Furniture Marketing

Furniture Marketing & eCommerce

Furniture marketing has seen more quick adaptation to modernized advertising methods than many industries. We’ve seen a recent eCommerce boom with the furniture industry, and have discussed laggard approaches in re-tooling for modern consumers. One area where most brands have had little issue with is in their marketing endeavors. Modern businesses operated much in the way that media companies used to—their image is as important as ever.

Getting Social

When reaching consumers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat businesses have to cater to the native format. As the internet grows even more quickly, and smart devices become more powerful—videos and imagery are more vital to modern business than ever. The furniture industry has always held a strong favor towards the visually impactful approaches and can be compared to the fashion industry in this regard.

Big billboards, full-page spreads with nothing more than a picture—not to mention the entire furniture industry is heavily related to design’s thoroughfare to consumers. The best furniture brands have quickly adapted, while others have not, and old romantic views of business in the market have dragged them down. Furniture brands offer an illuminating sense of how many other modern businesses should approach their ad campaigns, although furniture may have only been successful by coincidence.

Modern Media Companies

If you are looking for a plumber, how do you imagine to find one? Written reviews, word of mouth, maybe just a simple local Google search with a handful of reviews—these are how most people search. However, those plumbers that show a dedication to their audience’s problems are typically the ones that get found the most easily. Maybe a local plumber has a blog about kitchen remodeling, where all they talk about is non-plumbing related topics. People that are renovating their kitchens would likely want to read it and find value in it. These same people will likely need a plumber, and if they’ve just finished an article on kitchen design that brought them value, then see your number on the site, you might just get a call. Now compare that plumber to a listing of a local guy who only pokes at advertising was to place his number in the Yellow Pages.

Waning Roles

Who the hell uses the Yellow Pages anymore? Mailmen across American are looked upon with disdain on the days they drop of these piles of soon-to-be fire starter. The point is, the first plumber is involved in his audiences perspective, while the second is simply holding an open for business sign. There’s a million plumber’s out there, and the one that’s already got your attention is more likely to get your business, all things being equal. To get a better idea of some of the best furniture brands, that all are exhibiting excellent demonstrations of modern marketing and social media presence, read this article. It does well, to sum up, most of the largest furniture manufacturers in the marketplace right now, and a quick peek at their social media pages can offer a lot of insight.

Universal Concepts

Plumbing may seem a bit tangential to Furniture, and even more so to marketing, but the same approaches can help any business succeed. First, know your customer, and know their perspective. If you’re a furniture company, the traditional perspective of the buyers have been those looking for something aesthetically pleasing, and within their budget; pretty simple right? Today anyone with a design idea and some capital can start a furniture company that contracts every aspect of its business model from factory to finish, and produce some sharp looking furniture. The best furniture manufacturers in the world utilize methods similar to this, though they’ve spent the last 100 years perfecting their supply chains and manufacturing processes.

Finding A Way In

You wouldn’t be competing well with them, but you’d be nimble and could hit the holes where they aren’t able to meet their customers. The point it—entry into nearly any market has gotten dramatically less costly since the modernization of international supply chains recent technologies. What separates success from simply having 50 dressers sitting in a warehouse is the marketing and meeting your customers demand. Furniture brands have been sensationalizing their designs for countless decades, much in the same way cosmetics and fashion have.

Furniture advertising is visual and very dramatic—often leaving you with a sense of emotion but no clear knowledge of what was being advertised. Maybe the room? Maybe the Lights? Maybe the bed? Either way, the pictures are pretty and they garner much attention from anyone passing them by. While this has been effective in the past, it has become tremendously effective now. Modern marketers stand to learn a ton from the approaches taken by the furniture brands on social media sites like Instagram, SnapChat, and even Facebook.

Respect the Platform

Nothing is more easily-dismissed than a social media page that has nothing but coupon resembling ‘ads’ from a local business trying to push their products. With the dawn of social media, businesses simply thought that by showing up to the party—they’d get all the attention. They couldn’t have been more wrong (except maybe the early adopters in some cases) and many of them never figured out they still had to dance and be merry. Furniture brands came out swinging hard, in all the right ways.

Know Your Format

Furniture manufacturers don’t typically sell furniture directly to consumers, so they had no qualms about just showing off the product. Another part of their business model over the past 50 years has to sell a lifestyle, not just furniture. Furniture’s workflow already consisted of creating elaborate interiors and design scenes for product photography, so using those pictures on social media sites was a no-brainer. Thus, their coincidental magnificence was born—little commercial vibe with a ton visual style.

People got to see pretty things and were bothered by annoying ads while they did it. That’s the secret formula—providing unadulterated value—and it comes so hard for most businesses. It’s hard to measure the effect, and if you can’t put a dollar ROI amount to it, most larger businesses won’t even consider it. For a great example, check out Bernhardt Furniture’s Instagram profile—it’s beautiful. It’s nothing but pretty pictures (that’s Instagram’s native format) and the only commercial intent seems to be to give away free furniture in contests.

Enrich User Experience, Don’t Interrupt It

The takeaway on this is that modern business has the opportunity to reach an incredibly large audience, at virtually no cost in many cases. Traditional advertising has relied on people being shown ads when the expected to see them, such as TV, Magazines, and Billboards. When people are cruising through the news feed on Facebook—they don’t expect a 3 minute sponsored interruption. Facebook knows this, and their marketing platform simply shows native post-formatted ads to users, who often don’t realize they are ads. When’s the last time you watched a TV commercial?

When’s the last time you even let one play all the way through? 80+ BILLION dollars are still spent every year on television marketing, and NO ONE is paying attention to them. When’s the last time you saw a TV ad for Bernhardt furniture though? Furniture has made no huge shift in their approach, it’s just the market that’s shifted to them. If you run a business and you aren’t  on social media right now, you are so late to the party it’s embarrassing to remind you one’s even going on.

You need to be there, you have to be there if you want to compete these days, but you have to respect the format of the platform. Rather than simply drilling out ads hoping some poor soul get sucked in, just join in conversations and help people solve problems. Make it clear on your profiles that you are a business and what you specialize in, and people will figure the rest out. If you’ve got a sale going on one day, let people know. Don’t let them know about a sale every day though—because that’s not really a sale at all is it? That’s just the goddamn price.

Closing Thoughts

Social media and furniture have come to get along famously, and any business can learn a valuable lesson. The biggest names in furniture are blasting their markets with beautiful arrays of images and lifestyle shots to help satiate their followers’ appetite for media. By providing value, they earn the respect of their followers and hopefully a note in their memory. If someone stopped to help you change your tire on the side of the road, and right when they left they handed you a business card and said: “Hey, I’m a carpenter; if you ever need help with a project just give me a shout!”—who do you think that person is going to call to help them renovate their kitchen.

The tire-changing, good-hearted, highway hero—even if he charges more than his competition. It’s not because he’s a better carpenter, it’s because he seems like a better person. If you want someone to pay more attention to your business on social media, they have to think that you provide more value to them than your competition—period. Don’ worry about selling them anything, just meet them where they already are and talk about what they want to hear about. If you’ve got something for sell at that point, and they’re interested in buying, you’re already 80% of the way towards closing the deal.

Market Segmentation Icons

Market Segmentation Part 2

This post is a continuation of our segmentation series. If you haven’t already, you may want to check out the first post—Market Segmentation—Focus Where it Counts

In our first post regarding Market Segmentation, we discussed the general idea of isolating certain portions of your customers to gain a better insight into their unique preferences. This method of qualification can be used to help you find more interested parties, more in-demand products, and also offer valuable insights into the benefit of your marketing focus and advertising investments. We left off discussing how segmentation can help understand how seemingly dismal conversion rates are really just sometimes a case of misinterpreted data, or at the very least misrepresented data.

To quickly illustrate an example of how market segmentation is applied in the real world, take a website that I recently had the pleasure to work with, The Organic Newsroom who graciously said I could use them as an example. They are a Health-oriented site, focusing on content marketing. That is to say, they market the information they produce as opposed to selling an actual product. While this dynamic is a bit different, all the principles are the same. Now, there is an ocean of Health-websites, many of which are impossible to compete against such as WebMDHealthline, and even the ever-cheesy To get around this obvious hurdle, The Organic Newsroom has focused their attention on the alternative health segment, and even further so—the treatment of health concerns with natural supplements. So they are here: Health->Alternative Health->Supplements & Dietary Nutrition.

Now, in reality, they are even further segmented than this, but that’s good enough for our discussion here. This organization, which is a for-profit outfit, has the refreshing goal of simply spreading their information far and wide. For instance, they have an article which compares 8 of the best vitamin brands available. It plunges in depth about all of them and helps any potential reader learn the pros and cons of each. They, in turn, make small affiliate commissions from any referrals they may give to supplement retailers. In essence, their goal is to help people learn, and their profit model is facilitating a way for their readers to apply that knowledge. Forgive my tangent, it’s just that in my line of work you very rarely get to work with companies with earnest missions unless you consider “helping” America’s youth find the latest pair of Jordans to be noble.

I helped the Organic Newsroom to gain a better understanding of their site’s audience, by analyzing affinity categories and interest groups (two powerful segmentations made available in Google Analytics) which can help elucidate audience interests. This helped them better understand how to reach audiences that would most benefit from their content, and enable them to focus their energy on making that content most-available there. This enables them to spend more time producing content, and less time worrying about conversion rates, audience engagement, and other aspects that can create a void of division in business directions. This type of focus also helps more people that are interested in your unique product or service find your site or store, which in turn greatly increases your organic referrals—through online links or just plain old word of mouth. Ultimately though, this method is a means of analyzing the sources of your traffic, and any additional data that is attached to that data just makes life even easier.

Traffic Sources

We’ve seen how some traffic sources can behave drastically different than others, such as one source representing a strong buyers intent while another offering nearly none. Sometimes, however, your business may not necessarily need target interest, and you’re after a strict numbers game type of consumer base. Take, for example, a small news and media organization that I recently had the pleasure of working with. Without being too specific, they were a fairly old-school Local TV news channel which had an online presence, but certainly nothing that would be considered competitive to major regional affiliate networks. They had all the tools in place, had a website just like you’d expect to see from a larger agency, but had an old school mindset and hadn’t really committed themselves to the investment of reaching out to the new iPad bearing, click-happy, techies that the entire world seems to have transformed into overnight.

They were getting roughly 80,000 visitors to their site a month when I came in, which isn’t all that bad. However, for the amount of content they generate, it was pretty dismally short of where I had a feeling they could beat. They had a presence on social networks, but it was heavily automated and didn’t really engage the audience with pictures, questions, or other methods proven to increase audience excitement. Now, before I continue you should know that the methods used here can very easily be abused, or taken to extremes, which often results in a very spammy vibe which could hurt the reputation of a business. As with anything, one should exercise a degree of caution and modestly dredge onward.

My first step was to segment out the sources of their website traffic into broad categories; Social, Referral (links from other sites), Direct, and Organic Search. These should be viewed as top-level sources, and not to be viewed as overly insightful in most cases. The breakdown was as follows: 35% Direct, 30% Referral, 20% Social and ~15% Organic Search. There are some other random source types in there, but I’m ignoring them right now. Immediately, for previous experience in this field, I knew that their social traffic had a tremendously underutilized potential. For instance, a single article on a site like Reddit can sometimes generate over 50K visitors a day. Given, that’s a black swan event; they still didn’t have many “spikes” in traffic to get everyone excited. I know these types of results peel back ears, and I wanted to get a further commitment from them, so that’s where I started. I’ll skip the numbers for now, as we’re focusing on segmentation, but within the first month with very little effort their social traffic quadrupled, and new visitor counts grew by 35%.

Referral traffic is a bit tricky to tear apart sometimes, as it represents visitors from other sites that can be tricky to find sometimes. In addition, there are often thousands of referring websites for larger sites such as the one I was working on, and data can become a bit obfuscated by its sheer volume. I approached it by taking the top 25 referring domains, by number referred, and analyzed them with a custom piece of software that counted the unique pages on each in which they were referred from, and then weighs that against the overall referred amount, returning a “friendly” figure between 0 and 1. So basically if 1500 hits came from a site that had 1500 links on 1500 pages, I’d get a big fat 0 on my number chart, which basically lets me know that for every link on that site I would only be able to expect a single person.

For a site that had 1500 hits, from 10 links, on 10 pages, I’d get a number closer to 1. Don’t worry about the math, it’s a bit relativistic and not really practical, meant only to be representative. So my end result is a list of those 25 domains I’ve chosen, with 25 paired values associated with their link “value.” While Google Analytics doesn’t really have an easy button for this, this is a type of segmentation that can show you the value of a single link from any given source. Ultimately, I found that the third site from the top of my list was a user-generated content site which was bringing nearly 1100 visits per link to my client’s site. There were only 8 links on the site in total, but I could also ensure that many more would be added at aptly timed intervals.

So, technical babble aside, segmentation of traffic sources allowed me to find a site that was bringing a lot of traffic to the site with very few links. In addition, this site offered the ability for anyone to add as many links as the wanted. This meant that I could add links to my clients’ site there as often as I wanted, and get roughly 140 visitors per link! That was nearly $75 of paid search traffic per link, FOR FREE. That adds up fast, even for a larger company like my clients.

At the end of the first month, their traffic had grown from 80,000 to over 200,000, with nearly 65,000 coming from social networking sites alone! This client’s revenue was generated by the ad spaces on their site, which gave them a tremendous incentive to get more people on site, even if it meant a less targeted amount. Now, before you think that I’m some wizard of money making, let me break down the profit increases vs. visitor increases for you. With a roughly 250% increase in overall site traffic, there was seen a 15% increase in overall advertising revenue, which can’t always be broken down as easily as other facets of this project.

The overall click-through rate of the site’s ads only dropped by from ~2% to 1.75% which is pretty good considering all the different channels that got added to the traffic flow. One of the largest factors that seems to stand out in this data is the amount of fixed price ad space that is being sold by my client. In other words, the amount of ad space they sell for a monthly rate, regardless of views or clicks. I’m assuming they’ll want to consider changing their approach, as the power of market segmentation has clearly shown that they have the potential to earn much more than they are currently.