Three ways to engage your customers online

By Caroline Platkiewicz, marketing manager, Blueport Commerce

At Progressive Business Media’s Future Leadership Conference, it became evident that having an online presence for your brand is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have. The question on the minds of furniture retailers of all sizes and specialties now is how to approach online and use it to maximize business results.

Consumers today have more access to information than ever before on the products and services they want to buy. The nearly ubiquitous access to the internet provides an instant gateway to price transparency, product comparison, customer reviews, deals and ultimately – options. Consequently, retailers must not only respond to consumers’ insatiable demand for information and convenient purchasing (not to mention, quick delivery), they must also distinguish themselves from their competition. In the Age of the Consumer, how a brand engages with its customers sets it apart from the rest.

Whether or not you are a retailer who has fully brought your stores online and has an e-commerce-enabled website, there are several things you can do to grow an online presence that will build brand loyalty and drive traffic to your stores.

1. Maintain an active social media presence

Any business owner knows that good old-fashioned word of mouth is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) marketing tactics. Consider social media today’s version of word of mouth, with the added ability to spread that word much faster and more widely. It’s an extremely important and effective channel to disseminate information about your stores, increase brand awareness and to directly engage in conversation with your customers. And, as search algorithms continue to advance beyond keywords and links, it is becoming increasingly important to develop a strong social media strategy to improve SEO (search engine optimization, i.e. showing up at the top of search results). More importantly, it’s a great (and relatively easy) digital tool to drive customers to your stores and website – all this with little to no implementation cost to you.

In the long-run, a social media strategy that is customer-centric and focused on engagement will result in earned loyalty and lasting relationships with customers. The more “shareable” your social posts, the better. As more social media platforms introduce e-commerce options, like Pinterest and Facebook have started to do this year, it will become easier to measure the more direct impact of your social media efforts on sales.

2. Make your website mobile-friendly

According to eMarketer, the average American spends nearly three hours a day on their mobile device engaging in non-voice activities. Consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices for browsing and shopping, including furniture. As a matter of fact, Google predicts that more than half of all searches for furniture-related terms will come from smartphones by 2016. Furthermore, April marked the “mobile moment” when search engine giant Google adjusted its search result algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites. What this all boils down to is that today, you not only have to engage with your customers online, but you have to engage with them online in a manner that is also ideal for mobile.

The most comprehensive solution to date is responsive design that ensures your website renders accurately to the size and scale of any viewing device. This ensures consistency and ease of use for the customer, making the browsing /shopping experience more fluid and consistent across the multiple devices a customer encounters throughout their day. There is enormous potential for retailers to seize the opportunity mobile presents. Building a web presence that is mobile-friendly is a must for retailers. The easier you can make the mobile experience, the more relevant you will become to your customers and the more likely they will buy.

3. Provide meaningful content, regularly

To win in the age of the consumer means to go beyond just selling your product – you need to provide content that is informational and intrinsic in value. Whether it’s via high-quality digital imagery, romance copy or emails, giving customers information that is relevant to your product and their lifestyle is critical for sales and brand loyalty.

For furniture retailers, something as simple as providing a how-to-clean guide for upholstery and leather, or tips on how to refresh your home with affordable accents can provide valuable returns in the long-run. Content doesn’t always have to be promotional material. Customers appreciate a break in all of the sales messaging they receive, especially if it is fun, helpful and/or informative. You’ll establish yourself as an authority in your retail space and build reliance and trust among your customers.

Just as with your social media strategy, maintaining regularity in your content distribution is key. Publish new blog posts on a weekly basis or more often if you can. If you’re not in front of your customers frequently, another brand will be. Through regular, meaningful content creation, your brand will be top of mind when it comes time for customers to purchase, and they may even become you best brand advocates because of the thoughtful and engaging content you’ve provided along the way.

About Blueport Commerce

Blueport Commerce helps furniture retailers capture their e-commerce opportunity by marrying retailers' brick-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with innovative technology and marketing and sales solutions. Learn more at

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