20 Creative Ways to Follow Up With Apartment Rental Leads

20 Creative Ways to Follow Up With Apartment Rental Leads

Most businesses adhere to an established process for how they handle leads. Just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. You can get creative with lead follow-up ideas to convert more lease leads.

 

In our experience, it’s best to approach apartment rental lead generation and follow-up through experimentation and observation. Not every customer will react the same to a single effort or follow-up approach. Lead follow-up and conversions depend on where the customer is at in their buying journey and their personal communication preferences.

 

It’s time to remove the guesswork and apply these 20 creative techniques for rental leads for real estate agents and leasing agents.

 

1. Turn Your Company’s Website into Your Top Marketing Channel

 

To increase the number of online rental leads you turn into leases, your business must first gain trust. Welcome visitors to your site in a new way by letting them know you want to personalize their shopping experience. Let them know that by providing their name and email, they can also enter to win a giveaway. Once they give you their information, your website can remember that visitor and guide them in their shopping journey, asking them what they want to shop for or look at next, while directing them to the exact website page they need to go.

 

“With the right technology, we capture information that the client may not be as comfortable walking in our store and giving,” says Jon Greenbaum, Advertising Manager at Greenbaum Home Furnishings. “[We] learn about the customer without the process feeling intimidating or like an interrogation.”

 

2. Continue to Create Compelling Next Steps for the Prospect

 

With AI software, you’re able to create custom and personalized interactions for the prospect based on their online behavior. Is your prospect looking at a wide variety of options? AI technology can offer an assessment or interactive quiz to help them narrow down choices. If the same consumer returns multiple times to view the same information, provide a way for them to schedule an appointment while they’re still online or offer them the ability to pre-qualify or fill out an application.

 

3. Offer Auxiliary Tools for Added Value

 

Purchasing a high-ticket item usually involves more than just finding the right product for the right price. Other factors impact that decision, so add value wherever possible. If you’re a home furnishings retailer, offer an online style assessment or a free consultation with a designer. Multifamily properties can provide online tools such as a rent calculator to give them an idea of total costs, including utilities, and a community-fit assessment so they can see upfront if the area has what they’re looking for without having to visit.

 

4. Engage Leads with Video

 

Draw the customer in with a customized video on your website or in follow-up emails. From a tour of the furniture showroom floor or the latest floor plan in multifamily, video increases traffic and interest.

“Prospective residents or shoppers can gather information online, engage with a video tour, and, for a growing number of consumers, that’s enough to make them convert or sign a lease. Video is the way to do that,” says Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Realync, a video-leasing platform company that partners with PERQ so customized tour videos can be embedded on the AI-powered website platform on multifamily property websites.

 

5. Offer Promotions Specific to the Prospect

Build in special offers on your company’s website or in follow-up emails, but be sure those promotions are geared toward products the person is looking to buy.

“Being able to provide personalized promotions is really valuable,” says Doug Stump, Vice President of Sales at PERQ. “When people are doing research online, they naturally look at the local market and try to decide which store will offer the most value for me, versus driving somewhere farther away or paying for shipping.”

The ultimate goal is to entice a visitor and make her walk through your doors and say, ‘Hey, I have this offer I received on your website.”

 

6. Live Chat or Other Two-Way Communication Options

 

Set up website tools that allow a consumer to enter a two-way conversation online, such as a live chat tool that allows for immediate follow-up from your staff. Utilizing a chat-to-text feature, whether powered by AI technology or a salesperson, provides consumers with an opportunity to ask specific questions or request more information in real-time. Be aware, any direct communication tool only performs as great as the salesperson behind it. This is always where an AI chatbot comes in handy.

 

7. Approach Consumers Based on When They’re Ready to Buy or Sign a Contract

 

Not all people who visit your business website are ready to buy or sign a contract. How they interact with your website provides insight into where they are in the shopping journey. Follow up appropriately to match the type of information they are seeking, wherever they are in the buying process.

“Customers who are higher up in the funnel — or in the awareness stage — are more responsive to selection, while customers who have sought out specific products respond best to messages about fulfillment, delivery and product guarantees,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager at The Great American Home Store.

 

8. Provide Product Previews and Personalize the Shopping Experience

 

Use all of the data your website collects about your potential customers to match new products to their preferences. Add a personal touch by offering customized sneak previews to loyal customers, and offer up similar products or other items they may like based on past shopping behavior.

 

9. Respond Quickly While Prospect is Still Engaged

 

Respond quickly to renter leads who are in the market to buy or rent now to increase your chances of catching the consumer while they’re still engaged. Immediately connecting with a qualified customer who is already on your site and engaged, decreases the chances they’ll go to a competitor’s website. One way to do this is with an AI chatbot, like the one in the AI Leasing Assistant. It keeps apartment rental leads engaged and answers their questions 24/7 so they don’t have to wait for business hours.

 

10. Create a VIP Experience for Consumers

 

Allow customers to schedule a VIP appointment via your website from preselected times. Strategically schedule those appointment openings during your sales team’s downtime or the least-busy hours to maximize productivity. Even if the customer doesn’t schedule a consultation while online, you still have a meaningful opportunity to reach out to that consumer and offer a VIP appointment to entice them to re-engage.

 

11. Offer Easy Ways to Schedule Services

 

Include scheduling tools on your website so potential customers can easily sign up for a free design consultation, schedule a test drive, or arrange a tour of your apartment community. The less time they spend talking to a salesperson, the more likely consumers are to schedule a service.

Getting them to visit in person is more than half the battle to convert online leads. Let them make the first move, and conveniently do so on their own time. Talk about instant gratification.

 

12. Build a Customer Database for More Efficient Lead Follow-Up

 

Keep a database of all potential customers and track where they’re at in the sales funnel. Even better, utilize a database that helps you score and prioritize leads based on their level of interest. Forward highly qualified “hot leads” to your salespeople to keep the volume manageable, and lean on less-urgent leads when the business goes through slow periods.

For leads high up in the sales funnel, set up your customer management database to engage those consumers and keep your brand top of mind through an email drip or text nurturing program. Set up pre-determined schedules and messaging that’s based on when the shopper indicates they’ll likely be ready to purchase, and then automatically personalize the content and incentives based on the lead data stored in your CRM.

 

13. Follow Up With Leads Using Their Preferred Method

 

Gone are the days of getting information only at the point of purchase. Technology allows companies to gather information 24/7 from virtually anywhere. Each customer prefers a specific way to communicate — phone, email, text, chat or in-person. To build trust, follow up with your customers via their preferred method.

“Finding the most convenient way to get quick answers to simple questions and to adapt to however customers wish to communicate is our responsibility as retailers,” says David Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s. “The choice is either to engage in different methods or make peace with the fact you’ll lose that customer to a competitor who is willing to invest in it.”

 

14. Create Automated Lead Follow-Up Campaigns for Each Customer Type

 

Use automated email templates or phone call templates tailored to the various stages of the buying journey, so your team can strike the appropriate tone for consumers in each phase of the sales funnel. Schedule follow-up emails or text messages to automatically arrive during optimal times for the customer. As an added bonus, templates eliminate some common mistakes like typos or grammatical errors.

“Scheduling is huge, because I can send out an email at seven o’clock at night when volume is not high,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management with Barratt Asset Management. “It allows the email to show up at a time that is best for the prospect.”

 

15. Customize Each Lead Follow-Up Using Insightful Data

 

Whether using templates or crafting a unique email, be sure to include some personalized customer information when following up with a lead. Leveraging in-depth customer data garnered from your website platform creates an instant connection with prospects and helps your salespeople start the conversation from a position of insight.

“We don’t want to lose the personalization aspect, which is what works well on our website,” says Joey Gunn, Vice President of Knight Furniture and Mattress. “We encourage our sales team to follow that customer journey.”

 

16. Follow Up By Sharing Industry Trends

 

Smart website technology gives your company valuable consumer behavior insights. By regularly analyzing that data, you can spot trends and anticipate the evolving wants and needs in your market. Proactively reach out to consumers who engaged with you in the past by sharing valuable content that highlights the latest trends in your industry or helpful advice. Reignite their interest in your brand by giving them a reason to think about you and helping them with research. Content such as “5 tips for hiring a moving company” or “What you should ask on a property tour” are great examples.

 

17. Make Lead Follow-Up Easier, More Organized with the Right CRM

 

The right CRM is of utmost importance when trying to collect, track and analyze large sets of consumer lead data. A lot happens in the digital space and it continues to evolve. Look for a data management system that provides valuable information you can sort and prioritize, and works as an extension of your team.

“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “We overlay our website insights in terms of prospect engagement with a series of other data points, from our property management software and Google Analytics, just to better understand the activity of the consumer.”

 

18. Leverage Data to Increase Higher Quality Leads to your Website

 

As we discussed, you can capture a lot of data about a consumer, when they’re in the market to rent, for example; what amenities they want the most in an apartment; what they want in the community; and the activities they enjoy most. Leverage the most common answers in your digital advertising efforts to help you attract higher quality website visitors or retarget leads who already visited your site.

 

19. Improve the Conversation

 

Your sales teams can learn a lot about leads on your website. Have them leverage the data in the CRM so they are more likely to close the sale, either by phone, chat, text or email. Again, if a visitor told you they prefer a text, don’t make your first outreach a call. A text might start: “I saw you were looking at FILL IN THE BLANK (the hybrid mattresses or the two-bedroom floor plan with two-baths) on our site, (Insert first name). Did you have any questions I can help you with? Being personable and helpful can go a long way.

 

20. Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

 

In these times of advanced technology and digital messaging, people still appreciate when a company takes the time to send a handwritten thank-you note or follow up with a phone call after an initial in-person interaction. Connecting on a personal level is the touchstone of any creative lead follow-up strategy.

“Use emotional intelligence to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while factoring in and understanding different circumstances impact lead follow-up,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management for Barratt Asset Management. “Good salespeople are really important.”

 

How to Best Follow-Up With Rental Prospects

How to Best Follow-Up With Rental Prospects

We all have that friend, co-worker or family member you call and email without success. Yet, text them and they answer right away. You’ve most likely figured out the best method and time to reach the important people in your life, and it’s probably not the same scenario for each one. This holds true for very important property rental leads in the multifamily space.

Technology allows us to bank, buy and browse at any hour every day of the week. Your prospects are looking for their next home when and how it is most convenient for them. Meeting your customers on their terms and timeline will build the trust necessary to close the deal. Sounds like you may be working around the clock? Not with the right technology, process and product.

 

What Technology Tells You About Customer Preferences

 

With the right technology, your prospect will leave a digital footprint. You know what area they are looking in, what size of living space they are looking for, and what amenities interest them. Most importantly, the way they engage with you indicates their preferred communication style, the time and day their search is top of mind, and it provides insight into how close they are to making a decision. An AI chatbot is an online chatbot that can live on your website and work around the clock so you don’t have to.

“With social media, chatbot software and artificial intelligence, prospects don’t want to wait for office hours or phone calls anymore,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management with Barratt Asset Management, headquartered in Indianapolis and specializing in the acquisition and management of multifamily apartment communities. “They can immediately go onto your site and start selecting what they want. What’s important to our leads is that instant gratification and personalization tailored exactly to what they are looking for. Have an apartment home pop up for them that fits their needs and they are immediately engaged. They’re spending more time on your website and you become top of their list very quickly.”

Offering a wide range of communication and viewing options for your prospects keeps those high-priority leads engaged. “We make so many buying decisions using research tools online and consumers appreciate the convenience of not having to come into the office to fill out forms,” says Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Manager at Sheehan Property Management. “Virtual tours or video footage of the unit allow us to be more effective with our prospects who are out of state or even out of the country. They can make a confident buying decision without physically being on-site because they have seen the amenities, neighborhood and the unit via video.”

Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and CEO of Realync, a video-leasing platform company, believes prospects who view videos of the property will be closer to making a leasing decision by the time they come to visit the community. “After they watch the videos and go through the PERQ experience, they’ll be more qualified and more buy-ready,” Weirich says. “The leasing agent is still an important part of the process, because they instill trust in the property where the prospect will live.”

Barratt Asset Management embraces whatever platform the customer prefers. “The new communication channels have vastly impacted lead nurturing,” Azar says. ”We can do FaceTime calls and tours, and it’s really a game-changer. People from out of state can see your face and it provides comfortability and starts building that trust.”

Variety of Follow Up and the Lead Nurturing Process

 

Did you know that almost half of rental prospects prefer you reach out to them in the morning? PERQ analyzed national, regional and benchmark data from nearly 320 properties across the U.S., along with 93,000 consumer responses with 328,000 data points, and captured the latest renter insights in their Multifamily Field Guide.

“We are definitely seeing the same dynamics as what was found in PERQ’s prospect survey,” says Lisa Harris, Regional Manager for W3 Luxury Living, a property management company based in Colleyville, Texas. “Of course, you have to find out what they are looking for, which locations and what spaces are reflective of who they are and fits their budget.”

Azar finds that Thursdays are a good time to hit prospects who are close to making a decision. “The weekend is coming and they have a little more free time. You want to follow up at a time the prospect won’t be extremely busy.” Azar schedules her communications with prospects during their preferred time, even when it may be after regular hours.

Her lead nurturing process includes implementing a customized system to track their rental prospects. “Being consistent is paramount. It’s where we continue to build a professional relationship,” Azar says. She adds that prospect documentation is key to connecting with customers. “We work with a lot of people and it is important for us to remember everything specific to that prospect.”

Prioritizing your prospects helps when allocating time and deciding who to reach out to first. Prospects who have taken virtual or in-person tours, filled out an online pre-qualification application or utilized an expense calculator feature on the property website provide valuable information about where they are in the customer journey. Take advantage of automated lead nurture emails that include information personalized to the prospect based on their previous engagements on your website. Lead nurture emails will not only drive customers back to your website, but they will also help them connect with your company.

The best AI chatbot and the best chatbot software in general can handle these other tasks for you as well. Instead of just answering prospect questions 24/7, the best chatbot for website are the ones that can handle automated lead nurture and follow-up. PERQ’s AI chatbot handles all of this but also does it through your brand voice. This way prospects have a better experience with your follow-up messaging as it feels less robotic and uses the data it collected about them to know when to send a message and when to pull back. Chatbot software, like the one at PERQ, only hands of qualified leads to the onsite team that are ready to talk, tour, or lease, the AI chatbot handles the rest and manages your pipeline more efficiently.

In addition to technology, Azar stresses the value of emotional intelligence. “You have to be able to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while understanding that each prospect has different moving circumstances — there’s never a one size fits all.”

 

Additional Multifamily Resources

Why Texting with Home Furnishing Shoppers is Better Than Chat

Why Texting with Home Furnishing Shoppers is Better Than Chat

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

 

4 Keys to Successfully Building Relationships with Online Consumers

4 Keys to Successfully Building Relationships with Online Consumers

Building any kind of relationship, personal or professional, takes time and effort. With the vast majority of consumers starting their research online before investing in a big-ticket purchase, it’s more important than ever to find new ways to start building that trust and commitment to your brand from the moment they click on the company website.

 

Upping your website game as well as upgrading the internal tools your team uses to analyze and organize online consumer data will help you stand out from the crowd and close more sales. An AI-driven website paired with personalized lead follow-up gives your online customers a shopping experience that’s comparable to the dedicated service they’ll receive when they finally visit in person.

 

To unlock a top-notch consumer journey for your online leads, keep in mind these 4 keys to forming a successful relationship from the get-go.

 

1. Prioritize Leads and Important Information

 

Improving the lead follow-up process starts with collecting better data on each online consumer who visits the website or clicks on a digital ad. Add interactive web experiences to increase engagement with your brand and also gain opportunities to learn more about each consumer who engages with the quizzes, incentives and digital tools you add to the site.

 

By tying an AI-driven interactive website to a marketing cloud and aggregating all online consumer data in a CRM system, companies can store all consumer data in a centralized spot for better analysis and lead organization. A quality CRM can help your sales team sort leads and prioritize consumers ready to take action right away, and track every touchpoint along the way.

 

“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential, headquartered in Denver. “We overlay our website insights in terms of prospect engagement with a series of other data points, from our property management software and Google Analytics, just to better understand the activity of the consumer.”

 

Julia Critelli, General Manager at Critelli’s Fine Furniture, uses the website information stored in a cloud-based, connected CRM to sort and prioritize “hot leads” the sales associates should pursue first.

 

“We can also see how many deals are open and the value of those deals, along with probability of sale,” Critelli says. “I’m able to export certain lists or organize it in different ways, which I think is a good tool for myself and the sales staff.”

 

2. Personalize Lead Follow-Up

 

Knowing exactly which experiences a lead interacted with online and seeing what they’re searching for on the website gives your team a leg up on the lead follow-up process. The sales team can personalize their responses and tailor the information they provide the consumer to prioritize what features they indicated online they’re most interested in. Feeling like you already know them and their preferences helps establish a relationship with the consumer before you ever meet in person.

 

“It helps be more personable in our responses,” says Chris Berry, Senior Regional Manager at First Communities based in Atlanta. “We’re able to tailor our response, whether it be in an email or a phone call. I encourage my team to use that information gathered on the website, and don’t just send a cookie cutter response telling them something they already know.”

To eliminate the extra work for your sales team, consider automating email or text nurturing through a marketing cloud and CRM database. When connected to an AI-driven CRM, automated emails and text messages are personalized based on each consumer’s information and timeframe for purchasing.

 

3. Communicate with Consumers on Their Terms

 

Do you know what time of day your customers prefer to be contacted and their preferred method of communication? That’s valuable lead information that’s unique to your industry and market, so be sure to collect that data whenever possible.

 

For the multifamily industry, PERQ online data shows 48% of prospects prefer to be contacted in the morning hours and 54% like emails from properties over other forms of communication. Emails tops the list for the majority of home furnishing customers PERQ surveyed as well, although the data shows text is quickly becoming a favored form of communication for consumers across all industries.

 

However, every person is different. You know that friend who always responds to texts with an unwarranted phone call and leaves voicemails you never check? Don’t cross that miscommunication line as a company trying to connect on a personal level with a consumer.

 

To increase your chance of successfully building a lasting relationship, offer a variety of communication avenues for consumers who wish to reach out to your company with questions or to gather additional details, such as an online chat-to-text tool in addition to email and phone options.

 

Big Sandy Home Furnishings Superstore recently introduced text-to-chat on the store website and are finding consumers who use the feature are highly engaged and more likely to convert than the average online visitor.

 

“They’re further along in the buying cycle,” President Bryan Scott says. “The interesting thing though is it seems like it’s all ages of demographics who engage. Everybody wants to text now.”

 

4. Manage Leads Through Entire Consumer Journey

 

Consumers who divulge personal information and devote significant time when researching on a company’s website expect you’ll reciprocate in the relationship, giving them something in return. Reward their commitment with relevant incentives to entice them to take the next step, and offer them your team’s industry knowledge and personalized advice to make them feel like they have a friend in the business.

 

Even if you don’t manage the newest property on the block or run the biggest retail furniture superstore this side of the Mississippi, you can win the battle for a consumer’s heart by delivering outstanding, personalized service.

 

“That’s where customer service and a more tailored leasing experience — and resident experience — becomes crucial,” Eppsteiner says. “That’s the only way you can compete with a new build or a bigger company with a bigger budget.”

 

Utilize technology to follow leads throughout the consumer journey, touching base every step of the way to offer helpful guidance. Continue that commitment to concierge-type customer service beyond the lease or sale and build long-term loyalty that only comes with time and consistent work.

 

Scott says being able to track the entire buying journey online makes all the difference when trying to connect with a customer. “It helps us build that relationship with the consumer before they actually come through the door,” he says. “We know all about them and we’re able to build trust.”

Top 5 Tips for Furniture Retailers to Win the Online to In-Store Sales Battle

Top 5 Tips for Furniture Retailers to Win the Online to In-Store Sales Battle

Home Furniture retailers trying to fight Wayfair or Amazon at their game is poor business strategy. Good strategy: look at your advantages and try to bring those weapons into the battle.  For the brick and mortar retailers, those weapons are local stores and helpful salespeople designed to win the fight for the larger and more complex furniture purchase.

 

Let’s agree that brick and mortar stores shouldn’t be looking at their website and trying to compete against the giant players in e-commerce. If the consumer is looking to spend less than $200 for a table lamp to throw into the guest room before company arrives the following day, the battle to win this definite e-commerce purchase is a losing game.

 

Wayfair’s average ticket price is $250, and we know the normal brick and mortar PERQ client averages $1,500+. Why? Because the consumer WANTS to take advantage of the built-in advantages of a local store and salespeople when they’re making a larger purchase.

 

The key is to bring your “weapons” into the process when a consumer is still at home researching a purchase online. Every brick and mortar retailer should look at their website and ask: “What can I do to leverage my website to help the consumer decide to purchase from me in-store?”

 

Below are my top 5 tips for how to bridge the website to in-store shopping process and have your website lead to more revenue: 

 

1. Generate sales opportunities for your staff through your home furnishings website

 

The pictures of your products, details and price are just initial steps in the digital to in-person transaction process. These are the normal website tips. But, you must have a way to turn anonymous website visitors into actionable customers with real information about them. These are “Digital Ups”. With tools and quizzes you can learn a lot of information about each visitor: what they’re interested in, when they’re in the market to buy and much more.

 

Your sales team can now reach out during down times and build actual relationships with “Digital Ups” leveraging that unique shopper data. This is what you do in your store when you greet each in-person — you greet each person and ask them questions to get to know what they’re looking for. You must do this on your website as well. It works and it is a way to let salespeople produce more sales versus complaining there isn’t anyone in the store on a 10 a.m. on a Thursday.

 

2. Use your website to facilitate an easy conversation between the consumer and your home furnishings sales team

 

E-mail and Live Chat used to be the way to communicate with consumers online, but that is no longer the case. We highly recommend to our clients that they have text communication in place. Texting a consumer is a much more natural way to communicate now.

Scott Hill, PERQ co-founder Texting a consumer is a much more natural way to communicate now, and you want to communicate with consumers the same way you would a friend. When is the last time you were e-mailing or in a “live chat” box with one of your friends?

 

Make it easy for shoppers to engage in a deeper and more prolonged conversation with your staff that can help them make decisions prior to coming into the store. Texting makes it easier on the consumer and your staff to get the help needed and build a relationship that can lead to an in-store visit.

 

3. Leverage lead scoring and personalized automation

 

Your sales team will not be able to have an actual conversation with every “Digital Up” you generate from your website. You need to have a way to prioritize Digital Ups into which ones will receive follow up from your staff and which ones will receive automated email messaging personalized to the consumer.

 

With today’s technology, there is no excuse to just be sending blast e-mails once a month.  When someone has engaged on your website, you now should have everything you need to set up the right personalized automated email messaging designed to nurture them into being ready for a conversation with a member of your sales team.

 

4. Create a “VIP Appointment” process

 

With all of these conversations your sales team is having with prospects before they come into the store, you need to have a way to make it easy for them to take the next step and visit.

 

Allow shoppers to set a “VIP Appointment” where they receive special treatment and a faster experience. Let them know you will be waiting for them, have some recommendations ready, drink of their choice, financing approval already done, etc.

 

5. Take advantage of a CRM to handle the organization/ communication of all the sales opportunities from your website

 

Everything mentioned above will require a quality CRM. For pure in-store customers, you might have been able to handle the potential buyers, but to efficiently handle a high volume of “Digital Ups” and help shoppers come into the store, you need a better way to organize and keep track of leads.

 

A CRM platform helps you determine which prospects to reach out to first, gives messaging recommendations, enables text messaging, gives performance reporting, etc. It becomes your Digital Sales Manager, making it easier for you and your sales team to follow up with shoppers.

 

The process of how to take your website to be a great tool to get consumers to come into the store was solved by the automotive industry first (and where these 5 tips originally came from)! They created the technology and process to help their staff connect to consumers on the website looking for help when making a purchasing decision. Take advantage of tips to make your website the best it can be for consumers so you can win the online to in-store battle.

 

See How Much the PERQ CRM Costs Home Furnishings Retailers to Manage Leads: SEE PRICING

Additional Home Furnishings Resources

 

3 Tips for Effective Communication Via Text

3 Tips for Effective Communication Via Text

Texting customers became a business norm almost overnight, with more consumers than ever saying they prefer a text over a phone call. When PERQ recently surveyed thousands of home furnishing shoppers searching retail store websites, 13.5% picked text messaging as their preferred method of contact and only 7.5% chose phone calls as their top choice.

 

Email remained the clear winner, with 79% of online furniture shoppers choosing that option in PERQ’s survey. However, digital marketing experts predict marketing emails will soon saturate consumers’ inboxes and spur a surge in the use of text messaging to reach leads. Text is already proving to be more effective than emails.

 

Recent marketing studies estimate that at a 90% open rate, SMS (short message service) performs nearly 5 times better than B2C emails, which average around a 20% open rate. Those same studies found text messages sent to customers get 7.5 times more responses than emails, with a 45% response rate for SMS versus 6% for email.

 

A couple of years ago, it seemed intrusive if a salesperson texted you. By being one of the first in your market to offer SMS, online chat or text conversations, your home furnishings store can capitalize on this accelerating texting trend, making it easier for customers to immediately connect with your knowledgeable staff and quickly convert into an in-store sale.

 

“Monitoring and engaging through text requires a resource investment for retailers, but the choice is either to engage it or make peace with the fact you’ll lose that customer to a competitor who is willing to invest in it,” says Dave Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s, a furniture retailer in central Illinois who uses a variety of text messaging platforms to communicate with customers.

 

If you already talk to your customers via text or plan to add the option in the near future, here are 3 tips to make sure you are effective as possible when communicating with text messaging.

 

1. Don’t Assume All Shoppers Prefer Text Messages

 

While texting is blowing up in the world of digital marketing and B2C communication, not all consumers prefer text over email and telephone, and some only like it for certain parts of the sales process, like setting up a delivery. Don’t make assumptions and start sending unsolicited text messages to every lead you get.

 

Shoppers Adam and Angela Wire say they personally prefer to shop local at a store that specializes in what they’re seeking and rarely buy from generalized online e-commerce sites like Amazon. Born at the tailend of Generation X, which witnessed the digital revolution and remember a time without smartphones, internet and home computers, they’re the shoppers in their late 30s and early 40s who straddle the technology divide and still find value in simpler sales methods. They still start their search for big-ticket items online, narrowing down their options before visiting a handful of retailers to make a final decision.

 

The Indianapolis couple recently bought a new couch, recliner and dining room set. “We looked at options online beforehand, comparing various local furniture stores. I always do this for larger items like a car or appliances,” Adam says. “We communicated with the furniture store on delivery set-up via text message and that went well, but I’m only OK with that if I tell a retailer to communicate with me via text. I have no desire for a company to ever try to sell me anything or initiate conversation with me through texting unless I ask them to do so.”

 

Weiss advises retailers to follow that same philosophy. “At this time, we don’t use text as a promotional outbound vehicle like we use email,” he says. “Texting is far more personal and disruptive, so we view it as more of an inbound lead channel or for customer service inquiries.”

2. Ask Online Shoppers Which Communication Method They Prefer

 

Start where shoppers start, online. By integrating AI software on your website, you can discreetly ask online shoppers which communication mode they prefer along with other personal information your sales associates can use to better nurture and convert the lead.

 

Find out how they prefer to communicate with your sales team, and respect their response by using that mode when initiating the initial contact with an online lead. “It’s our responsibility as retailers to adapt to however customers wish to communicate with us, and they have certainly shown that text is now a preferred channel,” Weiss says. “More broadly, I don’t think texting is great for all customers, but there are many who find it the most convenient way to get quick answers to simple questions.”

 

Sherman’s uses a mix of web chat, Google text through mobile listings, and Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers who initiate contact through those inbound streams. “We text review invites after delivery, and see a much higher response rate with text than we used to with email alone,” Weiss says. “Many customers choose to keep that review invite text thread open and ask follow-up questions after the sale.”

 

3. Use Marketing Automation and Templates for Text Nurture

 

John Neal Jr., Vice President at Neal’s Furniture in Oklahoma, says his stores also experience a much higher customer interaction rate when utilizing text messages as opposed to emails and phone calls, and successfully convert many of their text leads into store sales.

 

“A text message does not demand your attention so it’s naturally less obtrusive than a phone call, but still just as personal. A customer can respond if and when they decide to,” says Neal Jr. “A sales associate has the added benefit of tracking past conversations and referencing them as needed.”

 

Neal’s Furniture developed templated responses for responding to specific kinds of customer text messages and simply add a new template if they encounter a new scenario without a proper response saved in the system. “That automation allows for quick and efficient responses, while not demanding much time or mental strain,” says Neal Jr. “If we receive a message after hours, the customer will receive an automated message letting them know we are closed and that we will get back with them as soon as possible.”

 

His staff can see incoming customer texts from their phones, and can even choose to respond to a request when the store is closed. A Neal sales associate recently converted an online lead into an in-store sale in less than 24 hours by immediately responding to a consumer’s question sent by text message after hours on a Sunday.

 

“As a whole, text message conversations used for follow-ups and initial conversations have been received by our customers and sales staff as a benefit, if not a preferred method,” says Neal Jr. “Conversations, pictures, receipts, quotes, reviews, emojis, etc. can be sent directly to the device that the customer uses all day and lives in their pocket! Why wouldn’t that be the way businesses talk to their customers?”