6 min readWhat Home Furnishing Retailers Can Learn from the Auto Industry
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.
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.”