This typical female, Gen X, furniture customer Is ready to buy. Where will she make her purchase?
Today I’m pausing to journal about the major furniture purchases I recently made. I’m doing this for both of us. Though they’re in other industries, we’re always looking for ways to improve online marketing for our clients.
When I shop, I often revert to a personal pattern that pre-dates my use of the Internet. Do you? If not, you’re younger than thirty-five. Though, I’ve changed through the years, I’m probably typical for a female, age 35 – 50. Knowing that 65% of US shoppers will browse online and buy in stores over the holidays, how can we better serve this lucrative demographic? What triggers dollars spent at your store?
Of course, I’m just one woman and each woman is an individual, but here’s a snapshot of how I arrived at furniture purchases from four different stores during the week prior to Thanksgiving 2013.
Top of the Furniture Sales Funnel
The buying process started a few weeks earlier. A builder suggested that we look at Houz, a home ideas app, for backyard ideas. The app offers ideas for all rooms of your home, too. We never did build, but the trends I saw in the app stayed top-of-mind when it was time for furniture in the home we recently purchased.
I could have scoured Pinterest, too, but I didn’t. I just didn’t have a lot of time to hunt and peck for pieces of online furniture and more ideas to confuse the choices. Time is valuable and I tried not to waste it.
Middle of the Furniture Sales Funnel
Like many Americans, when it came time to shop for furniture, I drove to the nearest showrooms- Kittles, Ashley Furniture, Value City Furniture, Kittles Express, Office Max, Office Depot, and Houseworks. Kinesthetic shoppers need to see, to feel, and to touch each piece to envision family and guests relaxing, conversing, working, and eating.
Would the quality be worth the price? Would the exact colors match the floors, walls, countertops, and appliances? What are today’s trends and which classics are still hip? I didn’t shop online when I was absorbing information because I learned plenty in the stores.
In one store, a sales woman approached my husband and me and wouldn’t stop chattering. If we paused at a piece to discuss it, she’d wiggle into the middle of our conversations. We’d politely stand there wondering when she would stop. After doing this for the third time, we quickly walked out because a hungry salesperson’s stalking, at this stage, wasted our time and was annoying. We weren’t buying on that day. We were just looking.
The office furniture seemed blah- mostly ugly, big ego desks or very cheap, modern designs with little space to spread or to store. The sofas were perplexing. Do we buy another puffy couch for the family room or a grandma-like sofa for the living room? Nothing appealed, at first.
Did we want to have a fun and casual red set or an espresso, leather upscale look? The new kitchen table needed to be round, but how big? Should it match or contrast our floors? Should we go rustic or classic? Geez — so many choices.
Pages like the one below from Kittles did very little to help me to understand what I’d want in my living room, family room, kitchen, and office.
There is no category level content to entice or to educate. With the exception of the main slide, the pictures don’t suggest use, features, or style. Kittles, if you’re reading this post, consider how strategic copy writing and editing can help both your conversion and SEO. My own sales pitch aside (hey, I do understand the sales woman); there came a day when we could no longer function without furniture in our rooms. It was time to buy.
Bottom of the Furniture Sales Funnel
Last Sunday, I decided the best place to find office furniture would probably be at an office supply store. By then, I’d ruled out a modern, sleek look in the office. The sales person at Office Max offered the Black Friday price a week early and probably called me “Ma’am” fifty times.
He put up with my indecisiveness over this desk verses that desk and he stopped talking after I cut him off on purchasing the extra protection plan. The prices were exactly the same in the store as online. This was a coordinated attack and I bought the furniture at the store with the same free delivery offered online.
While the in-store experience offered set-up at a charge, notice that at the same purchase point online (the product page), the company’s set-up package is not suggested or offered. If the customer has to hunt for it somewhere else on the website, forget it. Adding drop down boxes for “I need set up” on each product page would immediately increase online revenues at Office Max.
The Final Hours of Purchasing Furniture
I spent nearly a day in Kittles yesterday trying to fine-tune what I wanted. Then, came the ping-pong price game. Prices kept dropping, but we went back and forth so many times and it took so long, that by the afternoon, I left the store.
I opened my iPad and typed in searches for long-tailed keywords with model numbers to check pricing in other stores. What was the price for a “Broyhill Travis sofa”? Another business could have stolen my purchase in these moments when my sales person was going back to her manager for yet another price reduction request.
After he said, “No, I can’t do it”, I would have bought online, especially if free shipping were offered. Instead, my search took me first to the Broyhill website. Obviously, they didn’t want to get into the middle of price negotiations because they left out prices in their product descriptions.
Other stores did the same. Instead of sharing prices, online store-after-store said, “request a quote”. I didn’t have time to wait for a quote.
With Thanksgiving in a few days, I wanted shopping done asap. Because I didn’t know if the purchase was sound, I dropped the sofa and chair from my list all together.
I took a trip back to Ashley Furniture and found a different sofa. I popped into Value City Furniture and found a kitchen table and chairs that I liked better than the ones offered at Kittles and Ashley. While there, the Value City online prices dropped, so a lower price was honored at the store. Bed Bath and Beyond sold nifty bar stools for less and with free shipping. Then, I went back to Kittles and purchased the items I felt were fairly priced. All of the stores said their prices were Black Friday prices and that if anything changed, they would honor the changes. At a certain purchase point, most offered free shipping.
I’m waiting for the door bell to ring with my deliveries. How fun!
What’s a key to increasing online conversions? Lower your online prices. Develop better content (pictures, videos, and words) to display furniture in ways that highlight colors, finishes, and uses. Provide in-depth information. Keep the various stages of the furniture sales funnel in mind and develop profiles of your buyers at each stage.
What have you noticed as important to increasing online sales, whether you’re in the furniture business or another industry? How would the above process differ for a man or a younger or older person? How would the process differ for another woman in the same demographic? Take a moment to share!