Keeping track of your home furnishing customers may feel a little like a race. A staggered race where each runner starts and finishes at different times. Some run faster than others, some drop out of the race, while others join midway.
Not only do they all start and stop at different points, it may feel like they are running on two different courses, online and in-store, or a mixture of both. Managing the customer’s journey can be a better experience with the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.
Set the course and track home furnishing website leads by centralizing data in a single platform, a CRM. With a cloud-based furniture CRM system, prioritize follow-up on website leads while improving your team’s productivity and increasing sales.
The e-commerce CRM market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 11% from 2019 to 2024 in what is already close to a $50 billion industry worldwide. Considered an investment with proven ROI as it increases conversions and tracks online lead to sales, a CRM system clearly benefits customers, sales staff, managers and store owners.
Each home furnishing customer’s journey would be very different if it was customized to the specific shopper’s needs, delivering personalized experiences ahead of in-store visits. How successful would your team be if you centralized customer data, prioritized leads based on when they’re in the market to make a purchase, and provided the ability to see unattended customers?
“Our CRM helps because we’re able to go into that customer profile and really dig into what they were looking at on our website,” says Julia Critelli, General Manager at Critelli’s Fine Furniture. “We can go back and see all the pages that they were on and get a better idea of their needs.”
Get Visibility into the Customer Journey with Furniture CRM System
You’re setting your sales team up to lose if you expect them to track every home furnishing customer on every course at all times throughout the purchasing journey without utilizing a CRM furniture retail system. It’s both challenging and time-consuming, if not impossible. CRMs store all your customers’ lead data with detailed histories in one place accessible on any device, empowering your salespeople to form stronger connections and deeper knowledge of the customer.
“With CRM, it is much easier to keep track of leads and whether they have been addressed,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager with The Great American Home Store based in Memphis, Tennessee. “Before, it was not possible for management to see if leads were being addressed and it is now easier for the agent to track.”
With data stored in one place, the salesperson gains visibility into each customer’s preferred form of communication, facilitating personalized interactions with customers based on how they prefer to be contacted. A CRM, for example, should include automated text and email capabilities along with customizable templates. A marketing cloud-based system logs all outreach communications with customers to provide a detailed history of prior interactions. Additionally, a CRM allows managers to assign unattended leads to specific team members, so no sales opportunities get missed.
Less Attrition, More Conversion and Increased Customer Satisfaction
Greater customer satisfaction as a result of personalized experiences should lead to less attrition. Without a CRM, over 70% of online leads fail to convert. Your store’s CRM for furniture sales should filter leads based on intent to purchase or product of interest, as well as color coded leads to determine who you should follow up with first.
Tracking each customer’s desired method of communication, past online history and all prior interactions allows the sales team to provide better customer experiences more efficiently. By utilizing your website to facilitate customer engagement and information gathering, a well-designed CRM frees up your staff to assist in-store customers.
“With our CRM, we’ve seen lead-to-sale performance nearly double what it was before,” Bowen says. “We are also using the system’s marketing emails and have a dedicated person who handles leads. All of those factors have contributed to the performance increase. Our average sale is about 20% higher than what it is in the store, also an increase.”
At Critelli’s, they utilize the CRM to target online leads when showroom traffic slows down. “Our current CRM has helped us increase productivity and efficiency during slower times,” Critelli says. “It’s been a good tool for myself and the sales staff. We are able to look at conversion, hot leads and even export data to sort based on our needs.”
What to Look for to Find the Best furniture CRM system
In a $50 billion dollar industry, there are several CRM platforms from which to select. Finding the best one for your home furnishings business makes a difference in how many customers cross the finish line.
“When a CRM is easy to use, it’s easier to utilize,” Critelli says. “I think that’s a big thing, because if it’s not easy, they’re not going to use it. Managers need to understand the system inside and out to benefit the team.”
In addition to ease of use, select a CRM that includes features to give your organization the best chance of success. A solid CRM not only includes contact and lead management, it also helps manage tasks and tracks conversions, and features campaign management capabilities, reports, dashboards and a mobile application.
Once you’ve selected a CRM, Bowen suggests selling the platform to your sales team. “Sell them on the idea, and spend time defining rules and procedures for how to handle all the various scenarios you will encounter,” he adds. “Make sure everyone undergoes sufficient training.”
“The best systems create wins all around for customers, agents and management,” Bowen says. “Ask yourself if everyone is winning with the system you are using now.”
Are you even using a CRM? If not, Bowen recommends finding a home furnishings CRM that allows you to set up the system and your team in a way that allows you to “respond as fast as possible with the best, most knowledgeable response, and solve the customer’s problem.”
This article originally appeared on Furniture World.
Goals not only provide purpose and a path to success, but also lead to better teamwork. Without goals, the desired destination may feel unattainable or too ambiguous. In addition to framing an approach to positive results, goals help team members understand and embrace their contributions to the company. With day-to-day responsibilities sometimes pulling focus away, how do successful organizations prioritize and focus on setting business goals?
Even though goal setting remains a popular practice in today’s business culture, 44% of workers cannot specifically name company goals and only 5.9% of businesses communicate goals daily, according to a study by ClearCompany. Keeping employees focused on business goals requires a conscious effort, from beginning to end.
“We keep our team focused through transparency, communication and purpose,” says David Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s, a home furnishings retailer with multiple locations in Illinois.
“For us, it begins with being transparent about where we are, where we’re going, and why. We provide regular updates, at least weekly if not daily, so everyone understands what’s most important right now and how we’re progressing.”
Accurately Assess Current State for Future Success
Take an honest look at where your company currently stands to take the first step toward reaching business goals. Understanding your present metrics not only provides direction, but it also helps your business formulate attainable and realistic goals for the future.
If you aren’t measuring where your business sits now and establishing benchmark metrics, how will you work toward conquering that next level — or even know when you’ve succeeded? With the right analytics and data-driven insights integrated into your efforts, from prospecting to purchasing, transparency conveys an accurate assessment of your business to help inform your team.
By adding AI-powered software connected to a cloud-based CRM, your company can collect valuable online data to generate insights not only into customers’ needs but to the overall effectiveness of your team’s efforts. Data provides a roadmap for your business to adjust and advance.
“For our property management leadership, the focus for our goal setting is marketing information and leasing data,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management at Barratt Asset Management. “If we’re not mentioning our website on the phone enough, we will have a decrease in our leads. Or if our lead response time is not good enough, we report on that. We use PERQ software, so we know exactly what’s happening and break down every aspect of that whole leasing process. There are always ways we can improve.”
Communication Keeps Business Goals in the Forefront
Critical to transparency and tantamount to focus, communication keeps business goals front of mind. Employees want to know the score — are we winning or losing? Are our efforts moving the business toward the desired outcome?
“Barrett Asset Management is growing, so we have to keep our goals in the forefront,” Azar says. “We meet every single week to go over our progress, obstacles, or any kind of issue. We’re focused on our goals and where we want to go, what we want to do.”
Azar stresses the importance of creating a cadence of communication. “We never miss a meeting. They’re quick. We start on time. We end on time. We’re very respectful of each other’s time,” she says. “It’s been beyond beneficial. Constantly revisiting goals keeps them alive and fresh in our minds.”
In conjunction with regular meetings, Azar emphasizes creating an environment for honest exchange. “It’s having that safe zone to really make good goals. When you don’t make a goal or you can’t reach it, being able to say ‘that was too big. I should have made that two goals.’”
Jacob Sizemore, Marketing Director at Big Sandy Superstore, agrees that staying focused on goals requires top-of-mind awareness. “What you talk about is what’s present the most often, and that has to be consistent,” Sizemore says. “We meet weekly and dig in. We’re constantly talking about performance and topics driving business.”
Roles in Setting Business Goals Provide Purpose
Along with transparency and communication, employees crave purpose. Highly engaged employees understand the importance of their roles, how they personally contribute to goals, and ultimately their contribution to the success of the business.
“We drive employee engagement by helping them understand the big picture, and how they contribute to it individually and as a team,” Weiss says.
“Any good business has goals for the coming year and maybe goals for the quarter, things of that nature,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a digital agency that specializes in marketing multifamily property management companies but also works with clients from a variety of industries. “What becomes a problem is if individual goals don’t match up to the company-wide goals.”
“Look at specific departments and determine how they can help reach those goals. Set specific KPIs for each department to help science the overall goal,” Norris adds. “Knowing what KPI everyone should be shooting for creates a more tightly fit strategy across the board.”
At Big Sandy Superstore, an employee-owned business, the ideas of goal setting, employee purpose and engagement carry substantial weight. “Everything we do revolves around top-of-mind awareness of performance, with incentives to drive the right kind of behavior,” Sizemore says. “You’ve got to talk about it constantly, but there has to be an incentive to do it the right way, and a disincentive to do it the wrong way.”
Sizemore points out that when the business as a whole does well, tenured employees also do well. “We’re constantly keeping the perspective of ‘this is your company’ and as an employee-owner, you are tied to the long-term advantage of a profitable, stable company that’s reaching its goals.”
While not all businesses are or can be employee-owned, providing your team members with a sense of ownership in the top business goals for the organization will result in more success for everyone.
Businesses create personas to place the consumer at the center of decision-making. Customer personas work when designing products and services, yet do they still serve a purpose in marketing and sales?
Marketing, the process of identifying, anticipating and satisfying customers’ needs and wants, essentially matches what you’re selling to the people looking to buy. On a fundamental level, we all share the same basic needs and wants. Moving beyond the basics of buyer personas opens up a world of possibilities.
With everyone as a potential customer, creating personas may help marketing feel more manageable. Putting a face, age, and fictional name to your customers’ traits, personality characteristics, and pain points kicks off your digital strategy, but then what? Where do you go from there? Customer personas, in theory, work to attract leads, yet treating each customer in a generalized manner may actually move your brand further away from connecting with prospects.
Technology now provides valuable information beyond the type of customer interested in your brand (married with two kids and a mortgage); it delivers details on their online behavior (searching for distressed dining room tables to seat 10).
With the right software and CRM, collecting valuable online data generates insight into the customers’ specific needs and wants. Real information, captured in real-time, directly from the people interested in your products. From there, you can use the data to personalize the follow-up and lead-nurture process for more prospect engagement and brand loyalty.
More than Just a Customer Persona
Technology allows for a deeper understanding of consumers. Not only do you learn more about your customers through their actions, but you can also create a better experience online to stand out from the competition. Give website visitors the opportunity to interact with your brand, while also providing the information they need.
Understand what customers want while shopping. Offer interactive engagement opportunities like quizzes and assessments, live chat or online financing pre-qualification. Even better, with AI-driven software you can ensure your website remembers the customer’s previous visit, suggesting options and incentives based on prior behavior. These personalized, guided interactions will shape how the customer views your brand and build a feeling of welcome and value.
Buyer personas may attract shoppers to your website, but leverage personalization to move them along the customer journey toward a purchase.
Customer Data Helps You to Focus on Personalization
Not only does personalization benefit your customer, but it also translates into customizing your company’s operations. Your customers’ behavior and data should drive your business decisions.
If your target consumers continually search for specific products or services you don’t currently offer or do offer but don’t prominently market, demand exists and justifies expanding your offerings or adjusting your ad and website copy to meet the need. If prospects routinely drop off the website after reviewing pricing on your website, it may be time to run some competitive intelligence.
Analyze and use data from your CRM to help your sales team nurture leads and convert them into sales. Generate automated and personalized emails with AI-driven technology to get shoppers back to your website or in the door. Track the average number of touches necessary to result in a purchase, and adjust your approach based on the analytics.
It may feel counterintuitive to rely on technology to build personal relationships and really get to know your customers, yet with more than 80% of shoppers beginning their shopping journey online, the power of personalization makes it possible — and imperative.
When building your digital sales team, assign technology a role. From a smart CRM that can prioritize online leads to AI-powered web conversion software and automated lead nurture, give your digital sales department tools to help them succeed and drive more profit.
Collect Data in a Smart CRM System
Dynamic CRM software delivers a great deal of information about the digital customer and about your sales team’s performance. Studies show that without a CRM 79% of leads fail to convert, and 74% of businesses using a CRM report better customer relationships.
Online shoppers provide clues not only about what they’re looking for, but also where they are in the sales process. Utilize a platform that captures high-level data about a lead’s activity on your website and provides consumer engagement opportunities to interact with your digital team.
If you’re looking to upgrade your website software, pick an integrated platform that ties directly to a CRM and automatically prioritizes the digital leads generated. Some platforms assign color-coded indicators within the CRM tool so users can easily identify the qualified leads that require immediate follow-up by the digital sales staff.
Utilize the CRM to assign those hot leads to a specific salesperson and track their lead follow-up efforts. Be sure digital sales team members keep their CRM logs current, noting the number and types of follow-up attempts made, and whether those efforts resulted in a sale.
Personalize Responses with CRM Data and Automated Lead Nurture
To take some work off an already stressed sales staff, set the CRM system so new leads trigger automated lead nurture email cadences for timely follow-up with online leads. AI technology makes it possible to personalize those automated messages and schedule their delivery based on a lead’s data and online behavior.
Before a digital salesperson personally reaches out to prospects, first make sure they know how to access and interpret the consumer profile data in the CRM. Encourage your sales staff to cater their responses around a digital lead’s recent website activity, products of interest, relevant sales incentives, and any questions or requests for more information that the prospect submitted online.
Learn to Communicate Through Digital Channels
In addition to personalizing lead follow-up, the sales team should reach out to customers using their preferred method of communication as documented in the CRM. While your sales associates may prefer face-to-face interactions with consumers, smart technology provides valuable information to guide their outreach efforts.
With instant access to your home furnishing products listed online, consumers seek information around the clock via a variety of channels. Respond to leads using the same method they used to reach out to your store. Today that might mean learning how to best communicate through online chat, email, text messaging, or phone calls. Consider giving the digital sales team templates for each communication channel to guide conversations and highlight the slight nuances of each.
Marketing technology enables your digital sales team to do their job effectively and efficiently — in an easy-to-implement and personalized manner. It also provides all members of the team with clear actionable insights, including the ability to see appointments virtually set by online visitors and prepare accordingly.
Use Data Analytics to Track Leads, Sales and Gain Consumer Insights
Technology also allows store management to track each salesperson’s outreach efforts and win rates via historical data captured during customer and sales interactions. Analyze the average number of emails, texts or phone calls it takes to win the deal, and share those consumer insights with your team.
Celebrate their successes, learn from the losses, and then tailor the store’s digital efforts moving forward to better serve your customers and support the digital sales staff.
[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]Expect to have some challenges when your home furnishings store transitions from a traditional in-store sales team, who are used to interacting face-to-face with customers, to a digital sales team. Your sales associates are able to do what they do best when a furniture customer physically enters the store, but the digital sales process looks a lot different when customers start their buying journey online.
Remove these common obstacles from your digital sales process to ensure success for your home furnishings sales team with better customer engagement, and eventually more purchases.
Structure Your Sales Team to Highlight Strengths
The first obstacle may exist within the structure of your sales team. Odds are your team members went into sales because they enjoy interacting with customers. Until the internet, that communication was almost always face-to-face.
Your best salesperson may not find interacting with shoppers online very motivating, rewarding or as satisfying. Online communication requires different skills and techniques that don’t occur in an in-person visit. Without being able to see the customer to gauge their tone and body language, your best salespeople may feel like they aren’t using their skills to the best of their ability.
Consider restructuring your team to include an associate who excels at digital communication and nurturing the customer until they are ready to make a purchase.
The website is the new floor. The salesperson reaching out will be the one creating customer engagement and a good customer experience,” says David Kain, a digital marketing and sales training consultant. “This creates a scenario that is attractive for the customer, on their terms and their time.”
Revisit Goals for the Digital Sales Team
When the customer’s journey begins online and potentially ends there, too, it’s time to revisit your home furnishing sales team’s goals. Working towards goals motivates your staff.
Create an environment that encourages feedback and incorporates data into decision-making. The more involved your team gets in setting the store’s goals, the greater the ownership and commitment to the cause. Utilize strategies and come together to achieve sales enablement, team integration and maximize CRM data.
The digital space quickly changes and requires a unique set of talents. Benchmarking each member’s skills helps determine where opportunities and challenges exist. Continually revisit not only team members’ capabilities, but also the goals of your organization to ensure alignment.[/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]
Train and Support the Use of New Technology
If you don’t know how to use something, you most likely aren’t going to use it. Especially intimidating is the onslaught of new AI technology available to home furnishings retailers designed to attract, nurture and provide valuable information to and about online customers.
Support your home furnishing sales team by providing the resources and digital sales training necessary to better understand the online landscape, various data channels and advanced technologies your store utilizes to accommodate today’s digital consumers. Share and explain the company’s digital marketing strategy, tactics, metrics, goals and successes with your sales and marketing departments to educate everyone on how the customer may engage with your brand.
People gravitate towards the things they’re most comfortable doing. Select a vendor partner who will work with you beyond the initial sale to train your staff, adjust your approach as you move beyond implementation, and continue to bring you new and better ways to do business online.
For consistency, be sure to regularly revisit your processes, test the functionality of the technology, and touch base with the digital sales team. Help your home furnishings associates feel more comfortable with the technology and gain a better understanding of how to use the data in your CRM.
Respond to Online Customers with a Sense of Urgency
Out of sight, out of mind. There’s a reason this saying exists. If your home furnishings sales team is used to working with a customer physically in front of them — someone with a name, face, and voice — a switch to engaging with an online customer may present obstacles. Compounding the challenge is the 24/7 ecommerce world.
Responding to every customer who interacts with your brand at all hours of the day, seven days a week, can easily overwhelm your sales team. Utilizing AI-powered automation on your website and during lead follow-up helps manage this communication overload. Marketing automation, text-to-chat features, emails and online assessments, help to take some of the work off of your sales team’s plate — and gives online shoppers the immediate response they’ve come to expect.
Following the customer’s information-seeking journey and organizing the consumer profiles in a CRM gives the in-store sales professional an idea of when and how to respond. The more the customer engages online, the more they’ve narrowed down their search or sought information, the more qualified and closer to purchase. Assign your digital sales team to work those hot leads first, while automation nurtures the others in the meantime.
Changing Your Team’s Incentive
Whether you pay hourly or by commission, incentives for your teams don’t always have to be monetary. Investing in your home furnishings sales team’s training and understanding of the latest technology and the data available adds value. Employees appreciate an organization that puts time and effort into helping them grow professionally and sets them up to succeed.
Technology will continue to impact the online customer journey, and therefore impact your sales team’s success. Overcoming obstacles through training, revising processes, restructuring, and welcoming feedback provides your home furnishings sales team an environment where their successes translate to customer success.
Not only does incorporating technology and training into your home furnishings business help your sales team perform better, but it also keeps them engaged, as does continually seeking feedback and providing opportunities for your home furnishings sales team to suggest better ways to do business. Creating a workplace where employees can affect change rewards not only your team members and customers, but also your business’ bottom line.[/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