Trending Now: Furniture Stores3 ½ Tips for Keeping Up With Consumers
Furniture shoppers continue to prefer brick-and-mortar stores for their big purchases, but don’t dismiss the value of digital for these consumers just yet. Here are 3 ½ tips for how furniture stores can keep up with consumers and get ahead of the competition.
1. Social, Social, Social.
While the overwhelming majority of furniture purchases occur in store, there is quite a bit of discovery and inspiration that take place online. Social media is a critical driver of consideration; it’s where trends unfold and creativity explodes. It’s critical that furniture stores build out social channels to highlight the availability of inventory, but social can also be a place to create excitement, interest, and urgency around sales and big events.
The most important channels for a furniture store in social media are, arguably, those that are image-intensive: Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. But don’t discount the value of more time-sensitive channels, such as Twitter for broadcasting sales or YouTube (or maybe even SnapChat!) for building out a story around your store. Go beyond simply photographing your showroom and merchandise and add value by empowering consumers with information and knowledge about making the most of their furniture purchases and their homes. Think along the lines of how to de-clutter, how to transform a room on a small budget, ways to redecorate with what you have, or how to decorate around a theme. There are endless opportunities to build stories and create engaging content to elevate your presence in an authentic and meaningful way.
Social is also a great place for continuing the conversation with customers, too. Invite your customers to share their ideas and spaces post-purchase—the more organic the content, the better! You might craft a contest to drive engagement around who styles a baby nursery better or the best use of a top-selling living room set.
2. Make it Mobile.
While social media is often consumed on mobile, it’s not enough to assume you’ve covered your bases in mobile channels through social alone. You have to ensure your entire digital presence—from your website to your local listings and maps—is optimized and made for a mobile experience.
Start with your website; is it responsive to different screen sizes? Websites continue to be the primary vehicle for getting information about bigger investments (both in terms of actual physical size and cost), with more than 40% of consumers citing it as their top source, according to a Tenthwave Digital and The Organic Agency study.
Mobile also includes opportunities to drive calls and traffic to your site, so you need to keep your local listings and map locations current. Do you have special hours that change with seasonal sales? Have you moved locations? Is your phone number accurate? While it may seem easy enough to check the boxes on these touchpoints, too often they change and are not reflected across all of the most important places, which means you could be losing out on customers who don’t know how to find you or when to stop by.
You may consider going further with your mobile efforts and leveraging beacon technology to create a richer in-store experience. Beacons have yet to reach their full potential and continue to be an underutilized tool for directing in-store traffic and connecting with consumers.
3. Email. Yes, email.
Though part of the digital landscape, email is often considered to be a relic of the dawn of the digital age, an outdated dinosaur that is no longer relevant. In an alternate universe, where smartphones and tablets don’t exist, it’s possible that email would fade into the horizon. But in the always-connected world we live in, email remains a vibrant and viable channel for getting your message, quite literally, in front of consumers.
Thanks to the mobile takeover, email is always by the sides of consumers. The challenge, much like other channels, is breaking through. Fortunately for retailers, email continues to be a preferred communication channel across generations, and it is a primed for messaging events, time-sensitive sales, and news about your store. Be careful not to overthink email—or overload it. Simpler designs that have a clear and concise message and call-to-action are preferred, particularly as email is often viewed on a smaller screen.
Be sure to think of email as part of the larger, integrated digital presence and messaging. The more in alignment your marketing and messaging efforts are, the better the results will be.
½. E-Commerce, If You Can.
It might seem silly to half-suggest a best practice, but the fact is, starting up an e-commerce business is not a small endeavor. Beyond finding the digital infrastructure to build it out, you need to tie back to your customer service, inventory, and delivery systems, which alone can be a large project.
Beyond the nuts-and-bolts of building a digital storefront, you’ll need to think through how you drive traffic to offset the investment of time and capital in hosting a digital marketplace. This means ensuring all of your other efforts sync with it: adding buy buttons to your social channels, creating an m-commerce friendly process, and integrating direct-to-purchase opportunities into your email marketing strategy, as well as all other channels where you are driving purchase intent.
That said, there is a budding opportunity for furniture stores in e-commerce, and especially in m-commerce. Digital retail sales of furniture and home furnishings grew 16.9% in 2016, outpacing the average across major retail categories, and is projected to continue growing for the next three years. And, consumers are increasingly using mobile to make bigger-ticket purchases, given the convenience and ease in browsing on tablets and larger smartphones.
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Sources: Garcia, Krista. “Furniture and Home Goods Retailers and Digital Commerce 2016: Trends and Benchmarks” eMarketer 12 Oct 2016