For furniture retailers, email marketing can be one of the best tools in your marketing arsenal provided you follow a few fundamentals and avoid some common pitfalls.
A recent survey of business owners said that 23 percent of their revenue was from email, up from 18 percent a year ago.* While these weren’t all furniture retailers it begs the question – how much business could you be driving from a well-executed email campaign?
At Email Broadcast, we’ve been running email campaigns for very small retailers with a single location, as well as furniture giants in the Top 20 since 2005.
Furniture Retailer Email Marketing Fundamentals
Get these things right to give yourself the best chance of having a winning campaign:
1. Build your list correctly. You don’t like unsolicited emails. What makes you think others will like yours? Always ask for permission before sending someone email and never assume that just because you have a list of email addresses they want to hear from you. The backlash of people reporting your emails as “Spam” has serious repercussions both legally (potential $14k fines per email), and your ability to reach inboxes in the future. Make sure your associates can clearly articulate the value of being on the email list, and are asking for the email address correctly. Also, be sure that emails collected from web interaction are opt-in only (they have to check the box, not uncheck it).
2. Address your audience’s interests. Nobody wants to receive irrelevant email. What do they have in common? What would they be excited to learn about? What would they find entertaining, funny or worthy of being forwarded? The smaller your niche (we sell organic cotton futons to women in their 30s) the easier it is to zero in on content, but that doesn’t mean if you’re a full-line furniture retailer you can give up. Dig deeper: Who is your target market and what interests do they have? Start your campaign ideas there.
3. Always add value. Now that you have identified your audience, make sure your email content is adding value to their life. Furniture is an infrequent purchase so your email campaign has to be good enough to keep them around long enough for their next purchase. If your content is all about you, announcing yet another sale – you’ll lose them before they are ready to make their next purchase. Instead delight them with something fresh – designer decorator ideas, household how-to’s, moving tips, easy furniture repair, flea market finds. Whatever your audience would be into deliver it and they’ll love you, forward you, and stick around to read your next sales message.
4. Frequency – I haven’t found any compelling reason for a furniture store to email its audience more frequently than once a month. That’s not a hard and fast rule, and perhaps you have an event so good that it justifies two emails, but for the most part one is enough. I know others do it (I’m looking at you, Pottery Barn), but if you want engaged readers three years from now, flooding their inbox is the wrong strategy.
Common Email Marketing Pitfalls Furniture Retailers Should Avoid
1. Most campaigns have weak content because they don’t get the proper attention and planning. Could you throw a great dinner party the same day you had the idea? Then why subject your potential customers to poor preparation? Relevant, compelling content takes time to research, cultivate, curate, edit and refine. If you’re trying to write this month’s email – skip it. Work on next month’s instead so you can publish something truly worthy of your audience’s attention. Their attention is valuable. Don’tt waste it by rushing something out.
2. Ignoring trigger messages. Most retailers think of email marketing as a “newsletter” only – something they send out to everyone. In reality it’s much more. With a little effort and some programming, you can easily send out automated messages that deliver true value. How about a birthday card since your finance customers all supply their birthdates? How about a reminder to turn their mattress every 6 months after their purchase? Maybe a “dining table repair” email one year after a dining table has been purchased. What about an adjustable bed message sent to people over a certain age who have not recently bought a mattress? You can easily set up these messages in advance, and automatically launch them each day as programmed. My research shows that automated emails have a 24-percent higher open rate and a 47-percent higher clickthrough rate than standard emails.*
3. Poor graphic design and ignoring mobile. Why is it many retailers who live and die by design invest thousands of dollars in a beautiful showroom only to turn around and use a basic email template where they’ve simply dropped in their logo and changed a couple of colors? Those same retailers typically also have no plan for the fact that 44 percent of all emails are opened on mobile devices.* Be sure to invest in a custom email template that you feel proudly conveys your brand. You’ll also want a “responsive design” that automatically responds to a small screen by resizing it’s images while keeping the text full size. Trust me, if people have to scroll and pinch and zoom on their phone, you’re going to lose them. The extra investment is going to raise your brand image considerably and you’ll get more from every email you send.
4. Not knowing when to get help. Anyone can send out lousy emails. Just check your personal inbox for proof. If you want email to make a significant impact in your sales and you don’t have the experience in house – you may need help. It’s OK to admit that! Self-awareness is an underrated character trait. A good email marketing partner will have the graphic design, copywriting, coding and, most important, strategy that you need to be successful. It’s tough to do everything well. Why not focus on becoming the best retailer you can be and look for help with the ancillary services that can help you succeed. You may be surprised at how affordable it is when compared with the in-house effort required.
CEO – Email Broadcast
Before founding Email Broadcast in 2000, Ken Mahar was a national champion in retail sales (including furniture retail). That retail experience has helped him become an expert in email marketing for retail businesses. Email Broadcast clients include Mor Furniture for Less and Schoenfeld Interiors.
Book a free 20 minute consultation to discuss your retail operation and how it could benefit from a professionally run email campaign.
* Research and survey data can be found online at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0ewJvinkGCRclc3cnpUUjBWX3c/edit?usp=sharing