Recent data from the US Postal Service revealed that between March and October 2020, almost 300,000 New York residents requested to change their address to Connecticut. In March to July 2020 alone there were 245,000 residential moves. This compared with only 101,000 during the same period in 2019 highlights the increased movements. All across the country, big cities witnessed a similar exodus as the effects of the pandemic took hold throughout the year.
At first glance, this sort of migration activity would seem to represent a significant opportunity for furniture retailers. After all, those moving out of the big cities tend to be affluent, white-collar workers in stable employment who are likely to be thinking about furnishing their new homes. However, the reality is that many furniture retailers are failing to capitalize on recent events due to shortcomings in their data and advertising strategies.
Simply put, many retailers are spending time and money by marketing to core customers in the big cities who simply aren’t there anymore. By continuing to rely on pre-pandemic data sets, they are wasting precious marketing resources at a time when the ROI on every dollar counts more than ever.
So, what can furniture retailers do to adapt to the shifting sands and successfully leverage data to connect with their target customers?
Update your assumptions
Perhaps the single most important thing all retailers should be doing right now is refreshing long-standing assumptions about their customers. Any customer data collected in the three years prior to the pandemic is likely to be significantly different from data collected over the last 12 months. That’s not to say that pre-pandemic data sets are now worthless, but it’s important to recognize and establish how much has changed for customers over the past year.
Furniture retailers have two obvious data sets to draw upon to inform their marketing activity: the data they collect in-store and the data they collect online. Furniture retailers have tended to lean heavily on in-store data as the assumption has always been that people prefer to make large ticket furniture purchases in-store rather than online. Those in the furniture business need to ask themselves (and their data) whether that assumption still holds true in 2021. The pandemic has popularized e-commerce across all sectors, even the furniture business.
Retailers need to rethink how they are utilizing their websites. Traditionally, many furniture sellers have positioned their websites as online showrooms, primarily designed to attract in-store footfall. Those websites are not designed to deliver sales of big-ticket items online because of the assumption that customers wouldn’t buy a new sofa without physically sitting on it first. Some retailers have woken up to the shift in consumer behavior by introducing tools such as Augmented Reality to allow online customers to ‘picture’ new furniture in their own home.
Furniture purchases also tend to require home delivery, so, traditionally, retailers have been able to determine how far on average customers are willing to travel to their store and then use this information to target and optimize their ad spending by setting a radius around each of their stores. Given the recent levels of migration from big cities, persisting with the same old ad targeting strategy based on proximity to the store is a big mistake.
Follow the money
A key shift that furniture retailers can make today is to increase the emphasis placed on their online data and, then, ask two key questions. Firstly, where are those online sales coming from, not just on a city or town basis but drilling down to individual zip codes? Secondly, where you are doing well, what is the average household income of residents in those zip codes? Household income is probably the most important data point in the furniture space. Retailers need to understand what their average customer looks like, in socio-economic terms, then identify where those specific customers are in the country.
This approach allows you to double down and increase your marketing spend in the areas where you already do well. It also allows you to identify similar socio-economic areas to target for online sales growth, particularly areas where you don’t have a store within easy reach and awareness of your brand is low. The next stage is to understand where those people are found in the media landscape, e.g. if you are looking for people with an income in excess of £100,000 a year, are you likely to find them by advertising on youth-oriented channels like SnapChat and TikTok?
It’s time for furniture retailers to think again about the data driving their media spending and identify where their target customers are today, both geographically and economically.
About the Author: Craig Brown is the Head of Delivery in North America at Incubeta NMPi
About Incubeta: Incubeta is a team of over 440 creators, thinkers, makers and doers obsessed with finding ways to upgrade your growth. We seamlessly integrate technology, media and creative through the union of three market leading specialists – DQ&A, NMPi, and Joystick. Putting the ownership and control of customer experience back into the hands of the advertiser – be it brand or agency.’
Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.
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