The home furnishings industry hasn’t been this good since 2007. The pandemic created a sofa emergency. It brought out more customers than we have ever seen before that were ready to buy. You didn’t have to shoot the fish in the barrel; they seemed to just swim up to you.
If you are reading this, you have most likely made more sales this year than ever before. (If you haven’t, you might have bigger issues). Selling is only going to get more difficult, and grabbing the customers attention is going to be even harder. It’s time to get serious about growing your business… not just maintaining your business.
Here are five questions your marketing must address to succeed in 2022:
1. Does your website create opportunities for engagement?
Is your website turning every visit into a possible opportunity for engagement? The more information you collect on Ms. Jones the more likely you are to get her to come in when she is ready. To grab Ms. Jones’ attention, you need to provide an opportunity for her to engage and communicate with you. Today’s customers seek contextualized experiences — meaning their engagement with a company reflects an understanding of past actions, product usage, and several other factors. To create great customer experiences, it’s vital that you evaluate your website and see where you’re missing out on creating multiple touchpoints for engagement.
2. Are you tracking and utilizing first-party data?
You might not want to hear this but it is time you accept it: Big tech firms (Facebook, Google, Apple, etc.) are not going to track users for us anymore. We (retailers) must take responsibility for collecting our own first-party data. The only way to future-proof your approach to data collection is by reducing your dependency on third-party cookies and capitalizing on first-party data. If you haven’t begun this process, your top priority right now is to audit your data setup to review your tracking implementation and forecast impact. Then, you can go on to enhance your data collection and leverage insights.
The consumer absolutely wants to be in control of the marketing messages she has received. Gathering as much information from the people that have bought and engaged with you is paramount to a successful (and scalable) marketing program.
3. Is your online selling environment reflective of the selling environment you crave as a consumer?
I am sure you have bought and/or researched something online in the last 12 months. When you were shopping online, what struck you about the selling environment? What pulled you in to pull the trigger on that specific website? We are all consumers and have reasons why we buy online. Have you tried to browse on your website lately? Have you tried to see how it matches up with your expectations as a consumer? In almost all cases, your website is the consumer’s first shopping experience with you. Is it truly the impression you want to deliver?
I challenge you to shop and — dare I say it — buy furniture online. See how the process works. See how it compares to your buying experience at the brick-and-mortar level, and then how it matches up with your website. Decide for yourself, as a consumer, if you are satisfying Mrs. Jones. Additional challenge: Do it on a mobile device and see what the experience is like.
4. Do you know who your ideal customer is besides “anyone who is willing to buy?”
Plain and simple, 2020-2021 was awesome for furniture sales. However, we’re no longer in that selling period, and just getting anyone to buy is not good enough. As much as we like to believe we carry influence in how we attract the consumer, more than likely our best advertisers are the consumers who have already bought from us. Studying their habits, lifestyles and current life stage is going to give us clues as to how to appeal to more of that same person. You have been doing something right to get the customers you have now. Your job is to find more of them.
Don’t look at the demographics of your consumer. Hook up with companies that focus on looking at the psychographics of your current consumer. What jobs does she have? How educated is she? What TV show is she most likely to watch vs. national averages? Where is she most likely to go out to dinner and how often? Diving into this data allows you to craft messaging and targeting to bring in a customer you already know how to sell — the one you currently have.
5. Have you figured out how you’re going to grow five years from now?
Over the last two years, availability, adaptability and inventory were the main calling card. Our prediction is that market share (online and physical) is now key. The only way to grow market share is to spend to get it. Sticking with the same advertising budget and strategy that has navigated your business through the last two years is not going to help you grow five years from now. Instead, it’s going to keep you right where you are right now, assuming no change in market conditions. (When has that ever happened?)
One idea to help you to start thinking differently: Join a performance/peer group or hire a consultant. Begin the dialogue of how you can grow your business in the next five years and begin aligning yourselves with the correct partners to make that happen. All great advertising results stem from great brands who know who they are and where they are going. Establishing that set of objectives will align your organization and make your goals achievable.
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.