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Thursday, November 7, 2013

B2C E-commerce Case Study -- How Internet will Save a Furniture Store

Although we work primarily with B2B companies in redesigning websites and providing search engine optimization services, we have, on occasion, taken on a few B2C projects that seemed interesting to us.

What made them interesting? Usually an existing relationship with the client that would provide us with a great deal of latitude in using their site as an experimental tool to continue developing our knowledge base in SEO and social media marketing. That was the case recently, when we decided to take on the project of building a new website for Express Furniture, an Akron, Ohio, furniture store. The company had the ability to ship its products nationwide, but its old website was presenting some major obstacles.

Here's a rundown of some of the problems we saw and how we solved them to deliver a site that's now generating sales on a nationwide scale.

Obstacle #1 -- Custom CMS

Express Furniture launched its first website approximately eight years ago as part of a consortium of independent Sauder Furniture dealers around the country. One of those dealers offered to spearhead the website effort and had a site built that all the dealers could use. The only problem was that because it was a common site, there was little ability to customize to each dealer's tastes or for them to be able to easily create their own sales and specials. Additionally, as the site became outdated (new products need to be added and old ones needed to be deleted), the dealers had to go through their dealer friend to get site changes, and it became more and more difficult to get those changes done in a timely way. Because the site was built in a proprietary platform, the only way to fix the situation was to build a brand new site.

Obstacle #2 -- Defined Territories

When the dealers agreed to enter this arrangement for their websites, they also agreed to have their territory assignments applied to online sales. What that meant was that any Internet sale outside of a dealer's 70-mile radius territory would automatically be filtered to the dealer who set up all the websites. So, in essence, the dealers were limited to selling online to their current local customer base.

Obstacle #3 -- More Competition

The independent Sauder dealers for many years had enjoyed exclusivity rights within their territories that would have enabled them to continue flourishing had the manufacturer not decided to expand its distribution base. Office Max, Staples, Target, etc. were added as Sauder sellers, thus increasing the local competition for the dealers. Combine that with the fact that their websites could only physically sell in a 70-mile radius, and you have the recipe for financial doom.

Obstacle #4 -- Reduced Effectiveness of Traditional Advertising

As newspaper readership has continued to decline, so has the impact of local print advertising. For Express Furniture, a Sunday insert 10 years ago was golden in terms of bringing foot traffic to the store. Today, the value has significantly diminished, save for some major holidays that still generate high-volume traffic.

Fortunately, the Express Furniture owner saw how these issues could have a terminal effect on his business and he set out to make some big changes.

Change #1 -- Build/Own his Own Site

Express Furniture recently launched its new website, built in a portable, open-source content management system, and structured it so that he could accept and ship orders anywhere in the continental United States.

Change #2 -- Expand Product Base

With increasing competition from big box stores for the Sauder products, it became imperative that the business add additional product lines. The company has now forged relationships with a number of commercial office furniture manufacturers to balance out its offering.

Change #3 -- Change his Marketing Mix

Recognizing that print advertising was no longer working, Express Furniture made the decision to divert much of its print ad budget toward building and marketing its new site. The company began realizing dividends within the first week of launch, when site traffic climbed an amazing 30% in the first week. The business has begun to receive regular orders on its site, both within its original footprint and beyond, as well as a rash of new phone orders.

So, what was the magic formula? A comprehensive approach to Internet marketing, planned in concert with the site's construction, enabled the company to rush out the gate at a galloping pace.

Elements included:
  • A well-optimized site
  • Online and offline site promotion via press releases and social media
  • Content marketing on third-party social media sites

None of the elements are revolutionary, they're just coordinated and customized to fit this particular client.

What we found with this client was nothing out of the ordinary among businesses trying to navigate uncharted waters. The key to success is having a client that is willing to jump in those unfamiliar waters and begin swimming alongside his appointed guide.

Visit Express Furniture's new website.

For more information on how Pilot Fish can help your website become a true sales tool for your business, call 877-799-9994 or fill out this form.