Personalizing the Consumer Journey with Data

Personalizing the Consumer Journey with Data

We have access to more data than ever before. An online prospect can have over 15 different touch points or data associated with their time on your website. On Season 2 of The Bridge podcast, hosts Andy Medley and Muhammad Yasin chatted with Desiree White and Colin Cloud from NE Property Management about how they have been enabling their own onsite teams to help convert online prospects into a signed lease.


The “3 P’s” that NE Property Management looks at when they see incoming online traffic but aren’t closing the deal are:

  • People
  • Product
  • Price


They look to see if the pricing is too high or too low, if the product they are selling is desirable to prospects and if there are any upgrades that need to be made or small cosmetic changes to their own site.


They also look at the people on the on site team. Desiree finds that listening to phone calls has been helpful as a training tool and even offers to join in on calls for support. The initial conversation is the hardest and the most important.



Conversation and Data


Looking at the incoming traffic on your website as a metric is a way that Desiree and Colin can measure if their marketing efforts are working and if so which ones specifically. This is where they both suggest having Google Analytics and training onsite teams in analyzing their ads and data to ensure that their marketing is doing its job.


Your onsite team has access to the personalized date coming from the incoming traffic on your webiste. The first conversation can’t be following the same script that telemarketers and cold callers use, it has to and can be more personalized. Using the data that your website has collected on the prospect, onsite teams can and should be having more personalized conversations with prospects.


Desiree explains, “you don’t need to act like you’re selling it to them, you’re helping them with this journey.”  Lead with the details that the data gives you like the number of pets they have, the floorplans they were looking at, etc. A more personalized experience will make the prospect feel like you want to find them a new home.

How to Prove You’re the Better Furniture Store

How to Prove You’re the Better Furniture Store

[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]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.”[/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 Home Furnishings Resources


3 Ways to Increase Occupancy in Your Apartments

3 Ways to Increase Occupancy in Your Apartments

[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]Keeping occupancy up at your multifamily communities means getting in front of potential renters where they’re searching for available apartments and spending the majority of their time: online.


Carefully studying the consumer journey and gathering prospect data along the way gives your property several advantages when it comes to attracting and retaining renters.


“The internet is still the No. 1 tool for properties, and it’s just a matter of where they find it or how they’re finding it,” says Corey Egan, LeasingKC Co-Founder and Director of Client Success. “They have to make sure their own property websites are up to pace with the competition. Make sure all of the information is there and up to date … you have video content, and a really solid SEO strategy.


“We’re forever trying to figure out where everybody’s spending their time every day,” he says. “It turns out a lot of people are spending most of their time on their phones and they’re on all of these social media platforms, so those are just other ways to get in front of a potential lead.”


Collecting data at those various touchpoints as prospects shop around helps you optimize your digital marketing to better target the right renters, tailor the leasing experience for prospects, and improve the lead nurturing process. All three lead to increased occupancy over time.


“Evaluate the data to drive your decision-making,” Egan says. “It’s very valuable for apartment communities to use that data to see who their renter is and where they fit, and then create a more focused marketing strategy to reach those people.”


1. Make Data-Driven Decisions to Improve Occupancy


For Caroline Gould, V.P. of Marketing & Branding at Fore Property, one of the country’s top 20 largest multifamily developers, the property website and data analytics rank as the most valuable tools to target and convert the perfect renters for a particular property.


Gould runs daily Google Analytics reports to keep tabs on each property’s performance and look for ways to improve digital marketing results. She checks which referral sites send the most traffic to the property websites, views bounce rates for digital ad campaigns and tracks how Fore Property ranks for certain keywords in each market to evaluate her team’s SEO efforts in increasing search engine rankings.


“The website, the digital presence just has such an enormous importance,” Gould says. “Historically in property management, a lot of things were assessed anecdotally. While I agree there’s no replacement for on-site observations via a property manager and leasing team — those insights are really valuable — but the data is available for us to get away from the anecdotal.”[/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]

2. Improve Lead Nurture to Increase Leases


Set up your property website and lead nurturing process to give prospective renters everything they seek during their apartment search. With AI technology, you can transform your website into a digital leasing agent that leads prospects along the leasing journey with helpful guidance and personalizes the information they receive by collecting their data.


Live video tours offered on your website help to bring awareness to what your community offers without ever having the rental prospect step foot on your property, saving them valuable time. You can drive real-time conversations through FaceTime, Skype or your virtual tour partner, like Realync.


“The internet changed the leasing experience because people can go online and learn everything they pretty much need to know about the property before they even see it in person,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a full-service digital marketing and advertising agency. “And, they’re going to be researching your competitors in the meantime and comparing pricing, walkability, amenities and features — all of that.”


Give prospects valuable information on the property website by offering interactive experiences, such as a neighborhood tour that highlights places most important to them and a floorplan assessment to help them pick the best apartment layout for them. As they engage with your website, collect valuable lead data to make converting the lease a little easier for your on-site leasing team when following up.


“It’s just good to know what they’re looking for,” Egan says. “It potentially saves everyone a lot of time. The technology drives the information to those people, and that’s important because everybody feels more comfortable when they have an idea of the other person rather than just a complete cold call. It’s more of a meaningful conversation and builds a relationship.”


3. Focus Leasing Agents with Marketing Automation


Funnel all of that online consumer behavior data and digital profiles into a CRM system that can sort leads by how soon prospects plan to sign a lease and how good a fit they are for that property. Let your leasing agents focus on the highest-priority leads, and employ automated marketing to nurture the remaining prospects until they indicate they’re closer to making a decision on where to live.


Automated emails and texts backed by AI technology draw in important details from the CRM database to personalize and time the messages, giving prospects the VIP feeling and building brand trust, while also delivering incentives to return to the website to continue their research or schedule a tour using an automated scheduling tool.


“Getting all of that information into your CRM and then into an automation system is important because it’ll allow you to follow up in both a time-efficient way for you and an effective, personalized way for your potential customers,” Norris says.


Ultimately, in whatever form of technology it takes, your hope of increasing occupancy rests on your ability to collect data and turn it into actionable insights. Those consumer insights serve as the foundation of your digital marketing, precipitating positive growth in both new leases and resident retention rates.


“Whether you’re managing a stock or you’re managing a property, it’s essentially the same goal. You want to increase the value of that asset,” Egan says. “Ensuring you have a solid foundation and a solid message in your marketing is a good place to start. Marketing is what drives everything else.


“It’s going to drive the leasing process, and that is going to drive the prospects you’re attracting and the residents you’re renting to, and then the residents equal basically everything to the property,” he says. “Once they’re in there, you want to encourage them to stay, you want them to be pleased, and that’s up to you. If you have a mixed marketing message or you’re attracting the wrong people, they might not be a good fit for your community and that’s when all of the headaches start.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Additional Multifamily Resources:


A Better Approach to Lead Management for Multifamily Properties

A Better Approach to Lead Management for Multifamily Properties

[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]Armed with an array of digital lead generation sources, multifamily properties can find themselves inundated in an unmanageable tangle of online leads coming in from all digital directions. Intelligent lead automation simplifies the lead nurture process for a multifamily property management company and frees up the leasing specialists so they can focus on contacting the highest priority prospects first.


“In the current state of online lead management, you have more online leads than ever before,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “How do we know they are really ready to move or make a decision? Currently, our industry follows up with a broad-stroke approach and we really need a laser-focused approach.”


AI-powered technology sharpens a property’s entire lead nurturing process, starting with website software that delivers interactive, personalized content to visitors and collects detailed lead data. You can prioritize leads based on the data analytics, such as when a prospect indicates they plan to move, and the resulting machine learning insights predict the most likely path to lease conversion at that property.


An intelligent automated lead nurture system separates prospects into two distinct groups: hot leads ready to rent right now and leads higher up in the sales funnel who are still researching options. To streamline lead volume, onsite leasing specialists only receive qualified leads deemed by the data to be the most likely leads to convert, so they can focus on following up with the highest-priority prospects.


“Let the heavy human capital handle the important follow-up,” says Scott Hill, Co-Founder and CEO at PERQ. “Condense opportunities down to those leads most likely to tour and that most fit the profile.”


A smart lead automation approach helps properties solve the challenge of attracting too many low-quality leads and effectively reduces the lead volume the leasing staff needs to focus on at one time. Use the following tips for adding automation to improve your multifamily property’s lead management process and increase the percentage of online leads that convert to tours and leases.


“You’ll see a higher lead-to-tour and tour-to-lease rate, because you’re following up with the right people,” Hill says.


Collect More Data on Rental Prospects Who Engage on Your Website


Engage your website visitors to help them educate themselves and do research on your multifamily properties, while you get valuable lead data about each prospect who engages with the personalized hub of AI-driven leasing tools, such as Explore the Area or Find Your Floor Plan assessments.


“Get more data from your website and look for ways to get the consumer to give you more information, because it is valuable,” Hill says.


Collecting detailed lead data allows your property to identify which leads are ready to rent now, and which prospects should be nurtured using intelligent lead automation until they’re closer to signing a lease. Your marketing department can adjust the digital marketing strategy and messaging to specifically target the different segments of leads.


Prioritize Your Online Leads


By capturing lead data from all of the website visitors who engage with the site’s content and dynamic incentives, you’re building a pipeline of potential leads not quite ready to rent. Treat these as your property’s “Waiting List.”


“Capturing more consumers earlier in the process enables you to have a tremendous amount of data. There are ways to do it where the consumer wants to share information because they get information in return,” Hill says. “Once you have the data, you can qualify the leads. Send the most important leads to your leasing team while you nurture other leads until they are worth your team’s time.”


You can score potential leads based on their answers to your interactive content, individual website behavior and their willingness to talk to a leasing agent or schedule a property tour. Leverage your CRM if it comes with this advanced functionality, or create best practices for your leasing teams so they know how to prioritize online leads.


“Any sales staff is going to be strapped for time to some extent, and there’s only going to be so much manual follow-up they can do. So, it’s important to take some of that load off their shoulders and automate where you can,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a full-service marketing and advertising agency that recently partnered with PERQ to assist clients using the AI technology or are interested in trying the cloud-based marketing software. “There are just certain things that machines can do better than humans.”


Train Your Onsite Leasing Team


Leasing specialists should be the forefront of your brand, and possess the experience and strong sales skills to close the deal when a prospect is ready to sign a lease on the spot. Invest in sales training for your onsite leasing team, and make sure they know which conversations you want them to have with potential renters.


For leads ready to rent now, leasing specialists should contact those right away to avoid losing them to a competing property. Prospects expect prompt responses to digital requests and require a personalized response that shows your leasing team wants to help.


“The leasing agent becomes a concierge to help prospects along and make an easier facilitation of the leasing process when they are ready to engage,” Hill says.


Norris agrees it’s of the utmost importance to respond to inquiries quickly and in a personalized way since consumers are accustomed to the world catering to them “with social media algorithms and dopamine hits.”


“It’s important to follow up in a personalized manner, too, and this is something I think PERQ does well,” Norris says. “Not only is it automated to an extent, but it’s also personalized to the individual.”[/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 Lead Automation to Keep Rental Prospects Engaged


Automated email nurture campaigns can tie into how you score leads and follow a pre-set schedule based on where they’re at in the leasing journey. The timely messages keep your multifamily brand top of mind while they continue researching, no matter how long their apartment search takes.


“With automated prospect emails, our lead management system generates an introduction to engage the prospect prior to involving the onsite team,” says Meagan Struve, Marketing Manager at Mission Rock. “This automated engagement essentially gauges the prospect’s interest before a person steps in to further the conversation towards leasing the apartment.”


With AI technology, automated emails are personalized and curated to only include content relevant to their search on the property website. Say a prospect plans to move from another state, your leasing team could email a video highlighting their favorite floor plan, according to their responses on the website.


Entice them to take the next step like schedule a tour through an automated scheduling tool online, driving them back to the website to re-engage, or encourage the prospect with a personalized incentive. If they own pets, send them an email showing off your pet-friendly amenities and fun “yappy hour” events or include “welcome” offers from neighborhood dog groomers, dog walkers or vets.


“What we are calling automation are those communications or touchpoints with leads,” Eppsteiner says. “This is an evolution. Multifamily has made tremendous strides as an industry.”


Since implementing PERQ’s AI-driven technology to automate lead nurturing and engage online prospects on the Mission Rock property websites, Eppsteiner says the company sees a 50% tour-to-lease conversion rate compared to the average industry closing ratio of 35%.


“Our sales teams are rockstars, and it’s also because the people coming in are ready to lease,” she says. “Where I anticipate automation going, we’ll actually convert more and should anticipate the conversion ratio going up to 60%. The people your team are reaching out to have already been nurtured. These leads are ready, true prospective residents.”


Trust the Automated Lead Nurture Process


Despite your instinct to try and follow up with every lead that comes in the digital door, it’s more efficient and effective to trust the automation process and listen to what the data tells your team about a lead’s readiness to commit to a lease.


“With automation, we have ways to sort and use data which has given me time back to focus on the bigger picture,” Struve says. “I’m not in the day-to-day manual management of data. Yet, I am leveraging the data more usefully while gathering pertinent information for a smoother process.”


Follow up first with prospects the lead management system identifies as a top priority, flagged for being more likely to rent based on gathered data. Trust that it’s better to use automated lead nurture to target lower-priority leads instead of taking away from a leasing agent’s precious time.


Follow the Data to See Results in Lead Automation


By implementing all of the above, you’ll capture better data to help improve operational efficiencies and give better insights into property performance to make better decisions. Richer lead data makes personalized lead follow-up possible.


Your property can tap into online data to track multi-touch attribution for every tour, lead and lease. Easy-to-digest Google Analytics reports show how visitors interact on the website and which platforms convert the most leads into leases, along with ROI of all lead generation sources and digital ad campaigns.


“We have properties that compete against each other, so we are constantly using automation data and watching to ensure that we have a smart spend in those markets,” says Desiree White, Marketing Manager with NE Property Management. “My team does a lot behind the scenes, getting reports and analytics to make sure we’re staying at the top of our market and our onsite teams are seeing success.”


Continuously study the results to spot ways to adjust and improve, and be sure to share reports across all teams in your property management company to keep the big picture in focus.


“This takes collaboration. Marketers are basically data analysts. That analysis is shared with your operations team, your leasing team, and your training team,” Eppsteiner advises. “With these engagement pieces, we are able to get insights into properties. We can share this with our training team to incorporate that information. Data has to be shared with your leasing team.”[/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 Multifamily Resources


Why Texting with Home Furnishing Shoppers is Better Than Chat

Why Texting with Home Furnishing Shoppers is Better Than Chat

[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]When the Furniture Mall of Kansas website switched from live chat to the online “Ask a Question” text tool, the home furnishings retail store immediately noticed a difference in the type of shopper who engaged and experienced a spike in the number of leads ready to talk to a salesperson.


“It has went very well,” Internet Specialist Joey Weathers says of the change. “We’re getting actual inquiries that are more in-depth questions, so it shows that guests are more interested.”


Since introducing the Ask a Question chat-to-text tool online, the percentage of web leads requesting more information and engaging with the sales staff has nearly tripled for Furniture Mall of Kansas — jumping from 7% to 19% of online leads captured.


Text Messages Sent to Shoppers Get Better Response


Texting is quickly becoming the preferred method of communication for most consumers, particularly home furnishing shoppers, according to PERQ online data. Retailers are starting to favor texting as well, because of its effectiveness and the business efficiencies it introduces to the lead-conversion process. Marketing research shows companies that text customers get 7.5 times more responses than with emails.


Weathers says he thinks the texting tool is more effective because the store’s answer is delivered directly to the shopper’s phone, versus an online chat option that requires users to stay logged onto an internet browser in order to get a response or continue a conversation. Once a shopper leaves a live chat platform, the store often lacks a way to follow up with that consumer, who must start the process all over when they initiate another online chat session.


“I think people prefer text messaging. The responses go directly to their cell phone, which everyone has in front of them all of the time,” he says. “They see it immediately. They don’t have to search for it, and they respond better than with just an email or live chat.”


Interactive Chat-to-Text Tool Attracts Higher Quality Leads


Before, the live chat feature on the Furniture Mall of Kansas website mainly attracted questions related to service, whereas the new Ask a Question feature engages shoppers who are ready to buy and have questions for the sales team. Since launching Ask a Question toward the end of July 2019, Weathers says the number of questions they receive each month keeps growing.


“A lot of them are further down the funnel,” Weathers says of the leads collected through Ask a Question. “Now, we can keep the conversation going a lot easier and for much longer. It’s a real positive for us.”


Bryan Scott, President of Big Sandy Home Furnishings Superstore, agrees that Ask a Question targets the ideal low-funnel shoppers who visit the store website. While Big Sandy gets fewer requests than when they used live chat, Scott says the newer chat-to-text tool is “much more effective.” It’s doubled the percentage of online leads who indicated they’re ready to speak to a Big Sandy sales representative.


“We’re not getting just one question and then disengaging,” Scott says. “They’re further along in the buying cycle. When they have interest and are actually engaging, those are serious shoppers and we’re actively closing those sales.”[/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]

Texting Interface Tied to Marketing Cloud Tracks Sales, Staff Performance


Each consumer who interacts with the texting interface automatically enters the store’s lead management system, which is connected through an AI-powered Marketing Cloud. The smart CRM system remembers details about shoppers and recognizes them every time they visit the website or engage with the store in any way, no matter what platform or digital device they use.


That level of tracking delivers powerful data analytics that show which digital marketing efforts convert best and at what cost, as well as measure the performance of the sales staff.


“We’re actually able to track how many questions we get a month, a week, etc. For example, we received 134 Ask a Question leads in one month,” says Tim Whitaker, Sales Manager at Furniture Mall of Kansas. “I can go back in and see 15% of those actually purchased. Anytime you can directly measure how something’s performing, that’s very valuable insight.”


The cloud-based CRM automatically assigns returning visitors to the last salesperson they interacted with, providing customers with a personalized experienced that can continue in the store’s showroom with the same sales specialist. The sales team appreciates the opportunities that continuity provides as they work to close the sale and build a relationship with customers.


“I think that’s just a fantastic tool,” Whitaker says. “Joey and I are able to make sure all of those guests are assigned to certain sales specialists at either location. And we’re able to make sure the specialists are actually following up with those guests, so we’re able to oversee all of their communications via Ask a Question as well. It holds them more accountable.”


Ask a Question Offers Sales Specialists Tools to Better Nurture Leads


Texting gives the sales team an easy, quick way to engage leads and answer their specific questions, which improves their odds of converting those online leads into in-store purchases. Each sales associate logs in to the store’s CRM through a mobile app to see assigned leads, along with all of the consumer data gathered on those shoppers as they engage with the interactive website features like Ask a Question.


“It helps us build that relationship before they come in the door, because we know all about them,” Scott says. “It’s a powerful piece to get them to engage and keep browsing, and it gives the in-store salesperson powerful ammunition.”


Sales specialists can then conveniently send leads relevant pictures or video of inventory with text messages right from their mobile phones to add value and personalization to the conversation. The Ask a Question text tool also gives the sales department more time to do some research or check inventory for an inquiring consumer — versus a live chat platform that requires an instantaneous response by someone glued to the screen until the conversation ends.


“It’s made our sales team and stores more efficient,” Scott says of the texting tool and cloud-connected CRM system. “They’ve got to feel like there’s somebody on the other end. These are hot consumer leads. They want an instant response, and then we filter them to our chat team, which we can now more efficiently staff with a higher level of agent.”


The AI technology that powers Ask a Question automatically sends a customized response to an inquiring consumer to acknowledge receipt of the question. The store staff follows up by text (or whichever preferred communication method the shopper picks when submitting a question, including email or phone) to deliver a more in-depth, thought-out response to their question.


“It gives us time to get back to the guest, to do our research and make sure we give the correct answer,” Weathers says.


Weathers and Whitaker emphasize to their sales team the importance of responding quickly and accurately to online inquiries in order to create a great first impression and establish a connection with consumers, before they move on to a competitor’s website. Once they’ve captured their attention, it’s time to present a call to action and entice the online shopper to come into the store. Ultimately, Whitaker says, the No. 1 goal of the internet team is to inspire shoppers to visit the showroom in person.


“More people are shopping online prior to going into any store,” Whitaker says. “We’ve got to respond efficiently and get all of their questions answered in a timely manner. That’s key, because if we don’t do that, they’re already on to some other website.”[/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 Home Furnishings Resources