in-store.”
Gunn added, “When you’re younger, you take bigger risks — but when you’re older, you want to lay on the mattress before you take it home.”
For home retailers, a furniture digital strategy needs to support the consumer’s perception of the store — a place that’s worth visiting. Until online furniture buying becomes more common, a retailer’s website isn’t about convincing the customer to buy right then and have the product shipped.
Instead, your digital brand strategy as a furniture retailer should be centered on being seen as a knowledgeable resource with a wide inventory—a place people can come to find the things that will make their house feel like home.