Our homes have become a sanctuary like never before. In fact, we have accommodated every extension of our life and consolidated it within our home space. For most of us right now, home is our gym, office and entertainment center, in addition to being our living space Going by this trend, one would expect that Home & Furniture businesses should have done significantly well compared to other businesses. But the reality is different and more complex. Home and Furniture industry saw some interesting trends during the Corona outbreak.

Initially, consumers started off by buying more products to make their homes as comfortable and equipped as possible. In fact some companies gave out stipends to their employees to buy office furnishing for their homes. For example, Shopify paid out $1000 USD to its employees to make their home office as comfortable as possible. This led to a solid spike in the sales for home furnishing companies, more so for the ones specializing in office equipment. 

After the initial phase, as the pandemic started stretching beyond expectations, this trend seemed to taper off with consumers starting to restrict their spending on luxury items and limiting them to only essentials. This is evident in the fact that there was almost a 26% decrease in retail sales in the US alone in March compared to last year.

This affects how home furnishing companies spend their marketing dollars as well. Most companies have recalibrated themselves to balance their overhead expenditure by reducing their total ad spend. In fact, there has been a 52% decline in ad spend in March this year.

Sales are down and it looks like we will continue seeing a declining trend. An esteemed industry analyst, Jerry Epperson, said Home & Furniture will start regaining its foothold only by September when schools reopen for the new academic year. He also sprinkled optimism by suggesting that retailers should start preparing for that period starting from now. And with that, he brings us to the important question of how marketers in home furnishing companies prepare themselves in this uncertain period and what they should mainly focus on.

How Can You Prepare Your Brand to Build a Lasting Relationship With Your Customers?

The priority for marketers in Home & Furnishing companies must be to focus on building a relationship with their customer base by offering services that truly empathize with their current situation. Marketers can focus their energies in two key things now.

Firstly, creating content or offering services that empathize with your customers’ current situation to establish trust. These initiatives should not necessarily be focused on selling your products. Secondly, focus on strengthening your eCommerce and online presence to offset some of the impact on retail channels. In the short term, incentivize and motivate your customers to make their online experience smoother and more enjoyable. 

Building Trust & Loyalty: Protecting Your Brand & Getting Ready for the Post-COVID Era 

There are several brands out there who are using some really creative and thoughtful campaigns to capture their customer’s attention. We have highlighted a couple of campaigns that we feel hit the right note in delivering a human touch while building brand awareness. With these kinds of effective strategies, you can kick off meaningful campaigns and start establishing a stronger connection with your customers:

  • Burrows, modular-sofa maker, is offering 15-30 minutes virtual consultation to people regarding how to design their homes and answer their product queries. 
  • West Elm, another modern furniture retailer, is offering virtual interior scenes that can be downloaded for backdrops during the video calls. 
  • Ikea, a ready-to-assemble furniture giant, is focusing on engaging people through creative advertisements with a personal touch by keeping the current situation in mind.

6 Strategies to Strengthen Your Online Presence

1. Use Hello Bars for Better Messaging

In many countries, home deliveries have been halted to just the essentials. So many people do not know if services are still running or even available. You can leverage Hello Bars to inform your customers of all your shipping and delivery changes and help them get information easily.

2. Highlight Product Bundling and Incentives

People are refraining from spending on luxury items, but with the right incentives, they can likely reconsider. Make all information and updates related to price drops and bundles easily available on banners, price drop notifications or on your newsletters.

3. Offer Long Term Payment Options

Empathizing with customers’ current situation will go a long way. People are avoiding large payments. But people do want to style their homes to make it as comfortable for themselves since they continue to spend more time at home. If you provide flexible payment options, then find prominent places like the home page or cart pages to appropriately highlight this information. For example, West Elm has this banner on their homepage with clear messaging and emphasizes the convenience it provides on payment options.

4. Combine Product Badging, Social Proof, and Discounts

Visuals are a great way to present a lot of information in a very concise and easy to digest way. For example, you can use product badging to help customers understand if this is a popular product or a product on sale or a product from your new collection. This makes it easier for customers to shortlist products when they are looking at the product listings page or search results page.

5. Re-Engage Your Customer Base by Offering a Free Design Consultation

People are swamped with an influx of targeted Ads and emails, but it’s essential to engage and re-engage customers in creative ways. A very good example of this is the free virtual consultation that Burrows is providing to its customers. While consulting customers might not necessarily buy anything immediately, it gives a sense of what their plans are and can help with planning your future marketing efforts while helping you build brand loyalty.

6. Speed Up & Facilitate Product Discovery with AI-Backed Product Recommendations

For customers who are new to your brand, it is important to first understand their needs before you can start recommending products to them. There could be several factors like what part of their house are they looking to furnish, what their budget is, what styles they like etc, that needs to be collected from them before making relevant recommendations. Insider’s Maven is one such product that is designed to ask the right questions to your customers to help you tailor new user experiences. Maven combines user intent with an AI-backedengine to make intelligent predictive recommendations.

Looking Ahead: What’s Next?

Keeping the business afloat is crucial but it’s equally important for brands to build their post-COVID strategy as well. When business gets back to normal and the economy is back on track, your customer base will remember how you invested in them. It won’t be just business as usual for you but will rather set you apart for success. It’s the perfect time for all the bold actions that you have been waiting for. 

To learn more about how Insider can help your Home & Furnishing brand grow, reach out to us and we’ll schedule a personalized demo with one of our digital growth experts.