It has been a whole week since I started working at PERQ as the new Content Manager. An entire week filled with back to back meetings learning the ins and outs of the marketing team, editing and writing, endless iced coffee and lots of laughs. In the the last few months while job searching I was constantly told “you never like your first job.” I can proudly say that I not only love my job, but I am very happy to be here. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have that.
How can I say love something when it’s only week one? For starters, as Content Manager, I’m in charge of PERQ’s social media channels and writing/editing blog posts and articles. Being in charge of a company’s social media may not sound all that exciting, but I get to add a more human and creative touch to their online presence. Not a lot of businesses want that for their socials. Secondly, the PERQ Marketing team uses agile marketing to structure how they work. All week, I’ve seen how this strategy not only delivers value, it creates a team that works effectively while leaving room for flexibility.
The company culture is probably my favorite thing about PERQ. It’s clear that PERQ is invested in creating a space for employees to collaborate creatively and values our own well being. Even though everything is remote, every morning the team touches base. At the end of every week we go over what went well and what could go better. Every interaction still feels very human even though it’s virtual. Every person on this team has been so welcoming, I already feel at home.
It has been a whole week since I began my role as Content Manager. I may be new but I already feel like a part of the team. I am so excited to be able to grow both professionally and personally here.
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.
[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]While your auto dealership may be closed or having to adjust the way consumers are allowed to interact, it is important to capitalize on the opportunity to provide your shoppers a great customer experience that begins on your website so that they choose to buy from you … whether that’s now or in the future. It is a crucial time for you to adapt to a digital sales approach. Follow these best practices to keep your dealership running smoothly to continue to gain revenue.
Personalize the Car Buying Experience
Personalize the buying experience to connect with prospective shoppers. Using tools such as text messaging, video chats, and 1:1 appointments will enable your sales team to make connections with shoppers without seeing them in-person.
Just because your dealership may be closed to the public, doesn’t mean test drives have to stop. It is time to bring the vehicle straight to the consumer by offering virtual and at-home test drives. Virtual test drives allow the shopper to experience the car from the comfort of their own home. Utilizing tools like FaceTime and Skype allows you to show off the features of the vehicle for your shoppers.
In addition to virtual test drives, you can also offer 1:1 at-home test drives. By offering at-home test drives, you can bring the car to the consumer who may be skeptical about leaving the house. Be sure to sanitize the steering wheel and handles of the car before and after the drive.
Adjust your communication with vehicle shoppers
The buying experience has changed and so should your communication with shoppers. Use this crisis as an opportunity to update your language and tailor your message to a more personalized approach.
Updating your banner ads and Call to Actions (CTAs) on your website is an easy and effective way to continue to drive traffic and sales. Changing the language on the banners allows your shoppers to see how you are catering to them during this time. Let them know that you are offering new virtual test drives, or to promote OEM deals or dealership trade offers.
Use emails to notify shoppers of special offers or financing that is currently going on. Email blasts are an effective way to reach your shoppers while still keeping the message personal to each shopper.
Lastly, updating your website to include chat bots and text messaging features allows your sales team to connect instantly with shoppers, rather than waiting for them to fill out a lead form and then calling the shopper back.
Communicate how you plan to keep your shoppers safe
The No. 1 priority should be putting your shoppers at ease. Follow these tips and tricks to make shoppers feel safe while in your showroom.
- Make “special appointment” service hours available.
- Communicate with shoppers the steps you’re taking to keep them safe online and by email.
- Keep the pipeline for sales open by having one-on-one conversations through video consultations.
- Post your cleaning practices around your showroom.
- Avoid shaking hands with customers. Place markers on the floor if you have waiting spaces signaling 6 feet.
- Clearly communicate changes with shoppers, like home deliveries, store hours and when your team is available.
- Add extra hand sanitizing stations around the showroom.
Check out this Crisis Mitigation Guide from our partner Kain Automotive.[/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 Auto Resources
The largest prize ever to be awarded in the FATWIN sweepstakes sponsored by PERQ and Larry H. Miller Dealerships has been claimed by 52-year-old Michael Bozner of Glendale, Arizona.
Bozner was presented with a ceremonial $100,000 check at the Larry H. Miller Toyota Peoria dealership in a ceremony on January 22. The actual cash prize will be paid out in five yearly installments of $20,000 each.
(Photo courtesy of David Jackson)
Family Visits Dealership and wins PERQ FATWIN Sweepstakes
Bozner says his 13-year-old son was going through the mail, found a flyer for the FATWIN Black Friday giveaway event and convinced him to go down to the Larry H. Miller Toyota Peoria dealership to see if they were a winner.
Bozner was skeptical and told his son it couldn’t be that easy to win.
“He was pretty persistent so that he could have something to drive,” Bozner laughed. “We went down and the salesman asked me some questions. Then I tried my luck, hit the screen with my number and the salesman looked at me and said ‘Oh my God! You just won $100,000!’ My boys were bouncing around. I have to give my son credit for going through my mail!”
“It was incredibly exciting to see Mr. Bozner win a $100,000 grand prize during our Black Friday weekend event. His excitement was contagious, and was felt by the salesperson assisting him, other customers in the showroom, and the entire team at the dealership,” said Jay Carley, general manager, Larry H. Miller Toyota Peoria. “We hope this prize enriches Michael and his family’s lives.”
FATWIN, a technology product of PERQ, has been used to give away millions in prizes through online games and register-to-win promotions.
This is the largest prize ever won through the FATWIN promotions.
“We’ve had some $25,000 prizes given away, countless TVs, wireless earbuds and other valuable prizes,” says PERQ Senior Account Manager Ashley Beck Cuellar. “But, nothing compares to the excitement of finding out we had a $100,000 winner! We’ve been so excited to work with Mr. Bozner to get him his winnings and assure him it really was that easy.”
Plans for the FATWIN Winnings
Bozner has owned his own auto repair shop for more than 20 years and has an affinity for cars. He’s already bought a new drag racing vehicle with the money, paid off some credit cards and his wife is planning to remodel the bathroom.
But, don’t worry. He didn’t forget the son who asked him to take the flyer to the dealership in the first place or his other nine-year-old. Both boys got some cash to spend in any way they want or to save.
Bozner says he may not be so cynical in the future. “I’m happy and I’ll look at things a little differently,” he says. “I did think maybe I was on a lucky streak and bought some lottery tickets. That didn’t work out as well!”
Click here to watch the news coverage of the ceremony.
Building any kind of relationship, personal or professional, takes time and effort. With the vast majority of consumers starting their research online before investing in a big-ticket purchase, it’s more important than ever to find new ways to start building that trust and commitment to your brand from the moment they click on the company website.
Upping your website game as well as upgrading the internal tools your team uses to analyze and organize online consumer data will help you stand out from the crowd and close more sales. An AI-driven website paired with personalized lead follow-up gives your online customers a shopping experience that’s comparable to the dedicated service they’ll receive when they finally visit in person.
To unlock a top-notch consumer journey for your online leads, keep in mind these 4 keys to forming a successful relationship from the get-go.
1. Prioritize Leads and Important Information
Improving the lead follow-up process starts with collecting better data on each online consumer who visits the website or clicks on a digital ad. Add interactive web experiences to increase engagement with your brand and also gain opportunities to learn more about each consumer who engages with the quizzes, incentives and digital tools you add to the site.
By tying an AI-driven interactive website to a marketing cloud and aggregating all online consumer data in a CRM system, companies can store all consumer data in a centralized spot for better analysis and lead organization. A quality CRM can help your sales team sort leads and prioritize consumers ready to take action right away, and track every touchpoint along the way.
“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential, headquartered in Denver. “We overlay our website insights in terms of prospect engagement with a series of other data points, from our property management software and Google Analytics, just to better understand the activity of the consumer.”
Julia Critelli, General Manager at Critelli’s Fine Furniture, uses the website information stored in a cloud-based, connected CRM to sort and prioritize “hot leads” the sales associates should pursue first.
“We can also see how many deals are open and the value of those deals, along with probability of sale,” Critelli says. “I’m able to export certain lists or organize it in different ways, which I think is a good tool for myself and the sales staff.”
2. Personalize Lead Follow-Up
Knowing exactly which experiences a lead interacted with online and seeing what they’re searching for on the website gives your team a leg up on the lead follow-up process. The sales team can personalize their responses and tailor the information they provide the consumer to prioritize what features they indicated online they’re most interested in. Feeling like you already know them and their preferences helps establish a relationship with the consumer before you ever meet in person.
“It helps be more personable in our responses,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities based in Atlanta. “We’re able to tailor our response, whether it be in an email or a phone call. I encourage my team to use that information gathered on the website, and don’t just send a cookie cutter response telling them something they already know.”
To eliminate the extra work for your sales team, consider automating email or text nurturing through a marketing cloud and CRM database. When connected to an AI-driven CRM, automated emails and text messages are personalized based on each consumer’s information and timeframe for purchasing.
3. Communicate with Consumers on Their Terms
Do you know what time of day your customers prefer to be contacted and their preferred method of communication? That’s valuable lead information that’s unique to your industry and market, so be sure to collect that data whenever possible.
For the multifamily industry, PERQ online data shows 48% of prospects prefer to be contacted in the morning hours and 54% like emails from properties over other forms of communication. Emails tops the list for the majority of home furnishing customers PERQ surveyed as well, although the data shows text is quickly becoming a favored form of communication for consumers across all industries.
However, every person is different. You know that friend who always responds to texts with an unwarranted phone call and leaves voicemails you never check? Don’t cross that miscommunication line as a company trying to connect on a personal level with a consumer.
To increase your chance of successfully building a lasting relationship, offer a variety of communication avenues for consumers who wish to reach out to your company with questions or to gather additional details, such as an online chat-to-text tool in addition to email and phone options.
Big Sandy Home Furnishings Superstore recently introduced text-to-chat on the store website and are finding consumers who use the feature are highly engaged and more likely to convert than the average online visitor.
“They’re further along in the buying cycle,” President Bryan Scott says. “The interesting thing though is it seems like it’s all ages of demographics who engage. Everybody wants to text now.”
4. Manage Leads Through Entire Consumer Journey
Consumers who divulge personal information and devote significant time when researching on a company’s website expect you’ll reciprocate in the relationship, giving them something in return. Reward their commitment with relevant incentives to entice them to take the next step, and offer them your team’s industry knowledge and personalized advice to make them feel like they have a friend in the business.
Even if you don’t manage the newest property on the block or run the biggest retail furniture superstore this side of the Mississippi, you can win the battle for a consumer’s heart by delivering outstanding, personalized service.
“That’s where customer service and a more tailored leasing experience — and resident experience — becomes crucial,” Eppsteiner says. “That’s the only way you can compete with a new build or a bigger company with a bigger budget.”
Utilize technology to follow leads throughout the consumer journey, touching base every step of the way to offer helpful guidance. Continue that commitment to concierge-type customer service beyond the lease or sale and build long-term loyalty that only comes with time and consistent work.
Scott says being able to track the entire buying journey online makes all the difference when trying to connect with a customer. “It helps us build that relationship with the consumer before they actually come through the door,” he says. “We know all about them and we’re able to build trust.”
[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]It’s smart business to study what your home furnishing competitors do successfully. Searching beyond your industry may be an even better idea. Retailers in different spaces offer innovative ideas you can apply to your business, even if they sell an entirely different product.
For instance, the auto sales industry uses some of the best CRM, marketing cloud and AI technology available, even though people still buy cars in person at a showroom. Combine these learnings with the information of your own online customers provide as they search your website to gain real traction in the marketplace.
Make Your Home Furnishing Website an Online Showroom
The auto industry evolved as information became more readily available to consumers. Gone are the days where an often lengthy visit to a car lot, facing high-pressure sales tactics, was the only way to shop for vehicles. Also, gone, the mystery pricing associated with high-ticket items.
According to digital marketing research, approximately 86 percent of car shoppers conduct online research before deciding to visit a local dealership, providing dealers not only the opportunity to brand themselves online but to gain insight into what the customer is looking for and where they are on their buying journey.
Websites now serve as the online showroom for many retailers. While you can’t physically see customers walk in the door when they are online, your store can add AI-driven web conversion software that captures data and information to assist in closing the sale when they do come in.
“You’re not talking to people — not a face, not a name — yet customers will provide detailed information and send it to us,” says Chris Thomas, Internet Sales Manager at Krieger Ford, of how consumers engage with the dealership’s interactive tools and assessments. “Our website allows the on-screen experience to work more like a conversation. Before [adding AI technology], we were getting 75 to 100 leads per month and now it is 150 to 200 leads.”
Thomas says while website traffic has grown over time, the number of online lead conversions have increased even more significantly.
Winning the Customer Throughout the Buyer Journey
It’s estimated there are over 35,000 car dealers and around 30,000 furniture retailers in the United States. With more consumers beginning their shopping journey online, providing a quality website experience is imperative. Car dealers understand that challenge and leverage a combination of integrated technology products to meet the consumer demand for instant information.
“Customers will get that guidance somewhere. We prefer it be from us, so we can build our brand and that relationship,” Thomas says. “If we are not helping customers and learning about their wants and needs, they will find it somewhere else.”
With people visiting fewer showrooms in person, it’s important to capture a consumer’s interest and start building a relationship online.
“We have heard less people come to showrooms. Whereas in the past, people would go to five to six retailers on a Saturday. Now, customers do their research online and visit one to two showrooms, tops,” says Jay Kinney, Client Success Manager at PERQ. “We know consumers start their buying process online, and 98% of sales still take place in-store.”
Collecting online information only solves one of the many digital problems retailers commonly face. What do you with that data potential customers give you? Are you engaging them at each stage of the journey? Learning customers wants and needs can’t happen without an integrated website strategy like most auto dealerships rely on, which can include digital advertising analytics, personalized customer experiences, email nurturing and refined targeting.[/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]
Use Data to Improve Lead Nurturing
Without analytics and accurate reporting, it’s impossible to know where the customer is on their online journey and what they’re looking to buy. If you’re not generating regular reports, how do you know what is working and what is not?
Your website should serve as more than just a brochure, gathering helpful lead information sales associates can use when following up with a website visitor, and website leads must be viewed with the same potential as in-store visitors. Engage leads based on what they were searching for online and convert them into appointments.
“What auto dealers are doing well, and home furnishing retailers can learn from, they’re bringing the customer information into their customer relationship management (CRM) tools,” says David Kain, President of Kain Automotive, a digital marketing and consulting firm for the automotive industry.
“They’re doing a good job of the initial ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ communications and providing answers the customers are looking for,” Kain says. “Yet, they can’t wait for this customer to see the next ad or get a generic email. Proactive sales people reach out prior and are willing to be the one creating customer engagement and a good customer experience.”
Find a Technology Solution Fit for Home Furnishing Retailers
Retailers may be tempted to select a default software platform that provides general data and anonymous reporting. However, each business is different with its own audience, goals and market circumstances. It’s best to choose a technology solution built specifically for the home furnishings industry, then customized to meet your store’s goals.
“PERQ offers seamless integration throughout the marketing cloud solutions – which include sales enablement tools such as email nurture, CRM, and digital advertising,” Kinney says. “PERQ’s CRM is designed specifically to handle PERQ leads, including color-coding based on the hotness of leads, auto-generated follow-up tasks, and lead history. Plus, we are able to show influenced revenue as a result of PERQ leads.”
Kain says it’s PERQ’s willingness to customize its AI-driven cloud, not only to the industry but to each retailer’s specific needs, that delivers success to its clients.
“Every retailer has their unique offers. The cost to go with a custom platform, like PERQ — who will literally dig in and learn the unique characteristics of the business — is far greater of an accelerator than to simply pull something off the shelf, do a plug-and-play, and then hope for success,” Kain says. “With PERQ, you will have a partner who really wants to help drive you to a higher level.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]