To not only keep going through the worst of times but to maintain a firm footing, Furniture Village plugged in Salesforce Commerce Cloud to drive ecommerce while the doors remained shuttered.
As mentioned a handful of weeks ago, the crisis of the last year has provoked a number of brands and retailers to really double down on digital and come through the pandemic with spectacular ecommerce numbers.
Many of these have been quite predictable, such as fitness brands, grocery stores, home entertainment retailers, etc. – those that have been staples of our lockdown life. Other top performers have been quite a surprise, such as home makeover retailers and home furnishings – those that traditionally rely on customers interacting with products in-store.
And the buying of furniture hasn’t only been limited to pureplays.
Furniture Village has been having a blinder during the pandemic. The private furniture chain was set up by two friends just over 30 years ago. Today it operates 54 stores in addition to its ecommerce store.
Yet when the pandemic arrived and everything shifted online, Furniture Village had just upgraded its ecommerce platform, and decided to renovate with Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This put them in the best possible position for the extraordinary circumstances we found ourselves in.
The furniture industry relies heavily on a store-focused approach because consumers want to see, feel, and test such a big-ticket item. Buying such items online would – at least in the past – simply feel too risky – how does the size look on our front room? What does it feel like when I actually sit in it? Then the pandemic pushed everything online and retailers had no other option.
In the past, the digital sphere would be used along the customer journey to seek out different products, price comparisons, styles, and fabrics. Now, it’s becoming more and more normal for consumers to go along the entire journey online.
“We could carry on selling online,” said Mike Broughton, its business developer and IT director, “so we put more people into online sales because, surprisingly after the first couple of weeks, people still wanted to buy furniture. I think that whole thing of being at home and becoming more intimate with your sofa, your dining table, trying to go somewhere in the house where you could work in peace and quiet away from pets and family, it’s quite difficult.
“So a lot of people were trying to find office furniture, new sofas, new beds and that’s carried on all the way through [the crisis].”
Upgrading its ecommerce to Salesforce Commerce Cloud just before the pandemic emerged turned out to be a stroke of luck. It became clear very quickly that ecommerce was going to play a huge role. “Once we recovered from the shock announcement [of the lockdown],” said Mike, “we thanked our lucky stars that we had a website and that we were on Commerce Cloud. We’ve been a Commerce Cloud customer for probably five-plus years.
“One of the first things we did was we got in touch with the account team and said, ‘Look, we need to get more people onto the website to actually satisfy some of the live chat we’re doing. Is there anything that you can guide us with in the next two or three weeks so we get some quick benefits out of the site?”
Responding fast but smart was vital for Furniture Village. One of the capabilities that Salesforce Commerce Cloud provided them was a professional digital touch. “We found that people wanted to see the product, so we didn’t close all our stores,” added Mike. “We kept some open for virtual consultations. People would go onto the website to buy directly. Some people would be seduced into having a conversation on live chat, and the expertise of the salespeople bred some fabulously rich conversations.
“That enabled us to upsell and cross sell, but also it enabled us to then pull people into a video conference and show them the product. That worked very very well – we would have not survived without that.”
One of the hidden positives to bloom from the lockdown has been the necessity for brands to take a look at its key strategic priorities – whether they wanted to do so or not. For Furniture Village, “We kind of looked at live chat again and we started to learn from that. One of the things we got very clear about was the hours that people wanted to shop. Even though they’re available to shop 24/7, there’s a huge amount of six-till-midnight customers. We weren’t covering them in a good enough way, so we put more people on that.”
And on the live chats, they found out something else. “We learned very quickly that people didn’t respond to bots on our website, they responded much more to the human touch,” said Mike. “So we’ve put a lot more people onto live chat. We spun round some very quick training. We have some highly-skilled people in the stores who sell the products. We put them onto the website and we learned from the website.”