Enhanced technology boosts efficiency, customer experience at HNN 125 retailer
PEARL, Miss. — In today’s incredibly competitive retail arena, even being on the right track may not be enough.
Just ask Will Rogers. He figured that out years ago when he observed that, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Better yet, ask Caleb Miskelly, chief retail officer at Miskelly Furniture, headquartered here.
Miskelly, who joined the company five years ago as a sales associate, then was director of sales before assuming his current title this year, has invested in a host of new technology that is propelling the HNN Top 125 retailer into the passing lane of the fast track.
“I remember that when I first joined the company, we were writing things down on paper, pulling reports every morning and while we had a website, it was basically an online catalog,” Miskelly recalled.
But as they say, that was then, and this is now. “We invested in building a compelling and multifaceted website and, as a result, we saw our web-generated sales shoot from 0.5% to 4.5%,” Miskelly noted.
While acknowledging that the pandemic and subsequent sheltering-in-place policies played a role in boosting sales on the web, Miskelly added, “What really turned things around was realizing the need for a really great website, investing in that and investing in lots of other technology that allowed us to not only be more efficient, but to greatly enhance our customers’ experience, both in the store and online.”
Not that long ago, most of Miskelly’s retail sales associates were not using iPads. “As a result, if a customer asked if a particular item was in stock, the sales associate often would have to leave the customer to go check on the status of the item in question,” Miskelly said.
Today, all Miskelly sales associates use iPads. The retailer has also created a digital sales team that is headed by a digital sales manager, counts store traffic digitally and is in the process of transitioning to a paperless platform.
Miskelly also credits Troy Harrison, who was recently named to the new position of vice president of information systems, as playing an important role in helping the retailer succeed as it continues to expand its digital footprint.
“Troy joined the company about a year after I did and has really helped with this initiative,” Miskelly said, adding, “What makes him so valuable is he understands retail as well as he understands technology and that is rare in the furniture business.”
Miskelly went on to explain that digital technology has also had a significant impact on the company’s marketing efforts. “In terms of marketing, it used to be 70% traditional and 30% digital, but we’ve totally flipped that. Today, 70% of our marketing is done digitally,” he said.
Miskelly is now also successfully using technology to help create highly targeted emails based on where the customer may be in his or her shopping journey. “We now have a greater understanding of who our shopper is, where they are in the shopping journey with us, what messages to send them, when to send them the messages and more,” he said.
“At the end the day, technology allows us to be more efficient and that greater efficiency enhances the customer’s experience,” Miskelly said.
The retailer explained that the investment in a first-class website saves the customer time because they can see everything that is in stock in all of its seven locations. They can also use the website to make payments online, track their deliveries and also apply for credit online.
And while the customer-friendly website has boosted the retailer’s online sales, Miskelly said that more and more customers are using the site to “chat” with sales associates and book appointments to shop in-store.
As a result, Miskelly said that the digital team is incentivized to send customers into the store with an appointment. “Before, when a customer walked into the store, we often had no knowledge about them. But now, thanks to the combination of gathering customer information and their chats with us online, we know if they have been a Miskelly customer, what they are shopping for, what their budgets may be and that allows us to give them more of a customized, personalized shopping experience,” he said.
Technology has also been incorporated to provide the chain’s sales associates with up-to-the-minute information on inventory, stock availability, pricing and more. “Now, we have every bit of information our salespeople need on Teams, including a finance calculator and a special-order calculator to make their jobs easier,” Miskelly said.
Since the retailer first opened its doors 45 years ago in 1978, the retailer’s vision statement has been “To be the most loved furniture store in the Southeast.”
Considering how the team is successfully incorporating technology to take an already good customer experience to the next level, Miskelly Furniture is a textbook case on how to make a vision a reality.