With Digital Sales Training, Furniture Retailer Connects Better with Online Shoppers6 min read
“Being a family-owned furniture store, it’s important for us to make sure we can compete in the digital world. We all know EVERYONE is online and does most of their research online — getting ideas and pricing — before coming into a store,” says Kelly Mullins, who heads up Marketing & Online Sales at Railway Freight Furniture, a Georgia home furnishings store with five locations that recently took part in digital sales training for their team to learn how to better connect with online shoppers.
Mullins knows she’s competing against colossal corporate furniture stores in the state, battling for online shoppers searching Wayfair, Amazon and well-known national retailers like JCPenney and Walmart for their next sofa, mattress or coffee table.
“Chain stores have departments and people dedicated to their online digital marketing,” Mullins says. “Most mom-and-pop stores don’t have the funds or staff to allocate to digital sales, and many are older and don’t understand it. It is so important to do the best we can to grab people online before they come into the store.”
The rise of digital marketing has forced local home furnishing brands with decades of business experience to change how the stores do business, like Railway Freight Furniture, named from the array of railway goods it sold at discount when they first opened in 1969.
To combat the pervasive ascension of online shopping and Google searches, places like Railway Freight turn to people educated in digital marketing like Mullins, who obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing in 2000. That puts her in the unique generation who grew up without a cell phone or home computer for many years, but young enough to embrace the digital evolution from the start.
“The digital world is confusing, there’s so much and it’s always changing,” she says. “If you don’t know the ins and outs, and understand all of the lingo, then you may be wasting money and time on things that aren’t working.”
Digital Shoppers Deliver Leads and Sales You Can Track
Online shoppers leave a trail of personal crumbs as they click around on a home furnishings website, if you know how to collect and follow the data trail. Dominating the digital market may seem daunting for some retailers but at least it’s easy to track results and, with the right technology, fairly simple to tie back to sales. In reality, it’s easier than tracing the impact and reach of offline advertising like radio and TV ads.
“Digital, however, does let you see exactly what is happening and where your money is going, so it’s trackable — IF you know what you are looking at,” Mullins says.
Railway Freight decided to up the ante just before the start of 2020, adding AI-driven PERQ technology to the store’s website to help guide online shoppers to the next best step in the buying journey. Personalized and interactive, home furnishings customers can find out which design style suits them best with an online assessment and then see all of the types of furniture they’re interested in that match their results.
As shoppers click around and engage with the Railway Freight site, they give Mullins and the sales team detailed lead data they can use when following up with the shopper by email or through the website’s Ask a Question chat-to-text tool, or when they come into the showroom to shop in person. That’s a lot of new lead data to manage, which becomes especially difficult if no one is trained to manage the traffic flow.
In its initial 30-day PERQ review and coaching session, Railway Freight saw online shoppers engaging with the website’s new features for almost 15 minutes on average — up 300% from the benchmark data gathered before launching the AI software — and looking at almost triple the number of pages on the site compared to the average online visitor. That translates into more data and more lead opportunities for the sales team.
While the data gives immensely valuable insights into Railway Freight’s shoppers, as a whole and on an individual level, knowing what to do with that data makes all the difference in the digital domain.
“I already had a good understanding of digital marketing,” Mullins says. “But this has helped me see how important it is to allow your customer to have the best experience on your website that they can. The more interactive and educational your site can be, the more you can engage them and talk with them, and then ultimately get them in your store to purchase.”
Digital Sales Training Guides Your Team Through the Process
Technology can set you on the right route for capturing the interest of online shoppers you can trace to offline purchases inside the store, but without any guidance and training for the store’s sales team you’re driving blind down the tracks. It’s the people that make it work well.
“Proper training helps you know what to do, how to look at the analytics and just guides you through the whole process,” Mullins says.
Investing in software without any support or training can leave your sales team confused, or worse, frustrated and then disinterested in diving into the data and online leads the new technology delivers. For example, PERQ’s digital sales training advised Mullins and the Railway Freight team to ask open-ended, personalized questions in text or emails, and to create follow-up tasks for online leads they’ve reached out to so they don’t lose a sale by failing to check back in with customers after their initial interaction.
The best results come when every team member from each department and store location buys in to the benefits of a software upgrade and knows how to utilize it to its full potential, from understanding the detailed analytics and how to sort leads by priority level to learning successful lead follow-up strategies for digital consumers in each stage of the sales funnel.
“The PERQ team has been one of the best I have worked with,” Mullins says. “They are excited and knowledgeable, which in turn helps us to be. They’ve guided us through the entire process — the best way to talk to the customers, what works and what doesn’t. It has given us another avenue to reach our digital customers and show them who we are and how we can best help them.”