The last year has brought a lot of attention and success to the home furnishings space. With that success, we (finally!) have gotten more than our fair share of disposable income. This increase in share has led to new customers, new demographics and the opportunity to hit sales targets in the future that might have taken a decade to achieve in a normal climate.
That’s the good news. The bad news? The early results of the post wave of Covid were not a result of intention and also not a result of strategy. It had a whole lot to do with time at home, eagerness to get out and availability to be open for commerce. Marketing, competitive advantage and dominance did not lead to that. Government intervention (and assistance) and cabin fever created these sales. How we get those sales again on the next cycle will depend on how we collect and identify that data to determine future strategies.
Beyond figuring out where and who had bought from these outside forces, there are deeper forces affecting our overall ability to target the consumer. Apple is giving phone users the right to opt in (or out) of third-party apps collecting web browsing activities on devices. Google is moving in 2023 to a cookie-less world, which means there will be new pressure to serve up ads based solely on your own data. The effects of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe on major tech companies is having a ripple down effect in efficiency in the U.S. Basically, the best parts of what advertisers loved about the targeting ability of digital media is being wiped away because the data was not collected on good faith. The pressure is on to evaluate and figure out how first-party data is going to influence our marketing efforts in the future.
What is first-party data? Any level of opt-in information you have collected relative to an email address or opt-in to share information with the source they are using. Some examples:
- Choosing to share location with a website or application while utilizing the tool.
- Submitting an email address or cell phone number to receive messages, then receiving those messages without opting out.
- Opting in to submit that a website or application will be evaluating and storing user identification history.
- Buying a good or service that is delivered and providing address information captured at the point of sale.
There are multiple other ways but these are the high level. In essence, first-party means you do the heavy lifting and the customer agreed to let you communicate with her.
Here are four ways to begin collecting and leveraging first-party data right now.
- Move to an email based system of communication, invoicing and follow up. Having email addresses be the centerpiece of your customer engagement will begin to allow you to track activity, segment consumer groups into different stages of buying and allow for more dynamic follow up tactics.
- Begin evaluating CRM data based on the consumer level along with the manufacturer/category level. Too often as an industry we begin looking through sales performance in the lens of category success or manufacturer success only. When we begin thinking first party, we start identifying individual transactions by address and then attributing factors to them (categories bought, manufacturers purchased, etc) which then sets us up to target digitally in the future.
- Ask the consumers who have opted in more frequently what they are interested in right now. As anyone in retail knows, our most valuable asset is the people who have bought from us already. Begin setting up the triggers through surveys and double opt ins to being evaluating and analyzing what areas a consumer is interested in right now. Ask them how long they expect this interest to last and the frequency in which they want updates on that area. Then deliver them the messaging that resonates with that.
- Post delivery follow up to set the stage on marketing mechanics. Similar to segmenting/polling your current opt ins, leveraging the after sales delivery mechanism to determine when and how to market to the customer again will help you develop your digital strategy to begin courting her again.
These are just some simple measures that can be put in place to help begin making your 1st party data go further.
Kevin Doran is the owner of R&A Marketing, a home furnishings-focused marketing agency that has been helping furniture and mattress retailers since 1984. Kevin has been featured in numerous industry publications and has been a speaker at industry conferences, trade shows, and markets. With over a decade of experience in the home furnishings industry, Doran says he’s setting his sights on helping the independent furniture and mattress retailer thrive.