As online shopping becomes more ubiquitous, every industry is working to find out how they can use digital marketing to their advantage. While items like electronics or books can be purchased without a customer ever seeing it in person, the furniture retail space is one based around in-person interaction. Learn how two furniture retailers created a furniture digital strategy and marketing plan.
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 Furniture Store’s Digital Strategy And Tools Used?
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 a furniture digital strategy and marketing plan. “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 creating a digital strategy 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.”
“A furniture digital strategy needs to support the consumer’s perception of the store — a place that’s worth visiting.”
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 furniture digital strategy as a 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.
Additional Home Furnishings Resources
Multifamily property managers often wonder if there are web tools or software they can use to better generate or manage quality leads. We talked to some seasoned leasing pros to see what tools they use to get the best leads possible, at all stages of the apartment shopping process.
As a property manager, you’ve probably invested a fair amount of time into property management software and online marketing. And if you’re using the right tools, your website is not just for pretty pictures and floorplans. It also has the ability to engage with customers and transform curious apartment seekers into bona fide leads.
So how do you know if you’re partnering with the right company? It’s all about whether or not your property management software is delivering quality leads.
What is a Quality Lead?
Generally, one might assume that “ready to buy” is the most vital component of a “quality lead.” But if a visitor is interacting with your website, perhaps even filling out contact forms and including a phone number and price range, they may still be a year away from ending their current lease.
Derek Hoover, leasing manager at TWG Management, LLC in Indianapolis, elaborated on how confusing this can sometimes be. “Shoppers who are just starting their journey are looking for the most information as possible,” he says. “They’ve thought about the questions and thought about the answers, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to sign.” Englert Management property manager, Beth Roberts also agreed with this sentiment, saying “People who give you the most information are sometimes the ones who are looking the furthest out.”
Though not every apartment hunter is going to be ready to lease the second they see your multifamily property website, it’ll still be quite beneficial to gather information on their wants, needs and lifestyle. The more information you have on a prospective resident, the more likely you’ll transform a casual window shopper into an intrigued and informed buyer, even months down the line.
“What I want is the most information they’re willing to give me,” Hoover says. “A quality lead gives specific details as to what they’re looking for, so we can actually have things prepared when they or we reach back out, instead of having to ask questions again to get all that information.”
What Web Tools and Software Deliver Leads?
Quality multifamily leads are all about renter information, both in terms of quality and quantity. But even the best-looking lead might not be only reaching out to you. “If someone is filling out a guest card, they’re not just doing it for me.
They’re doing it for twenty other apartments,” Hoovers says. Roberts agreed, but observed that often, filling out the guest card gives room for certain audiences to express details about their situation that can help property managers fit their needs better.
Robert has also received good responses to the new 3D floorplans Englert implemented on their websites. Like a model home or unit, the floorplans have small icons of “staged” furniture to help shoppers visualize what the apartment would look like furnished, even before they see the space themselves. “Getting many good pictures of the interior to help them visualize is essential,” Robert adds.
As customers engage with your site, they can and should be given the opportunity to not just learn more about your property, but to learn more about what they want and need. Hoover noted that while many apartment websites are simply “floor plans, pictures, and a phone number,” the standouts in the industry feature more personalized experiences, for both for the visitor and the property manager.
“Having a more interactive website is just far more helpful.”
“Many sites allow potential renters to schedule a tour or find out if they qualify. But the more you’re providing people the tools to find the answers on their own, the longer they’re on your website, and the more likely they are to stay interested.
“We use PERQ [at TWG Management, LLC], and they’re able to create quizzes that have very specific, unordinary questions, like ‘Are you looking for the finer things in life?’ or ‘Do you want to spend more money on fun or necessities?’ which increases the shopper’s curiosity, and also their sense that we are interested in them as people — which of course, we are,” Hoover said.
Capturing a ready lead in the housing market can be a nuanced and complicated puzzle. However, the right property management software can help you get more qualified and engaged leads from your website.
From virtual tours, to quizzes, to 3D floorplans and pre-qualifying calculators, lead generation software for property managers is making great use of the web technology available today.
Multifamily property companies historically focused on first-touch lead attribution. Before the internet, the renter’s journey was fairly limited and linear so that model made sense. Multi-touch lead attribution better reflects a renter’s behavior nowadays, delivering a detailed look at the many ways a consumer discovers and communicates with your properties; as well as which touchpoints compel them to lease.
By analyzing this more accurate data, companies can optimize marketing budgets and learn how to convert more leads.
Multi-Touch Lead Attribution Gives Properties Big Picture
“Multi-touch lead attribution helps you to understand the holistic view of how all of your advertising and exposure contributed to that journey, because it’s not always super-linear,” says Todd Katler, CEO of Anyone Home, which develops scheduling and CRM (customer relationship management) software alongside customizable analytics and workflow platforms to serve the multifamily property industry.
It’s important to understand the path to conversion follows a nuanced and multi-faceted trail. It’s very rare that renters only search one apartment or condo website. They do hours of online research through multiple channels before contacting a leasing office.
Quantify Cost of Lead Acquisition with Multi-Touch Lead Attribution
“Multiple touchpoints are key to converting at a rate that provides enough leads for sustainable occupancy,” says Katrina Greene, senior property manager at Sheehan Properties based in Indianapolis.
In a perfect world, Greene says she wishes her lead management software allowed her to specifically designate leads as an “information” source and an “influencer” source. Right now, the CRM they use identifies a primary lead source and a secondary source, without giving any weight to how each played a role in converting the lead to a lease.
“I wouldn’t consider that multi-touch lead attribution,” Greene says. “I think the consumer’s experience and process typically require them to have both [information and influencer] sources in order to get a conversion.”
She gives examples of a prospect who finds information on an ILS but uses social media as an influencer, or finds information on the property’s website but it’s the interactive experiences on the site that convince the person to sign a lease.
“Marketing options and consumer behaviors continue to evolve, but marketing budgets are staying relatively close to the same,” Greene says. “It’s helpful to have a way to quantify the importance of both sources during the buying process. Information plus influence equals strong leads.”
For multifamily property managers, an online scheduling tool is one of the most powerful calls to action possible. It’s convenient for consumers, productive for leasing offices, and it guides an online shopper to the next step in the research process, thus, bringing them closer to signing a lease.
PERQ’s Schedule a Tour experience converts 23.8% of leads to leases on average, making it one of our highest converting interactive tools on multifamily property websites.In a world of instant gratification, an interactive scheduling tool on a property’s website allows prospects to see available tour appointments in real time and book it at their convenience with a click of a button.
Katrina Greene, Senior Property Manager for Sheehan Properties, says she knows a prospect means business when they schedule a tour online. Those leads typically have a higher probability of closing. “I love it when they cut to the chase and tell us exactly what they want and when,” Greene says. “It’s clear their purpose is less about fact-finding and more about needing to ‘test drive to buy.’”
Nurture Leads Until Ready to Rent
Our recently released Consumer Insights Report found only 8.31% of online consumers who visited multifamily property websites are ready to rent right now. To keep the 53.21% of prospects (who are 30 to 90 days away from signing a lease) engaged and motivate them to schedule a tour, properties must nurture leads with continual communication. They must also offer assistance as they make a decision. “We see that a huge percentage of prospects use self-scheduling tools before or after some kind of contact with the company.
They’ll send an email and then schedule a tour — or schedule a tour and follow up with a phone call if they have questions,” says Todd Katler, CEO of Anyone Home, a CRM (customer relationship manager) and software provider that helps multifamily property management companies track leads through multiple touchpoints. Katler says his software data shows self-scheduling tools convert at 2.5 times the rate of the average lead. According to our insights data, 15% of PERQ leads captured on multifamily property websites end up booking a tour. But before they schedule a tour online, 72% of those prospects went through at least one other interactive experience on the website, such as the expense calculator, pre-qualify or floor plan assessments, and 58% interacted with at least three website experiences before picking a tour date.
Website Tour Scheduling Tool Streamlines Leasing Process
Using AI technology to link the online scheduling tool directly to a leasing specialist’s digital calendar is a win for everyone involved.
Leasing specialists benefit by collecting leads around the clock. Even as they sleep, their work calendar automatically updates with newly scheduled property tours booked by interested and engaged renters. Prospects no longer have to wait to hear back from a leasing office and coordinate schedules before making an appointment to tour the property. That delay can cost companies valuable leads as competitors swoop in with a more consumer-friendly and convenient approach that puts prospects in control of the renting process.
“Before, we had to rely on phone calls and emails to get the appointment, which often required a bit of back and forth,” Greene says. “The tour scheduling tool allows us to rearrange our schedules to make it work for the prospect so we’re starting the relationship with efficiency.”