Home Furniture retailers trying to fight Wayfair or Amazon at their game is poor business strategy. Good strategy: look at your advantages and try to bring those weapons into the battle. For the brick and mortar retailers, those weapons are local stores and helpful salespeople designed to win the fight for the larger and more complex furniture purchase.
Let’s agree that brick and mortar stores shouldn’t be looking at their website and trying to compete against the giant players in e-commerce. If the consumer is looking to spend less than $200 for a table lamp to throw into the guest room before company arrives the following day, the battle to win this definite e-commerce purchase is a losing game.
Wayfair’s average ticket price is $250, and we know the normal brick and mortar PERQ client averages $1,500+. Why? Because the consumer WANTS to take advantage of the built-in advantages of a local store and salespeople when they’re making a larger purchase.
The key is to bring your “weapons” into the process when a consumer is still at home researching a purchase online. Every brick and mortar retailer should look at their website and ask: “What can I do to leverage my website to help the consumer decide to purchase from me in-store?”
Below are my top 5 tips for how to bridge the website to in-store shopping process and have your website lead to more revenue:
1. Generate sales opportunities for your staff through your home furnishings website
The pictures of your products, details and price are just initial steps in the digital to in-person transaction process. These are the normal website tips. But, you must have a way to turn anonymous website visitors into actionable customers with real information about them. These are “Digital Ups”. With tools and quizzes you can learn a lot of information about each visitor: what they’re interested in, when they’re in the market to buy and much more.
Your sales team can now reach out during down times and build actual relationships with “Digital Ups” leveraging that unique shopper data. This is what you do in your store when you greet each in-person — you greet each person and ask them questions to get to know what they’re looking for. You must do this on your website as well. It works and it is a way to let salespeople produce more sales versus complaining there isn’t anyone in the store on a 10 a.m. on a Thursday.
2. Use your website to facilitate an easy conversation between the consumer and your home furnishings sales team
E-mail and Live Chat used to be the way to communicate with consumers online, but that is no longer the case. We highly recommend to our clients that they have text communication in place. Texting a consumer is a much more natural way to communicate now.
Scott Hill, PERQ co-founder Texting a consumer is a much more natural way to communicate now, and you want to communicate with consumers the same way you would a friend. When is the last time you were e-mailing or in a “live chat” box with one of your friends?
Make it easy for shoppers to engage in a deeper and more prolonged conversation with your staff that can help them make decisions prior to coming into the store. Texting makes it easier on the consumer and your staff to get the help needed and build a relationship that can lead to an in-store visit.
3. Leverage lead scoring and personalized automation
Your sales team will not be able to have an actual conversation with every “Digital Up” you generate from your website. You need to have a way to prioritize Digital Ups into which ones will receive follow up from your staff and which ones will receive automated email messaging personalized to the consumer.
With today’s technology, there is no excuse to just be sending blast e-mails once a month. When someone has engaged on your website, you now should have everything you need to set up the right personalized automated email messaging designed to nurture them into being ready for a conversation with a member of your sales team.
4. Create a “VIP Appointment” process
With all of these conversations your sales team is having with prospects before they come into the store, you need to have a way to make it easy for them to take the next step and visit.
Allow shoppers to set a “VIP Appointment” where they receive special treatment and a faster experience. Let them know you will be waiting for them, have some recommendations ready, drink of their choice, financing approval already done, etc.
5. Take advantage of a CRM to handle the organization/ communication of all the sales opportunities from your website
Everything mentioned above will require a quality CRM. For pure in-store customers, you might have been able to handle the potential buyers, but to efficiently handle a high volume of “Digital Ups” and help shoppers come into the store, you need a better way to organize and keep track of leads.
A CRM platform helps you determine which prospects to reach out to first, gives messaging recommendations, enables text messaging, gives performance reporting, etc. It becomes your Digital Sales Manager, making it easier for you and your sales team to follow up with shoppers.
The process of how to take your website to be a great tool to get consumers to come into the store was solved by the automotive industry first (and where these 5 tips originally came from)! They created the technology and process to help their staff connect to consumers on the website looking for help when making a purchasing decision. Take advantage of tips to make your website the best it can be for consumers so you can win the online to in-store battle.
See How Much the PERQ CRM Costs Home Furnishings Retailers to Manage Leads: SEE PRICING
The way consumers shop and make purchase decisions has dramatically changed with the advent of technology. The furniture customer engagement path begins online before they ever step foot into the furniture store.
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.
The normal shopper is very intimidated and often overwhelmed at having to select furniture for their house. It’s a big financial investment since you will literally live with the decision for years, and the choices are infinite. Add in the social component of making sure your choices not only fit your family, but also represent the style you want to share with guests, and the furniture buying process can often stall out due to paralysis by analysis.
Consumers spend ample time online before deciding where to visit in person and make a purchase. This “paralysis by analysis” on your website is what needs to be solved in order to get more shoppers to move down the buying funnel and visit your store for additional help.
Over 60% of consumers begin their furniture buying experience online.
Your showroom and sales staff exists to help people make decisions on furniture. Your store happens to be great at it. Yet, everyone is beginning their shopping experience online and there is no way to tell if your store will be helpful at this when you are being evaluated purely by your online presence.
In fact, the e-commerce pure plays (Amazon, Ebay – any place that sells primarily online) come across as more helpful when exactly the opposite is true – and this is the story you should be telling.
Many furniture stores only have some inventory and maybe pricing available online, pricing that probably won’t be as cheap as what the consumer can find online elsewhere. Sound familiar? Your website is trying to compete against the e-commerce pure plays and you cannot win at this game.
“E-commerce pure plays come across as more helpful when exactly the opposite is true – and this is the story you should be telling.”
Instead, you should be trying to use your website to highlight how many decisions there are; how you can help narrow the choices online, and how you can assist them even more in-person down the road with buying furniture. Again, the shopper is looking for help –you just have to show them that you are the one to give it to them and not have it be hidden behind a website that does not represent how helpful you can be.
The Solution to Furniture Buying Online
Offer assessments on your website for consumers that will help narrow their choices. When someone expresses to you that they are looking to buy for their living room, kitchen, bedroom, etc., what are the questions your trained salesperson asks in order to help them narrow down their choices?
This same step can easily be accomplished on your website and help show how helpful you can be. “What’s my Style?,” “What Couch is Right for Me?”, “What Mattress is Best for Me?” are all examples of quick assessments an online shopper can take that will help them learn about themselves and be more educated in the furniture buying process.
“Offer online assessments on your website for consumers that will help them narrow their choices.”
What’s even better is that after they take an assessment, your sales team has learned A LOT about the individual, helping create a very personal follow up via phone, text, or e-mail.
They now know how helpful you can be online, how helpful your salesperson is, and will want to work with you on the next steps in person. This is how you compete with e-commerce and this is how you stand out compared to all the other traditional stores just showing products and pricing.
When it comes to deciding on where to get help in the furniture buying process, first impressions are imperative. You spend a ton of time crafting the right experience in your showroom to show how helpful you can be. Just make sure not to neglect your consumer base online – where they get their very first impression of your brand.