[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]More than likely, your retail store manages customer data, online analytics and sales records within multiple systems and applications, none of which connect and communicate with each other. It’s a common problem, with stores often relying on legacy solutions not specifically built to serve smaller brick-and-mortar stores with a digital presence.
Retailers who lack a proper process and centralized system to track leads as they move from online research to showroom shopping miss out on big opportunities to boost sales. Unifying these silos of sales data and consumer profile information gives your furniture sales team a better chance at converting online leads to in-store purchases, while also delivering a singular view of what’s working and where your sales associates or digital marketing strategy needs improvement.
“You’ve got to collect that rich customer information to make better decisions,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager at The Great American Home Store, which operates stores in Tennessee and Mississippi. “Our website asks a lot of the same questions a salesperson would if they came into the store. We know about their preferences, where they’re at in the shopping cycle, what they’re looking to buy and how much they’re looking to spend.
“If your system doesn’t know your customer like a salesperson would in person, you’re going to be missing opportunities.”
Evaluate Your Tech Infrastructure
There’s data stored in the store’s point-of-sale system, data kept in the email system, data captured on the website, and data collected separately in each of your digital advertising platforms. Are you making the most out of all of this information?
Bowen’s team spent the last six months reevaluating the store’s various technologies, from core systems like POS and website to ancillary applications related to marketing and communication. “We had like 10 different databases across all our tech ecosystem where customer data could be acquired,” Bowen says. “We realized a lot of the technology was inefficient and not being leveraged properly. Either there wasn’t the knowledge on how to use it or there wasn’t a way to utilize it.”
Centralize Data to Leverage Communication
The GAHS marketing department realized they needed to centralize all of that data and streamline the store’s technology, according to Bowen. The team decided to try a more integrated approach by investing in an AI-driven marketing cloud solution that includes a CRM, marketing automation through email and text nurture, digital advertising and data analytics. The company can now track consumers through multiple touchpoints and catalog their shopping information as they move from the website to the physical store to make a purchase.
“We decided that would be the most valuable asset in terms of leveraging communication with our customers, not to mention marketing insights,” Bowen says. “Even just to better understand the problems that our customers go through by looking at the entire journey.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
More Effective Lead Tracking Tools
Neal’s Furniture in Oklahoma provides its shoppers with an interactive, AI-guided shopping experience on the store website. As consumers navigate through the website’s helpful design style assessment or sofa finder tool, the AI software collects lead data the sales associates can leverage when following up with leads, such as the type of sofa fabric and specific color the consumer searched for online.
“We use this information to more effectively follow up and market to those customers,” says Vice President John Neal Jr. “It definitely improves our sales team’s productivity by providing additional leads and detailed customer preferences.”
Recently, the family-owned furniture store decided to add a CRM to its bag of technology tricks. By linking the customer database to the store’s website and digital platforms, Neal plans to make even better use of company data and further increase store productivity. “I believe the CRM integration will allow for an even more effective lead tracking tool,” Neal Jr. says. “It makes sense for our follow-up system to be integrated with as many tools as possible.”
Help Your Sales Team Succeed
Neal says he’s particularly excited about the SMS texting functionality that’s being developed as an enhancement to the lead management tool, because it will allow for notes, conversations and notification reminders to all function on the same platform. That makes it easy for his sales associates to see which leads need attention and different ways they can step in to help the customer navigate the shopping process.
“The shopping experience is broken and needs to be reinvented,” Bowen says. “That goes beyond a piece of software; it’s really about making the whole experience better, not only for the customer but also the company that’s utilizing it.”
Help your sales team more wisely nurture leads by gathering as much information as possible from online shoppers as they research, then organize those leads in an integrated consumer data platform that aggregates all of the captured information to reveal prime prospects and sales opportunities.
“That, to me, is the key,” Bowen says. “I don’t think it’s on a lot of people’s radar, but this is something that will be critical in business operations if you’re going to survive these next five years — being able to merge that data, get a singular view and a very robust, rich view of each customer.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Additional Home Furnishings Resources
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Without the interactive sofa style assessment on Quality Furniture’s website, the Texas home furnishings store wouldn’t know that 33% of people who took the online quiz want a couch that seats four or more people. It also wouldn’t have received the website leads generated from 100% of visitors who took advantage of the store’s free online shopping tools.
“Now I know I have a market for 100-inch sofas,” says Jordan Barrick, Vice President of Quality Furniture. While the retailer sells large sectionals and lists them on the store website, it doesn’t feature them inside the store showroom. “We don’t have any on the floor. That’s a valuable insight.”
Don’t Miss Out on Website Leads
Without engaging website experiences, online shoppers who spent several minutes clicking answers in a style quiz and typing short responses about themselves would have likely skimmed the website quickly to see if anything caught their eye before moving on to other home furnishing websites — without Quality Furniture ever knowing who they were, what they were looking for or why they exited the site.
Between January and August 2018, Quality Furniture received nearly 2,000 website leads from consumers who registered their contact information while using website conversion tools from PERQ. Embedded on the home furnishings website, the interactive software generated leads from approximately 6% of visitors who visited the website. Before adding the interactive software, their website traffic to lead benchmark was less than 2%.
Collect Quality Information for Lead Nurturing
Not only do interactive quizzes and planning tools give the store a way to identify trends and popular products in demand, the smart software also generates detailed leads. Every website visitor who takes the sofa style assessment or interacts with any of the website experiences on Quality Furniture’s website — like a design style assessment or scratch-and-save promotional offer — reveals personal details that help the sales team nurture and convert leads into sales.
Other digital lead-generation sources Barrick utilizes, such as paid ads on Facebook and Google, deliver only basic information on a potential customer. “Once they come to my site from those sources and engage with an experience, I can find out so much more,” Barrick says. “How far down they are in the sales funnel. What style of furniture they like. It helps us establish common ground really quickly.”
Use AI to Keep Consumers Engaged
By collecting lead information and tracking an individual shopper’s journey on the website, home furnishings stores can provide those consumers with a personalized, helpful shopping experience tailored to their interests, either on the store website, through email or even a direct mail lead nurturing campaign.
Artificial intelligence solutions automate the lead follow-up process, so even a small sales staff can successfully manage an increase in website leads. Quality Furniture uses an automated email drip campaign to send personalized, scheduled emails to all website registrants for up to three months after they visit the site. The emails contain helpful content, such as explaining different types of sofas, or offering incentives to motivate the consumer to visit the showroom or reach out to a specific salesperson with questions.
“It’s worth it to stay top of mind with your customer,” Barrick says. “Sending AI-type emails where it sounds like we’re reading their minds makes it a custom experience. It goes beyond serving the customer. It’s almost precognitive: tell me what I need before I need it.”
Stores can implement the same selling technique through AI technology on the website, helping visitors figure out exactly what they want and guiding them to the next best step in their specific shopping process. By combining website lead generation with email nurturing, retailers keep shoppers interested during the long buying cycle for furniture.
“It’s engaging consumers, getting us about 300 to 400 email addresses a month,” says Dave Maxwell, President of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries of Ottawa & Kingston, about the store’s online guided shopping solution, which automatically feeds leads into their email nurturing program with PERQ. “That approach is driving a lot of sales and leads.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Increase Website Lead-to-Sale Conversions
Ultimately, increasing in-store sales and profit drives any digital effort. While it’s still important to work on increasing website traffic and analyzing overarching data to help attract new customers and keep return customers satisfied, those goals don’t directly convert sales.
By investing in technology that captures individual website leads and provides an engaging shopping experience through marketing automation, home furnishings stores can take a more targeted approach and better nurture those leads until they decide they’re ready to buy. Recent marketing studies prove that approach improves a retailer’s bottom line.
Quality Furniture converts more than 10% of its website leads to in-store sales since launching the interactive website features that collect lead information. Barrick, who used to run a digital marketing firm before getting into the family furniture business, says he was once a naysayer of this kind of website technology but the results speak for themselves.
“I’m seeing $70,000 in ROI,” Barrick says. “I know, some of the numbers seem fanciful, but if you have doubts go talk to other businesses that utilize it and are successful. I don’t believe my business would be near as successful without these tools.”
For store owners who doubt customers will actually engage with interactive tools in exchange for providing contact and other personal information, take a quick scroll through Facebook or popular pop culture sites. It’s apparent our digitized society loves self-discovery quizzes and instant, online results tailored to us.
“People are filling out Rocket Mortgage applications left and right, handing over secure information. There are so many online tests out there now, like Which Harry Potter Character Are You?,” Barrick says. “People want to know more about themselves and your product, and which one is right for them. You have to be willing to try new things.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]This article was originally published on Furniture World.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Additional Home Furnishings Resources
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]AI technology continues to change how multifamily properties conduct business, both internally to track leads and analyze data and externally to communicate with rental prospects, but the successful launch of one technology often presents a whole new set of challenges.
Before rolling out an AI-powered solution to capture more online leads or improve digital advertising results, a property management company must first ensure it can properly nurture that influx of leads without burdening an already taxed team of leasing specialists. They’re often the first and only people whose prospects interact with one-on-one when seriously considering an apartment option, so it’s best to use their talents and time wisely.
“Property staff is always busy, and most always behind on something,” says Keir Schutte, owner of KP Consulting Services, which works with multifamily companies to achieve a variety of business goals. “Sadly, as much as everyone complains about occupancy, lead management always seems to need improvement. I think that it’s important to automate anything you can for your properties.”
Artificial intelligence automates the lead nurture process on a property’s website by guiding a prospective renter through the online research phase while collecting their lead information as they engage with the website’s interactive tools to learn more about the community. AI technology can then take the lead nurturing process one step further by utilizing the captured data to automatically communicate with prospects and nurture online leads across multiple channels, such as email and texting.
More Prospect Data Drives More Personalized Approach
An AI-powered lead nurture solution uses a prospect’s own profile data to personalize all digital communication, using their name and remembering them every time they engage with a property, and serving up email and text content that’s customized to their unique preferences and search behavior. A lead nurture campaign can include dozens of different email or text templates and more than 100 different workflow triggers to deliver a truly personalized approach.
AI technology tracks users across platforms to deliver a cohesive consumer experience that makes prospects feel like the property staff already knows them and saves them time as they narrow down where they want to live. They’re never forced to start their search from scratch, and leasing specialists know so much about them before they ever show up for a property tour.
“By using AI, you are making sure the customer is acknowledged immediately, for one,” Schutte says of the benefits of employing an AI-driven lead nurture technology. “In addition, you keep the customer engaged and they’re able to find out more information.”
The goal of the lead nurture content is to drive prospects back to the property website to re-engage with the online tools or book a tour through an online scheduler, which ultimately results in more tours, more return website visitors, and more website engagement to increase online lead to lease conversions.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Target Leads in Different Stages of Renter Journey
The majority of online leads aren’t quite ready to rent, and those leads at the bottom of the prospect funnel who want to sign a lease now can cost the most to target through digital advertising. An AI-powered lead nurture solution reduces a multifamily company’s dependency on leasing agents to follow up on every lead when it first comes in.
By collecting detailed lead data on every prospect who interacts on the property website, your leasing staff can easily segment leads and focus energy on the renters ready to rent right now while the AI technology automatically nurtures those prospects who are still months away from moving. It also means leasing specialists can adjust messaging and their approach based on which phase of the renter journey a prospect indicates they’re in.
Build Relationships with Prospects through AI Lead Nurture
While it may seem counterintuitive to use technology to build authentic relationships with customers, AI is the piece that makes it possible to enhance a prospect’s experience with your property management team — even before talking to anyone in the leasing office. You’ve given them the information they were seeking online, continued to touch base through technology as they research their options, and your leasing staff knows everything they want in a property when they finally reach out to take a tour or sign a lease.
“It allows us to offer an enhanced experience for the customer and provides us with the data of those interactions to help our teams ensure a better experience,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, one of the largest privately held real estate management and development firms in the U.S. “It aids our teams in moving away from collecting customer information in a ‘checklist’ approach, and instead allows the team members to already have this information and utilize it in a conversational way to make a connection.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]There are no hard-and-fast rules for digital marketing. It’s an aspect of business that’s ever-changing and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Internet platforms and social media channels popular today didn’t even exist just a few short years ago when everyone (and, yes, even their mother) began shopping around online prior to making big purchases, such as buying home appliances, a vehicle, or leasing an apartment.
Every company must take a custom approach to their digital marketing strategy based on their own target audience, marketplace, team members and business goals — then adjust accordingly after analyzing the results to see which marketing endeavors increase leads and revenue, which is everyone’s ultimate goal.
That may be the single aspect of digital marketing we all share as business owners and leaders: we want to attract more people (leads, customers, partners, influencers, advertisers, media, and other industry thought leaders) and we want to increase our profit, or at least reduce inefficiencies for a better margin.
A couple of weeks ago, we kicked off a three-part blog series on digital marketing to help you navigate the new as well as the tried-and-true digital marketing methods that work for an experienced group of business professionals I recently interviewed.
Some sell furniture and some lease apartments. Some specialize in digital marketing consulting and some specialize in technology so businesses can better manage digital marketing. For Part 2 of our blog series, I’ve compiled the top three proven tips my sources say helped them improve digital marketing performance.
How these tips apply to your business depends on your particular industry and existing marketing plan, but the overarching principle pertains to every kind of business that invests in any online advertising and marketing — which really should include every kind of company at this stage of the digital revolution.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Do These 3 Things to Improve Your Digital Marketing
1. Invest in digital marketing avenues that deliver trackable ROI data tied to revenue. When evaluating new digital marketing technology, always pay attention to the analytics side of the tool. What data does it deliver, and more importantly, does it calculate ROI results or track the number of leads to sales?
“If you’re not sure where to spend your marketing money, go with something that can be tracked,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager for The Great American Home Store, one of the many success stories of PERQ’s Marketing Cloud. “Tracking is critical. If you’re not tracking results, you don’t know what to change or what to do better.”
Bowen says knowing precise ROI for each digital platform makes it easier to make educated digital marketing budget decisions, such as investing in a new technology solution or cutting a campaign that isn’t working out as planned.
“Last year, we had a budget issue and were told we had to cut back because certain efforts weren’t providing the right amount of return on investment,” Bowen says. “Anything we spend on digital has to be trackable. The opportunity to do so is there if you choose the right platform. Demand that from any vendor; make them prove it delivers actual sales.”
2. Set analytic metrics and goals for each digital marketing platform. Simply collecting data isn’t enough. Before launching any marketing campaign, you need to set metrics and expectations so you can measure effectiveness over time.
By setting a benchmark, your digital marketing department can decide which investments are worth the cost and easily justify increasing or decreasing the budget for an online marketing tool or ad campaign.
Not all leads can be compared by the same standards. An in-depth lead profile from someone who’s already engaged with your website and volunteered their personal data delivers more value than a cheaper lead generation source that merely gives you a name and email address but no information on what the consumer is looking for, when they plan to buy or lease, how they prefer to communicate or any other personal buying preferences.
“The data we receive from our website allows us to make better decisions,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, a multifamily property management company. “Collecting what amenities are important from one property to another, where they like to spend their time outside the community, understanding our customers’ journey and how far in advance of their move-in date they are looking are some examples that we focus on.”
Richards says they focus on metrics like appointment conversion and lead attribution, regularly meeting with their property managers to review the online analytics and collaborate ways to achieve benchmarks they set.
“With the wealth of data available to us, our strategy includes setting benchmarks and monitoring the results of our efforts on a bi-weekly basis to pivot as needed,” Richards says.
Additionally, Glick put into place a benchmark for response time on e-leads and SMS inquiries of 4 business hours. “We have a goal to significantly improve this response time as we know the importance of responding more promptly — it’s imperative to reduce the risk of losing a potential renter,” Richards says. “We look forward to more robust technology to provide us additional visibility into this.”
3. Add AI automation technology to increase efficiencies and conversion rates. Within 150 days of adding AI-driven software to its existing store website, The Great American Home Store saw a 3,740.41% return on investment and 2.38% conversion rate on unique leads captured through the interactive website experiences.
The explosion of AI technology means smaller businesses can now provide an online experience that rivals giant e-commerce and national brand websites, while also managing internal lead processes and analytics the same way big corporations do.
An AI-powered digital marketing cloud offers companies a powerful tool to increase staff and investment efficiencies and better manage all of their data in one place. Companies use cloud technology to automatically store lead data and internal notes, track consumers across multiple touchpoints, tie sales data to online leads, assign leads to sales staff, and add marketing automation like email and texting to nurture online leads long-term. When built to serve your specific industry, a digital marketing cloud can deliver a huge boost in efficiency, actionable insights and consumer satisfaction.
Above all else, a marketing cloud that features machine learning capabilities can analyze millions of consumer data points collected from online shoppers across hundreds of B2C websites alongside your own company data to better predict customer conversion and narrow down a target audience for specific platforms, as well as automatically adjust your various digital marketing campaigns in real time.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”29445″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Start with Solid Digital Marketing Data and Analytics
When it comes to digital marketing, everyone I’ve talked to all agree: start with the fundamentals. Make sure your entire team is on the same page about what success looks like for any given marketing campaign and you have the tools in place to properly measure the results.
Be willing to switch directions if something doesn’t pan out, but also give it some time to ramp up and grow. If you change too much at once or switch things around too quickly, you won’t get a clear idea of its true potential. The wait is worth the reward when you find a winning digital marketing strategy.
Check back next month for the final piece of our 2019 digital marketing series to see what three common mistakes sources say they either learned the hard way or often see other businesses make when managing a digital marketing strategy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]