It was a sweet, unexpected surprise for Shirley Salter as she found out she was the winner of FATWIN’s $25,000 sweepstake sponsored by PERQ. Shirley, a resident of Monroeville, Alabama was presented the winnings on April 22nd, 2021 at Farmers Home Furniture. This comes after Shirley was randomly selected after she completed a “Scratch and Save” online entry on the Farmers Home Furniture website, who leverages PERQ software, in September of 2020.
While shopping on the stores website, a pop-up scratch and save promotion appeared. Not thinking much of it, Shirley filled out the form and forgot all about it shortly after it was complete.
“I got a few emails and calls saying I was the winner of $25,000,” Shirley recounts. “I immediately thought this was a scam as nothing like this ever happens to me. I asked for a timestamp of my submitted form, and when I received the confirmed information, I was in complete shock!”
Robbie Cook, Director of Marketing and Advertising for Farmers Home Furniture was delighted to know the winner came from their stores. “We are thrilled to be able to help bring this opportunity to one of our customers and help change their life forever,” says Cook.
“My advice for anyone hesitant about entering the FATWIN Sweepstakes when they see it, do it! You never know when you could be the big winner.”
Shirley says her first big purchase is going to be a new refrigerator. After that, she is looking to take a much needed vacation with her family. “2020 was a tough year for everyone and I am so thankful this opportunity presented itself, it will be a huge help to me and my loved ones.”
In this final episode of season two of The Bridge, we will take a trip down memory lane and pull the most important takeaways of each episode to help you take the next steps in your selling journey.
This season has been nothing short of unexpected twists and turns as we figured out how to weather the pandemic. What started off as in-person recordings, quickly pivoted to Skype calls for the majority of our guests. What a blessing in disguise that was as we were able to meet and connect with so many amazing people. Thank you for sticking with us!
It was our goal this season to focus on sales and connect you with individuals who could provide insight on how to connect with shoppers online and transition the conversation and ultimately the sale, at an onsite physical location. We learned how to enhance the buying experience and with all of the world changes, pivot to a more virtual consultation and tour setting.
We hope you enjoyed listening to season two and we can’t wait to bring you more laughs, conversations, and insight in season 3. Happy podcasting!
Keeping track of your home furnishing customers may feel a little like a race. A staggered race where each runner starts and finishes at different times. Some run faster than others, some drop out of the race, while others join midway.
Not only do they all start and stop at different points, it may feel like they are running on two different courses, online and in-store, or a mixture of both. Managing the customer’s journey can be a better experience with the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.
Set the course and track home furnishing website leads by centralizing data in a single platform, a CRM. With a cloud-based furniture CRM system, prioritize follow-up on website leads while improving your team’s productivity and increasing sales.
The e-commerce CRM market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 11% from 2019 to 2024 in what is already close to a $50 billion industry worldwide. Considered an investment with proven ROI as it increases conversions and tracks online lead to sales, a CRM system clearly benefits customers, sales staff, managers and store owners.
Each home furnishing customer’s journey would be very different if it was customized to the specific shopper’s needs, delivering personalized experiences ahead of in-store visits. How successful would your team be if you centralized customer data, prioritized leads based on when they’re in the market to make a purchase, and provided the ability to see unattended customers?
“Our CRM helps because we’re able to go into that customer profile and really dig into what they were looking at on our website,” says Julia Critelli, General Manager at Critelli’s Fine Furniture. “We can go back and see all the pages that they were on and get a better idea of their needs.”
Get Visibility into the Customer Journey with Furniture CRM System
You’re setting your sales team up to lose if you expect them to track every home furnishing customer on every course at all times throughout the purchasing journey without utilizing a CRM furniture retail system. It’s both challenging and time-consuming, if not impossible. CRMs store all your customers’ lead data with detailed histories in one place accessible on any device, empowering your salespeople to form stronger connections and deeper knowledge of the customer.
“With CRM, it is much easier to keep track of leads and whether they have been addressed,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager with The Great American Home Store based in Memphis, Tennessee. “Before, it was not possible for management to see if leads were being addressed and it is now easier for the agent to track.”
With data stored in one place, the salesperson gains visibility into each customer’s preferred form of communication, facilitating personalized interactions with customers based on how they prefer to be contacted. A CRM, for example, should include automated text and email capabilities along with customizable templates. A marketing cloud-based system logs all outreach communications with customers to provide a detailed history of prior interactions. Additionally, a CRM allows managers to assign unattended leads to specific team members, so no sales opportunities get missed.
Less Attrition, More Conversion and Increased Customer Satisfaction
Greater customer satisfaction as a result of personalized experiences should lead to less attrition. Without a CRM, over 70% of online leads fail to convert. Your store’s CRM for furniture sales should filter leads based on intent to purchase or product of interest, as well as color coded leads to determine who you should follow up with first.
Tracking each customer’s desired method of communication, past online history and all prior interactions allows the sales team to provide better customer experiences more efficiently. By utilizing your website to facilitate customer engagement and information gathering, a well-designed CRM frees up your staff to assist in-store customers.
“With our CRM, we’ve seen lead-to-sale performance nearly double what it was before,” Bowen says. “We are also using the system’s marketing emails and have a dedicated person who handles leads. All of those factors have contributed to the performance increase. Our average sale is about 20% higher than what it is in the store, also an increase.”
At Critelli’s, they utilize the CRM to target online leads when showroom traffic slows down. “Our current CRM has helped us increase productivity and efficiency during slower times,” Critelli says. “It’s been a good tool for myself and the sales staff. We are able to look at conversion, hot leads and even export data to sort based on our needs.”
What to Look for to Find the Best furniture CRM system
In a $50 billion dollar industry, there are several CRM platforms from which to select. Finding the best one for your home furnishings business makes a difference in how many customers cross the finish line.
“When a CRM is easy to use, it’s easier to utilize,” Critelli says. “I think that’s a big thing, because if it’s not easy, they’re not going to use it. Managers need to understand the system inside and out to benefit the team.”
In addition to ease of use, select a CRM that includes features to give your organization the best chance of success. A solid CRM not only includes contact and lead management, it also helps manage tasks and tracks conversions, and features campaign management capabilities, reports, dashboards and a mobile application.
Once you’ve selected a CRM, Bowen suggests selling the platform to your sales team. “Sell them on the idea, and spend time defining rules and procedures for how to handle all the various scenarios you will encounter,” he adds. “Make sure everyone undergoes sufficient training.”
“The best systems create wins all around for customers, agents and management,” Bowen says. “Ask yourself if everyone is winning with the system you are using now.”
Are you even using a CRM? If not, Bowen recommends finding a home furnishings CRM that allows you to set up the system and your team in a way that allows you to “respond as fast as possible with the best, most knowledgeable response, and solve the customer’s problem.”
Think about the very important people in your life. You care about them and know a great deal about what is meaningful to them. They receive special treatment for a reason. They earned VIP status. Now, consider your customers. They are important people to your business. You care about keeping them happy. Odds are you know a great deal about them, so do they receive special treatment? Are you offering VIP furniture consultations?
Creating exceptional customer experiences can set your business apart from the competition. Ritz Carlton hotels are known for going above and beyond. Management authorizes each employee to spend up to $2,000 per guest per visit to make their stay memorable and personal. A Google search for “Ritz Carlton customer experience” produced over 39 million results. What they are doing works for their business.
In the home furnishings business, arming employees with $2,000 to create an exceptional customer experience isn’t sustainable. Don’t let that keep you from providing a VIP furniture consultation. Begin with defining the criteria for who qualifies as your most important customers and reviewing the sales data. Ensure that this group is indeed worth cultivating and what you offer them will be considered desirable for each customer included.
Create VIP Furniture Consultations With Your Digital Sales Process
Start with what you know about those VIP customers. If they’ve been interacting with your website, gather their useful and insightful information. What are they shopping for, what’s their design style, preferred color, size, brand or desired features? Even better, collect their preferences from the results of an interactive online quiz.
Nudge them to tell you even more and launch the in-store engagement by giving them a way to schedule their VIP appointment while on your website. Without a way to collect this data from your store website, you and your team miss out on gathering crucial customer information and the opportunity to set the business apart by adding value through an in-store design or product consultation.
Ideally, the customer can schedule via your website a VIP appointment from preselected times. Strategically schedule those appointment openings during your sales team’s downtime or the least-busy hours for your store to maximize productivity. If the customer doesn’t schedule online, you still have a meaningful opportunity to reach out to the customer and offer a VIP appointment if you collected their lead data online.
Services You Can Provide the Customer Add Value
Give your customers the feeling they are getting something special and make them excited to visit your store. What can you provide that customer above and beyond what they can do on their own? Without added value, it’s just another visit to a home furnishing store. Strive to help them save time and feel important.
Take the information you’ve gathered through your digital efforts and tailor the experience specific to their situation. Do your homework. Asking questions they have already answered via website interactions may diminish the experience. Remembering their preferences and customizing the appointment to their needs makes for an impactful and effective interaction.
If your customer is looking for a couch in a certain color and size, offer a customized showing of different options. Give them a sneak-peek into recently delivered pieces. Prepare the space ahead of time to resemble the size and shape of the room where their purchase will ultimately be enjoyed. Give your salespeople a head start to think about accessories, lighting and other upsell opportunities.
Prepare ahead and take care of the time-consuming aspects of the transaction. Prepare financing information or get approval from management to adjust the price if required to make the sale. Look at delivery dates and times, and have that information handy to amaze the customer by anticipating their needs.
It’s also important to make them feel special in small yet significant ways. Greet them by name and stun them with your attention to detail by personalizing the entire shopping experience. Offer a special design consultation, drink of choice, a special gift or a chance to win an incentive only open to your VIP consultation customers.
Perfect the Appointment, Then Introduce VIP Furniture Consultations
Make the VIP furniture consultation unique for you, your store, and especially your customers. Once you gain traction and figure out what works, consider taking the next step and create a VIP program. Incentivize your customers and build brand loyalty by offering exclusivity, special offers, discounts and special events. You can also keep customers engaged and motivated by offering a tiered loyalty program. Make whatever you do memorable to create an emotional connection.
Surprise offers or gifts for being a customer (61%)
More convenient shopping process (50%)
Solving a problem or question (45%)
Recommending products based on needs (27%)
Keeping customers up to date on the latest news and products (23%)
Welcoming customers when they visit (20%)
Creating a VIP furniture consultation and potentially a VIP program takes customer data and some extra work, yet will result in highly engaged and satisfied customers. These customers will continue to give you a return on your investment by providing repeat sales, keeping your retention rate high and providing free marketing through word-of-mouth referrals.
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.”
If someone asked why you think you’re the better furniture store compared to the competition, you’d probably talk about your well-trained, friendly sales staff and fully stocked showroom. But what about the store website?
With 90% of home furnishing shoppers looking online before making a purchase, your website must give consumers all the feels, just like you aim to do inside the physical showroom. Your team immediately greets shoppers walking in the door, offers assistance and directs them to the section best suited for what they say they need, while also learning as much as they can about those consumers.
AI-powered technology can give your store the edge by delivering personalized, helpful guidance to shoppers on the website, and gathering valuable consumer data your store can use to nurture those shoppers with customized incentives and experiences.
“Modern tools have made it easy to not only develop an online presence, but also to showcase merchandise, handle fulfillment, and meet consumers where they are to draw them into the store,” says Steve Davidson, VP of Fortegra’s Warranty Product Group, in his article The future of furniture retail recently featured on Retail Customer Experience.
“Traditional retailers are struggling in the face of challenges — specifically from their online competitors … Those furniture retailers who have faced the challenge head on are finding that today’s technology provides a low barrier to entry for the uninitiated.”
Here are 5 ways you can use technology on your furniture store website to prove you are indeed the better furniture store:
1. Make Website Visitors Feel Welcomed
Acknowledge online visitors the moment they land on your furniture store’s website, and personalize their entire interaction based on their behavior as they move along. Welcome them with a personalized message in a pop-up window, banner or chat bubble, and check-in as they browse to see if they have any questions or point out some helpful tools you offer on the site to get them started.
Offer to show them around the website or offer them a virtual consultation, ask them qualifying questions to learn more about their lifestyle, and serve up pages, products or assessments that make the most sense based on what they’re searching.
Make them feel like they’ve found a place that’s helpful, easy to navigate and a pleasure to do business with — just like you do in person.
2. Give Consumers Information They Seek
Consumers prefer to gather as much information as possible before they ever enter a store showroom. Make it easy to find all of the details about the items they’re most interested in buying, and help them narrow down their selection by providing helpful assessments and tools.
Just by being helpful, your website can build trust with consumers and they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy. That makes converting online leads into sales a much more feasible task for your in-store team when they follow up or meet them in person.
Educated consumers will appreciate the access to information at their fingertips so they can confidently make a decision. While you may think withholding details like pricing will make them call or come into the store, it’s actually more likely to send them searching on competitors’ websites for the answer. Effectively move leads down the sales funnel and closer to a purchase by giving them all of the information they seek online.
3. The Better Furniture Store Guides Online Leads
While shoppers prefer to self-service when it comes to gathering information online, they do appreciate it when a website guides them along in the process. Use AI website conversion software to intuitively lead consumers along in their journey and serve up the next best step in the process to help them.
Direct online furniture shoppers to the products that best suit their taste, and set up your store website so it shows them information related to the data you’ve already collected on them as they click around. Do they seem torn on the best type of mattress, jumping around between all of the options? Offer them a mattress assessment that explains in the results why a particular kind of mattress may work better for their specific sleep needs.
4. Automate Lead Nurture to Keep Consumers Coming Back
Lead management is the key to nurturing online consumers. Send each new lead that lands in your CRM an automated email or text after they visit the website to acknowledge the shopper and give her more information about whatever she looked at online. It shows you care, value the shopper’s visit and are paying attention to what they really want.
Use an automated lead nurture campaign as a way to keep your home furnishings brand top of mind while they decide on a purchase, and drive them back to the website to engage further with your interactive tools and quizzes. Include customized incentives to inspire the shoppers to take action or visit the store, such as a personalized coupon for that recliner they’ve been eyeing online.
5. Be a Better Furniture Store By Personalizing Your Approach
At the end of the day (or in the middle of the night when shopping online), consumers connect with stores that make online furniture shopping a rewarding experience. You want them to feel special, so they’ll return to your website or visit your store when it comes time to spend money on a new appliance or piece of furniture.
Give them the VIP treatment online by personalizing each touchpoint and offering helpful tools to make their decision less difficult and time-consuming.
According to The future of furniture retail article, 86% of furniture shoppers who start their search online still prefer to finalize a purchase in the showroom. “While brick-and-mortar may currently enjoy an advantage that suits traditional methods, changing trends should not be ignored,” says Steve Davidson, the article’s author. “Now is the time for furniture retailers to act on digital — because the future of furniture is online.”