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.”
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.”
Additional Home Furnishings Resources
- Find out how to transform your home furnishings team with digital sales training.
- Here are more ways to make sure your customers are getting the VIP Experience.
- Turn your website visitors into in-store traffic with PERQ’s marketing cloud for home furnishings stores.