Does Texting Furniture Shoppers Really Work?4 min read
A furniture shopper sends a text message to Neal’s Furniture after hours on a Sunday to inquire about a product featured on the retailer’s website. The customer receives a prompt auto reply from the store, stating the showroom has closed for the evening but they will return the message as soon as possible.
A Neal’s Furniture sales associate receives notification of the online lead on his cell phone and decides to respond by text within five minutes. The shopper visits the showroom and completes the sale the very next morning.
In a separate sale made the same day, a first-time customer sends a text message to Neal’s Furniture requesting information on the home furnishing retailer’s No Credit Check program after visiting the store’s website. The customer makes a purchase 30 minutes after the text exchange.
These two text message conversations really happened and converted into a quick furniture sale for the local retailer.
“Oftentimes, a customer would be hesitant or perhaps embarrassed to ask for this information in person,” says John Neal Jr., vice president of Neal’s Furniture in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, a small town about 40 miles from Tulsa. “Getting past these initial apprehensions and making the customer feel comfortable could be the difference between making a sale and never having the chance.
“Furniture is an emotional decision, and oftentimes requires careful consideration and planning from the buyer,” Neal continues. “The more comfortable we can make the customer, the more likely we are to earn their business. Hopefully, they have our number saved in their phone alongside their family and friends!”
Texting Furniture Shoppers OK by Most
It’s suddenly common to receive appointment reminders from your doctor and hairstylist by text and shipping updates or coupons from businesses you’ve bought from before. How did it catch on so fast? Turns out, the majority of consumers really like the approach.
“I love, love, love when companies communicate by text,” says Sara Westrich, a travel agency owner who recently purchased a couch for her family’s new home. While that furniture retailer didn’t use text messaging, she says she wishes they had utilized that level of personal communication while she waited for three months to get the furniture delivered after an internal ordering mishap (wrong L shape). Instead, she spent her time repeatedly calling the store to get updates. In her business, she frequently uses text to communicate with clients and leads.
Recent business college graduate Nichole Marchand says she also likes it when retailers send her coupons and incentives by text. She regularly gets messages from a wide variety of businesses, like fast food coupons and reminders for an upcoming salon appointment. Westrich says Honda and Safelite were the last two companies that sent her texts.
“As a whole, text message conversations for follow ups and initial conversions have been received by our customers and sales staff as a benefit, if not a preferred method,” Neal says. “We definitely get the ‘Never text me again!’ customer but that is few and far between. We don’t do cold texts, meaning the customer either initiated the conversation or gave their contact information to a sales associate at some point.”
Shannon Anderson, owner of a food truck business and a busy mom to little ones, may be a millennial but she’s one of those few who hates receiving texts from a business. “I might be weird, but I hate it when companies text me,” Anderson says. “I find it lazy and unprofessional. Shipping updates and coupons I’m OK with, but if you need to say something for business, you should pick up the phone and call that person.”
Texting has Become Normal Communication Method for Shoppers
No one can deny that the way our society communicates and gathers information has changed exponentially over the past several years. Businesses must try new digital marketing tactics to keep up with consumers’ evolving communication practices.
“You have to communicate on their terms and be willing to talk to them how they prefer,” says Justin Bowen, web content manager at The Great American Home Store. The furniture retailer is currently working on implementing a new texting system to go along with their automated email lead nurture and marketing cloud solutions.
“A lot of people think they should be doing what was in vogue a few years ago, but the rules of the game are changing,” Bowen says. “Social doesn’t matter like it did. Facebook ads are harder to do right.
He adds that SMS is where email was about 20 years ago — just starting to catch on as a marketing platform — and no one knows for sure what it’s fully capable of doing to the retail marketplace. With so many companies already texting shoppers, the marketing method will eventually become as saturated as email and lose some of its effectiveness.
“The time is to start now, not later,” Bowen says, when referring to texting furniture shoppers. “People already prefer it, but most of the competition isn’t doing it, which presents a prime opportunity.”
This article originally appeared on Casual Living.