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A Little Digital Marketing Goes a Long Way

Shopping for furniture isn’t what it used to be. Today shoppers generally go through several tiers of online research and then later, if at all, in-person browsing before settling on an item. Marketers for Value City Furniture say that with the help of today’s tech tools, they’re looking to change the experience for consumers who are on the fence.

“Customers view furniture buying as a hassle. It’s filled with friction. Our vision is to make furniture shopping easy—with the right digital tools,” says Steve Haffer, CIO and EVP of marketing, customer engagement, and information technology at American Signature Inc., parent company of Value City Furniture. Haffer says that customers are often undecided because the process can be downright cumbersome.

“You don’t know if you’re making the right decision; you don’t buy furniture often; you’re unfamiliar with the store itself; delivery can be hard in the city; and so on,” he explains. “And so shoppers do a lot of research to feel confident about the decision they’re making—which tends to be a digital experience that’s influenced by other traditional media, say print or TV.”

But the challenge for marketers at Value City Furniture was twofold: First was identifying a digital customer who had sauntered into the physical store. Reportedly, more than 85% of customers who come into a retail store are not identified. For Value City Furniture, that number was about 70%. The marketing team wanted to get to know and be able to identify their customers as soon as they stepped in the store.

The second issue was a prolific one: a fragmented, disconnected customer experience. The information for shoppers who’d been browsing online was not transferred to their in-store experiences, and vice versa. Marketers for Value City Furniture wanted to create one seamless shopping experience.

“All retailers are aspiring for the concept of an omnichannel customer,” says James Yancey, CEO of CloudTags, a platform that connects stores with customers by identifying shoppers and then predicting products they might want to buy. “And marketers want to do that because they find that when you [connect] all of those touchpoints with a single customer, he spends more time with the brand, is more deeply immersed, and spends more money.”

The solution, Haffer says, was in-store tablets. The tablets are powered by the same technology used by ApplePay—near field communication or NFC, which is a method of wireless data transfer that detects and then enables technology in close proximity to communicate without the need for an Internet connection. So, as soon as customers stepped into the store, several things happened: First, the NFC in each tablet called up product information as a shopper carried the device and hovered around an item. The system also predicts and then recommends other products customers might like.

In-store, tech-enabled, real-time marketing.

No app downloads. No logins. No sign-ups.

Second, the tablets transferred customers’ wish lists from the Web to the device. American Signature already has in place EASY PASS, a cart system that allows online customers to save their lists and then view them while in the store. Conversely, customers can make a list in-store and then save it for online shopping at home. Whichever choice, the system knows right where the shopper left off.

Seamless shopping.

Third, the furniture brand offered each customer the chance to use the tablets to provide their email addresses to receive their wish lists via email.

All three steps allowed marketers at Value City Furniture to ID each customer and her preferences. The steps also give the marketing team more customer data (e.g. email addresses, purchase intent) and enable the retailer to predict purchases, reengage shoppers, and boost sales.

“Because we’ve changed our attribution model, we don’t have the channel conflict,” American Signature’s Haffer says. “We’ve solved that problem.”

And when it comes to results, he says the tech-driven strategy did not disappoint.

According to Haffer, so far Value City Furniture has seen a 20% higher average order value from tablet users after they’ve left the store. About 20% of those tablet users have provided their emails to the brand. Ninety-five percent of those email addresses were new to the brand. And marketers saw a 23% click-through rate in the remarketing emails that included the collections shoppers had browsed while in the store.

“We think this is a game-changing experience, for us as a brand and for the customer,” Haffer says on a final note. “Everything customers put into buying isn’t lost at any stage. And this is a part of a larger initiative to boost customer engagement and help them pick up where they left off.”

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