What Home Furnishing Retailers Can Learn from the Auto Industry

What Home Furnishing Retailers Can Learn from the Auto Industry

[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]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.[/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 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.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

PERQ Closes $6 Million Series A Funding Round

Poplar Ventures L.P. led funding, included additional investors from within the Midwest silicon corridor and tech community; investment will fuel the expansion of PERQ and its Marketing Cloud Technology.


Indianapolis, IND, July 8, 2019 – PERQ, a marketing technology company, today announced it closed a $6 million funding round to grow its artificial intelligence-driven marketing cloud for big-ticket retailers. The funding comes exclusively from Midwest technology leaders and is led by Poplar Ventures L.P. in Louisville, Kentucky. 


PERQ’s game-changing, artificial intelligence-powered digital marketing software, is increasing sales and gross profits for over 1,000 businesses in the automotive, multifamily and home furnishings verticals. The award-winning technology, including PERQ’s recently launched Marketing Cloud, helps businesses better engage with consumers, capturing unique user data that is leveraged in personalized marketing campaigns to increase conversion and sales. The solution has driven company growth in excess of 100% annually for the past 3 years.


Poplar Ventures L.P. led the Series A round. Other investors and investment groups joining the round include Elevate Ventures, Allos Ventures, Collina Ventures, 4G Ventures, Great Blue Venture, Jupiter Peak, Tim Kopp and four other local angel investors. The Series A funding round follows a $5.5 million Series Seed round in October 2018, which was led by Elevate Ventures and nine other Indianapolis-based investors, many of whom are represented again in this round.


“The funds raised during our Series A will provide more than ample capital to support the continued growth and development of the PERQ Marketing Cloud and our innovative marketing technology solutions,” says Andy Medley, PERQ CEO and co-founder. “We are excited to have all of these great investors on board.” 


“PERQ’s growth and its outstanding customer results, along with the $10B+ addressable market size, drove our decision to invest,” says John Willmoth, Founder and Managing Partner of Poplar Ventures. “Today’s digital shoppers have changed, creating challenges for high ticket retailers. PERQ’s Marketing Cloud is solving those challenges, creating a user-friendly and personalized digital experience that drives quality leads and a significant return on digital marketing spend. It’s a win for both businesses and the consumer.”


About PERQ

PERQ (www.perq.com), a marketing technology company founded in 2001, empowers businesses and the online consumer experience through innovative solutions powered by artificial intelligence. More than 1,000 businesses in the home furnishings, auto retailing and multifamily industries leverage PERQ’s Marketing Cloud and technology to give them more visibility into their digital marketing efforts and sales.


PERQ has been named to the Inc. “500 Fastest Growing Companies in America” list on three separate occasions. In 2019, PERQ won the Stevie Award for Fastest Growing Company of the Year and the 2018 Best in Biz Silver Award for Fastest-Growing Company of the Year. In 2018, PERQ won a Gold Stevie Award for Entrepreneur: Founding Team of the Year in the American Business Awards.


About Poplar Ventures

Poplar Ventures is a venture capital firm based in Louisville, KY, and is focused on investing in early and growth stage, cloud based recurring revenue software technology companies.The firm’s ethos is to invest where they can truly make a contribution. For additional information, visit www.poplarventures.com.


How a Marketing Cloud Solves Common Multifamily Industry Problems

How a Marketing Cloud Solves Common Multifamily Industry Problems

[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]The “cloud” may seem like an obscure notion, an ambiguous technology we use often despite understanding very little about how it works, but once mastered a marketing cloud for multifamily properties can address pain points across every level of a property management company.


An AI-driven marketing cloud centralizes a multifamily property’s various technologies and data, streamlining internal business processes while also delivering a better customer experience for prospects who start their apartment search online. Every member of a property management team stands to benefit from the multi-pronged approach to generating, tracking and converting leads.


From asset owners and C-suite leaders to on-site property managers and leasing specialists, to the staff working in marketing and regional management, a marketing cloud gives everyone at the company clear, cohesive and actionable insights into prospect data and calculates return on marketing investments. The cloud also frees up time and energy for the staff by utilizing marketing automation and artificial intelligence for a personalized, yet automated approach.


“Having all of our data in one location to search through, versus having to go to each individual [database source] would be great,” says Trent Jones, Regional Marketing & Training Director at The Worthing Companies, which manages apartment communities in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. “You could plate it up by zip code or other parameters, so you can get a snapshot of likes for multiple properties and prospects at one time.”


The possibilities a marketing cloud presents a property are endless, particularly when created specifically for multifamily communities. Here’s how a cloud can help property management companies tackle common problems the industry faces at every level of operations.


Improve Property Websites Using AI Technology


With online search engines changing algorithms to focus on local and voice-based searches, which is expected to soon account for half of all searches, more prospective renters land directly on a property’s website instead of first visiting a general third-party leasing website.


Optimizing a multifamily property’s marketing strategy begins by bolstering the website with AI technology, so it can serve as the No. 1 lead and lease source for property managers. The property website is often the first point of contact for prospects, which do most of their apartment research online well in advance of contacting someone at the leasing office. By improving the website so it captures and nurtures more leads, properties can solve multiple problems at once.


Pain Point: Competing against properties on third-party websites.

Why spend more money to compete against other properties on apartment listing sites when more people search direct these days? Stand out from the local search competition with an exceptional property website. With just a single line of code added to an existing site, a property management company can add interactive leasing tools automatically personalized with AI-guided software and behavior tracking.


Pain Point: Only get name and basic contact info from leads, instead of robust profiles.

Websites augmented with web conversion software collects detailed lead data from prospects as they go through the online experiences that help them narrow their list of potential places to live, such as a community assessment that evaluates the neighborhood priorities of individual renters and then shows them related Yelp reviews on places of interest nearby.


“The data gathered on our websites helps us be more personable on our responses,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities Management in Atlanta, when talking about the advantages to collecting more robust lead data on their property websites. “We’re able to tailor our responses, whether it be in an email or phone call.


“I encourage my team to use that information and not just send a cookie-cutter response that’s telling the prospect something they already know about the property. They’ve already been to our website and answered questions. You have to really think about it and put those things they’ve told you into action.”[/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]

Automate Lead Generation and Lead Nurture to Increase Leads


Investing in a marketing cloud solution that includes quality lead generation tied to an automated lead nurturing system can save properties significant money by collecting and converting exponentially more leads, without extra work from the leasing or marketing teams.


Pain Point: Expensive and poor conversion rates on third-party leads.

Online visitors who spend several minutes engaging on an interactive site and volunteer personal information are much more likely to convert to a lease than generic leads generated through third-party websites — and at a much lower cost per lead and lease.


Within three months of adding AI-powered software, First Communities experienced an average online lead lift of 865% across four properties and a 200% increase in time online visitors spent on the websites. PERQ data pulled from the website analytics shows the software influenced 25% of all leads at those properties during the first 90 days, with a lead-to-lease conversion rate of 4.78% (industry average hovers around 1%). At a cost of $3.82 per lead conversion and $91.92 per lease, the website software performs well above any other lead generation source the company invests in, according to Berry.


Pain Point: About half of online leads not followed up on properly, or at all.

When connected to a marketing cloud, the website feeds detailed consumer profile information into a cloud-based CRM database where property managers can organize leads based on estimated move date and other essential personal information gathered from online visitors. They can also track who in the leasing office touched a lead, along with when and how they followed up, and how successfully they converted leads into leases.


An AI-driven cloud solution that’s digitally linked to a property’s prospect database also offers properties a way to automatically send lead nurture emails and text messages based on where they’re at in the leasing journey. Leasing specialists can then focus their time on renters ready to sign a lease right away, while prospects who are months away from leasing receive timely, helpful content and incentives that drive them back to the website to re-engage with the property and eventually set an appointment through an online scheduler.


When automated, every lead gets acknowledged in a timely fashion with a personalized, relevant message. No more leads slipping through the cracks of a manual database and tracking system.


Calculate Online Advertising ROI and Base Marketing Decisions on Data


To make better marketing decisions, properties need better data. Marketing clouds featuring next-generation tracking software and machine learning capabilities deliver big data insights into the targeted online audience for a particular property and the ROI of all online marketing efforts, then automatically take appropriate action in response to the real-time results.


Pain Point: Inability to optimize marketing spend based on quality data.

An AI-based CRM tracks multi-touch lead attribution across multiple online platforms and channels to give multifamily companies the complete leasing journey for prospects, as well as broader analytics to spot trends and marketing opportunities. Regional property managers and executives can easily peer into the cloud-based system to see which marketing efforts converted the most leads into leases and evaluate a leasing office’s performance.


“By tracking our leads, we know whether or not our teams are following up and how they’re doing so,” Berry says. “You’ve got to be able to prove it out, that you’re getting the value out of your investment in the software and the people who work for you.”


Pain Point: Difficulty seeing which advertising channels drive leads and leases.

Because it accounts for multi-touch attribution and identifies anonymous leads to build in-depth profiles, a connected CRM gives properties the power to run detailed analytics reports that calculate the exact ROI of every advertising and marketing spend.


Sophisticated marketing clouds utilize machine learning, a subset of AI technology that evaluates large sets of data to predict outcomes and automatically adjust settings, to present properties with an “ideal renter profile” and how to best target those type of prospects. It compares a property’s proprietary data to millions of other data points stored in the cloud to show the best path to conversion for their specific target audience.


Based on the real-time data, the unified cloud systems can work together to evaluate every online advertising campaign for a property and automatically adjust spending to maximize results.


“Feeding them too much data is overwhelming,” says Bob Romine, owner of R.C. Romine and Associates, a full-service marketing agency that primarily serves multifamily clients. Many businesses use enterprise cloud systems designed for big corporations that aren’t industry-specific. A cloud-based system built for the multifamily industry instead makes the data more manageable for local property management companies.


“They’re basically saying, ‘Hey, I just want to know who my perfect customer is and then give me more of those kinds of people,’” Romine says. “Being able to bring all of that data into one integrated system and look at it in one place, to identify your avatar, that works really well for any business, big or small.”[/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


How PERQ Data Helps Your SEO Team Optimize Property Websites

How PERQ Data Helps Your SEO Team Optimize Property Websites

[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]Over 74,000 consumers perform a Google search per second. That’s a lot of opportunities to improve your property management company’s digital marketing and SEO efforts.


As renters use technology to access the vast amount of information available online to help them find an apartment or condo, an expansive amount of valuable data becomes available to your business. Imagine capturing detailed online data for every potential tenant who visits your property website, any time of the day, every day.


“It has significantly opened our eyes to how many current prospects will be reviewing a single community at one time,” says Caleb Bartlett, Digital Sales & Media Manager at Nolan Real Estate, of the website conversion software the multifamily company added to several property websites. “We see about 150 unique visitors to our individual websites each day, and PERQ has changed how we go about managing all of those qualified leads.”


Use Website Data to Improve SEO Strategy Across Channels


Capitalize on your property’s website data to help your leasing specialists better meet a lead’s needs and enhance prospect engagement, while also gaining insight into what renters in your market are specifically searching for and which trending keywords your SEO team should target on your website, in digital ads, social media and content marketing. By constantly tweaking your SEO strategy based on real-time data, you’ll drive more organic traffic to your website, and improve your search page ranking and visibility.


PERQ assigns a unique ID to online visitors in order for clients to take anonymous Google Analytics data and marry it up to lead and PERQ analytics in order to accomplish the cross channel/device tracking but also to see who is signing a lease at the physical property. This goldmine of information helps property management companies connect the dots between a prospect’s online activities to spot common words, phrases and renter trends that your SEO team or third-party vendor can use to maximize website growth and attract more leads.[/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]

Your Market, Customers and Ways to Search Continue to Change


SEO is not a one-and-done type of task; it is an ongoing effort. To add to the dynamic nature of search, Google continually updates its algorithm. In 2018, Google reported 3,234 improvements to its search platform.


Optimizing your website requires continual analyzation and modifications. Data collected from customers’ online behavior using artificial intelligence is automatically analyzed and updated to provide properties with a treasure trove of information to influence search engine optimization.


When stored in a marketing cloud, that data can flow between your property’s various technologies and data collection systems to give you a broader picture of each prospect’s journey and your customer base as a whole.


Trying to anticipate how the market, your prospects or search methods will change or evolve is tricky business, but website data provides a view into what’s popular at the moment. When analyzed alongside big sets of industry data, your property can also make predictions on what’s coming next and make automatic adjustments to your digital marketing accounts.


Audit Online Consumers to Make Better SEO Decisions


Ryan Cox, Digital Marketing Manager at J.C. Hart Company, gives this advice to any property looking to improve their digital marketing: “No. 1, even if you have to hire outside to do so, do a comprehensive online customer audit of your residents and potential residents. Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”


He urges property management companies to examine customers’ purchasing habits, styles, likes and dislikes. “Just because you have a budget, doesn’t mean you’re spending it effectively,” Cox says. “If you’re just throwing money at [digital advertising], and spraying and praying, you’re doing it wrong.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

AI Advances Lead Nurture Process for Properties

AI Advances Lead Nurture Process for 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]AI technology continues to change how multifamily properties conduct business, both internally to track leads and analyze data and externally to communicate with rental prospects, but the successful launch of one technology often presents a whole new set of challenges.


Before rolling out an AI-powered solution to capture more online leads or improve digital advertising results, a property management company must first ensure it can properly nurture that influx of leads without burdening an already taxed team of leasing specialists. They’re often the first and only people whose prospects interact with one-on-one when seriously considering an apartment option, so it’s best to use their talents and time wisely.


“Property staff is always busy, and most always behind on something,” says Keir Schutte, owner of KP Consulting Services, which works with multifamily companies to achieve a variety of business goals. “Sadly, as much as everyone complains about occupancy, lead management always seems to need improvement. I think that it’s important to automate anything you can for your properties.”


Artificial intelligence automates the lead nurture process on a property’s website by guiding a prospective renter through the online research phase while collecting their lead information as they engage with the website’s interactive tools to learn more about the community. AI technology can then take the lead nurturing process one step further by utilizing the captured data to automatically communicate with prospects and nurture online leads across multiple channels, such as email and texting.


More Prospect Data Drives More Personalized Approach


An AI-powered lead nurture solution uses a prospect’s own profile data to personalize all digital communication, using their name and remembering them every time they engage with a property, and serving up email and text content that’s customized to their unique preferences and search behavior. A lead nurture campaign can include dozens of different email or text templates and more than 100 different workflow triggers to deliver a truly personalized approach.


AI technology tracks users across platforms to deliver a cohesive consumer experience that makes prospects feel like the property staff already knows them and saves them time as they narrow down where they want to live. They’re never forced to start their search from scratch, and leasing specialists know so much about them before they ever show up for a property tour.


“By using AI, you are making sure the customer is acknowledged immediately, for one,” Schutte says of the benefits of employing an AI-driven lead nurture technology. “In addition, you keep the customer engaged and they’re able to find out more information.”


The goal of the lead nurture content is to drive prospects back to the property website to re-engage with the online tools or book a tour through an online scheduler, which ultimately results in more tours, more return website visitors, and more website engagement to increase online lead to lease conversions.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Target Leads in Different Stages of Renter Journey


The majority of online leads aren’t quite ready to rent, and those leads at the bottom of the prospect funnel who want to sign a lease now can cost the most to target through digital advertising. An AI-powered lead nurture solution reduces a multifamily company’s dependency on leasing agents to follow up on every lead when it first comes in.


By collecting detailed lead data on every prospect who interacts on the property website, your leasing staff can easily segment leads and focus energy on the renters ready to rent right now while the AI technology automatically nurtures those prospects who are still months away from moving. It also means leasing specialists can adjust messaging and their approach based on which phase of the renter journey a prospect indicates they’re in.


Build Relationships with Prospects through AI Lead Nurture


While it may seem counterintuitive to use technology to build authentic relationships with customers, AI is the piece that makes it possible to enhance a prospect’s experience with your property management team — even before talking to anyone in the leasing office. You’ve given them the information they were seeking online, continued to touch base through technology as they research their options, and your leasing staff knows everything they want in a property when they finally reach out to take a tour or sign a lease.


“It allows us to offer an enhanced experience for the customer and provides us with the data of those interactions to help our teams ensure a better experience,” says Jenny Richard, Director of Marketing at Gene B. Glick Company, one of the largest privately held real estate management and development firms in the U.S. “It aids our teams in moving away from collecting customer information in a ‘checklist’ approach, and instead allows the team members to already have this information and utilize it in a conversational way to make a connection.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]