Why Furniture Retailers Need More Inspiration in Their Marketing Mix

August 23, 2018

Showrooms top the list of the assets and advantages that brick-and-mortar furniture retailers have. In a great showroom, shoppers are carried away by the furniture and surroundings and envision a new environment of their own to create lifelong memories in. The secret sauce is inspiration. Customers leave the store with new furniture as well as a “north star” for what they want their homes to look like.

Furniture retailers have mastered this inside of their four walls so well that it’s odd we don’t see more of it in their marketing mix. On a big sales weekend, shoppers are more likely to see low, lower and lowest prices rather than be inspired by a retailer’s stylistic vision for the shopper’s home.

Don’t get us wrong – low prices are great and value is one of the key selling points for furniture shoppers, but we don’t believe furniture retailers can thrive in the future relying on price promotion alone.

As product choice increases and niche styles emerge, retailers need to bring inspiration to the center of their marketing mix. This means curating original content, user-generated content and being present in visual social channels like Instagram and Pinterest. By providing an inspiring vision, retailers will be better equipped to meet a shopper’s desire for furniture that matches their needs, both in style and in budget.

An Explosion of Choice Puts the Focus on Style

The increased importance of marketing that inspires shoppers is directly related to the explosion in shopping choices. One aspect of choice is the increased number of places to buy. Large pure-plays like Amazon and Wayfair, as well as mid-sized and niche pure-plays like Hayneedle and Joybird, have driven this increase in shopping options.

Legacy brick-and-mortar retailers can effectively compete with these pure-plays through a combination of strong promotions, great showrooms and excellent service. Even as shoppers become more comfortable with buying home furnishings from pure-plays, legacy furniture retailers can still lean on these advantages to compete and win.

Increased choice is not only about where to buy, but it’s also about what to buy. Increased exposure to home décor styles and trends, driven by blogs, Pinterest, Houzz and now by Instagram, gives shoppers unprecedented access to design trends and unique points of view that inspire a vision for their homes. Anyone can have a constant stream of beautiful home imagery piped into their Instagram feed on an hourly basis, making us feel both inadequate and inspired about our own homes.

The amount of choice in different styles can be overwhelming. That’s why Pinterest’s raison d’etre is to be a visual discovery tool for shoppers and, as founder Ben Silbermann said at Shoptalk this year, “the productivity app for planning all your dreams.”  To make this possible, Pinterest has built its own “taste graph” to categorize different tastes and styles and make connections between them (“if you like Mid-Century Swedish Modern, you’ll also like…”). Pinterest is banking its growth strategy on making choice manageable for shoppers.

Be Inspirational.  Be Relevant. 

Furniture retailers can be relevant by being discovery tools as well. This doesn’t mean you need to start pinning thousands of items on your own site like Pinterest. Instead, furniture retailers should draw inspiration from their beautiful showrooms and share it as part of their marketing mix. Providing a point of view and a vision for style, backed up by great selection and prices, allows retailers to be in the game to reach furniture shoppers looking to design their dream home.

Here are some ideas for inspiring your shoppers through marketing…and getting inspired in turn by your own shoppers!

Be active on Instagram and Pinterest – 59% of 18-34 year olds report they discover new products on Instagram and Pinterest. If you don’t have an Instagram handle or collection of Pinterest boards, set them up now and start posting and pinning images that inspire.  Rely on your product catalog for some, but branch out to other imagery that relates to your brand as well. Paid ads on both platforms can help your content get greater exposure by being targeted to shoppers who respond to your brand’s style.

Tap into your designers – If you have a team of designers, you have a ready-made group of people who can inspire your customers! Encourage your designers to maintain their own social accounts focused on their design work and new furniture they are excited about in your stores. Ask customers to share their newly designed rooms as examples of what your brand stands for. Promote designers’ social pages via your retailer social feeds and emails.

Get your customers’ perspective – User-generated content is a great way to show your furniture “in the wild” and engage customers around your brand. Use brand-specific hashtags to tag posts with your furniture and promote the hashtag in your weekly flyer, print and broadcast ads. Consider using vendors like Olapic and Curalate that can add user-generated content directly to your site and make it shop-able.

Combine it all with great value – At the end of the day, shoppers have a budget and price still matters. Don’t lose your strong price and value message, especially during key sale periods. Shop-able ads on Instagram and Promoted Pins on Pinterest can help you make a positive price impression through social channels.

Furniture retailers know how to inspire shoppers, whether it be through showrooms, salespeople or designers. Taking that power to inspire out of the store and onto shoppers’ devices will be one way that furniture retailers can thrive in the years to come. If you’re looking for the expertise or the ecommerce platform to make this happen, contact Blueport Commerce today.