In the months since COVID-19 caused many showrooms to close down—some temporarily, others more permanently, appointment setting has been critical for furniture retailers to maintain profitability. Unfortunately, many retailers were unprepared and the strategy has not been as successful as others. And with the economy and social distancing requirements putting a strain on American shoppers, furniture retailers need to use this time to plan and execute a flawless appointment-setting strategy for the foreseeable future. This article will help furniture retailers plan and execute appointment-setting strategies to bring more sales to the showroom.
Understand Your Buyer Persona
The first step in developing a successful appointment setting strategy for the store is knowing your customer. Not all of your shoppers will be looking for the same thing in the same channel. If you missed our podcast about the types of shoppers during the pandemic, we recommend starting there first.
Building a new buyer persona requires access to some of your customer data through tools like Google Analytics and your point of sale software. You can identify a few key areas to help you develop this buyer persona:
- Where are your shoppers coming from? (EX: Facebook, Google, Emails, Advertisements, etc).
- How long do they stay on your website?
- What kinds of things do they add to the cart (if any)?
- What do they search for on your website?
If you’re working with a website platform with these kinds of analytics built-in, ask your website partner to help you identify some of these key areas.
Use the information to build a customer profile. Do you shoppers like to search for certain brands? Do they react more to promotions because of the economy? Are they studying the product information and images for clarity?
This information will help you make the right marketing message to bring customers to your website and then personalize that website experience to get them ready for a showroom appointment. More knowledge gets you to the finish line faster!
Make Your Website Engaging
If you can’t engage the shopper before they ask for an appointment, you’ll never get the appointment. From the minute they land on your homepage, your customer should understand what you sell and how to buy it.
Create a unique shopping experience that matches your in-store experience. You can find tools to make it feel like your website is staffed with a full set of furniture experts. From personal shopping tools to live chat software, you can build onto your strong website foundation to make the shoppers feel like they’re getting a customized VIP experience.
And when they’re ready to set the appointment to finish their VIP shopping experience, your website should handle that for you too.
Add More Virtual Interactions
In a recent article by Tom Zollar, he observes that online room planning apps will be critical to sharing ideas. It’s one of the features our retailers find most valuable as a virtual selling tool. It also creates a virtual interaction with potential customers before you bring them to the showroom. If you can create an engaging experience on the website, use virtual interactions to consult on the purchase, then scheduling the showroom appointment will be successful and easier to accomplish.
The buyer’s journey is a long process even during the time of COVID-19. But you can add virtual interactions like taking interested shoppers through a virtual room planner and build a faster path from discovery to purchase.
Make it Easy to Set Appointments
Now that you’ve got a buyer persona to inform your messaging, engaging website tools and virtual experiences, how does your website function for the appointment setting? Many retail websites are built to focus on the design elements of the furniture. But how many ways can someone request information about a specific product? Are you utilizing the buyer’s journey to prepare your sales team with the right information?
Here are some of the tools that make your website a powerful selling tool.
Using Chat Tools to Set Appointments
Here are some things you need to know about chat right out of the box:
- Easy to implement
- Allows for customer engagement at every stage of the shopping experience
- Empowers sales teams inside or outside of the showroom
- Increases probability of appointment-setting or closed sales
If you haven’t implemented a chat tool on your website, make it the first thing you employ. You can use chat to schedule time with your potential shoppers and maximize your business.
Utilize eCommerce Flexibility
A common misconception about eCommerce is that it’s 100% online. While that’s partially true, there are benefits to furniture eCommerce that don’t require removing the personal interaction with clients.
If your website is set up with product data and a cart, you can use your website to collect potential buyers and use the shopping cart to secure appointments in the showroom. We’ve witnessed many retailers writing more business during the pandemic by utilizing Request a Quote features that close in the showroom.
Your website can function as an eCommerce generator or as a holding place for your appointment-setting team. And speaking of a team…
Train Sales Staff in Virtual Selling
Virtual selling isn’t for everyone. And it’s hard to acquire appointments without face to face interaction. That’s why training your sales staff on phone sales and website conversions is critical. This investment you make in your team now will pay dividends in the future. Find online resources or talented salespeople to give your team the best practices on using tools like chat, FaceTime, Zoom, and other virtual communication tools. The more comfortable your sales staff are with setting appointments virtually, the more successful your campaigns will be.
While there is not a swift end approaching for the pandemic or its impacts on our industry, there are ways to manage the chaos it creates. By implementing a strategy to collect appointments in the showroom, you ensure your business has a fighting chance to be successful in tough times.