Tag Archives: Personalization

Pinterest, Instagram And The Future Of Furniture Retail

POST WRITTEN BY

Beck Besecker

Co-founder and CEO of Marxent, the leader in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for homes, furniture and spaces.

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Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz and Google Image Search hold massive power when it comes to brand discovery and the formation of product preferences. Just ask direct-to-consumer furniture companies like Article, Maiden Home and Interior Define.The influence of lifestyle imagery on purchase behavior is stunning. According to Pinterest (via SocialMediaToday), 83% of all women in the United States ages 25-54 visit Pinterest. Of that total, 43% of those visits are related to purchases for the home within the next five years.

This endless stream of inspirational photos is easily curated by consumers into boards or lists that illustrate the idea of a perfect kitchen, a perfect living room, a perfect lifestyle, a perfect future.

The new ‘location, location, location’ is personalization

It’s true that physical location still matters. Retailers have to be where the eyeballs are, but those eyeballs are increasingly on Instagram and Pinterest searching photos that illustrate the possibilities, seed ideas and help refine their tastes. How do these images translate into sales? Good question.

Photos provide inspiration, but what shoppers really want is to explore how the products featured in photos fit into their lives. In most cases, that means advanced personalization — the tailoring of the experience to the individual customer. It’s one reason my company created Photo to Floorplan, a design method which allows shoppers to look at an inspirational photo, tap on the items they like and have them instantly populate the floor plan of their real-world space.

The use of high-quality visual content translates into sales. For example, Pinterest reports (via AdWeek) that people who engage with Promoted Pins spend seven times more than people who don’t. But what comes after inspiration? Instagram recently introduced a feature that lets users buy the items seen in photos, and Pinterest Pins and Instagram posts can now be curated and made shoppable with platforms like Curalate. That’s a good start but it’s only the beginning.

The answer is clear: Let shoppers design from photos and give them the power to control the journey.

Inspiration is where purchases start, not where they end

We all know that vertical visual search engines like Zillow, Houzz and Pinterest are helping shoppers to envision their perfect future before they ever enter a store. I’ve used this technology myself, and I’m assuming most of you have as well. In a recent study conducted by MFour Mobile Research (via AP News), “Two-thirds of millennials prefer to research significant purchases online.”

The natural next step for complex kitchen and home projects is to translate inspirational photos into relevant, personalized designs. This can be as easy as selecting a style profile, finding a photo or collection of photos that resonate and adding the items from the photos directly into a custom floor plan.

Traditional visual merchandising and photos both leave users with questions like “will it fit?” or “will it work?” Inspirational photos on their own do the same. That’s why owning the design phase has long been the holy grail for furniture and kitchen retailers — it is essential to clinching the sale and reducing returns.

Examples of companies already using high-quality visual content and translating it into sales include Ikea, whose Ikea Place app allows shoppers to place 3D products in their homes via augmented reality, and Macy’s (a Marxent partner), which is using an in-store 3D room planner and virtual reality showroom installation to sell furniture.

What comes next?

Inspirational shopping trends extend far outside the world of furniture, with 3D visualization tech now in use in fashion, beauty, apparel and more. Zara, Nordstrom, Gap, Sephora and others are experimenting with visual virtual try-on and shopping services. Ben and Jerry’s is deconstructing their flavor profiles with gorgeous Instagram posts. Nike is taking a more wide-ranging approach, using augmented reality to not only offer virtual try-on services but to create exclusive, geo-targeted shopping experiences. And across the pond, French fashion house Balmain is using CGI models — in this case, computer-generated people depicted wearing the brand’s fashions — to market clothing.

With shopping journeys now more likely to start and end on mobile devices instead of in stores, designing directly from photos is a great way to give the customer control of the process. Augmented and virtual reality are taking these shoppers from inspiration to action.

Allowing customers to unleash their creativity and ensure that they love their purchases through design by photo provides a new level of personalization through inspiration. Major retailers that want to preserve their edge both online and in stores are using it to deliver the combination of inspiration and personalization that consumers crave.

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How Can Small Businesses Compete in the New Age of Email Marketing? 3 Ways.

Email marketing isn’t what it used to be. Which is not to say that it’s become any less effective. Quite the opposite, actually: Email continues to offer the best return on investment around — outperforming other digital marketing channels substantially. In fact, according to the Data & Marketing Association and Demand Metric, email has a median ROI of 122 percent.
So, all I’m saying here is that email marketing has changed immensely since the first email marketing tool for small businesses was introduced way back in 1998. Today, email newsletters are no longer a novelty, and when it comes to personal email, most of us navigate through our inboxes at lightning speed. We quickly decide which messages are worth our time and which will get trashed or ignored.
 

Small businesses and huge corporations alike are vying for attention in that inbox. The only difference is that large corporations have the benefit of big marketing budgets that can afford talent and advanced marketing tools.

So, how can small businesses continue to compete in the inbox? They need to embrace three emerging trends in the email marketing industry: automationartificial intelligence and personalization.

Automation leads to easy action.    

Many small businesses still see automation as a dirty word. They fear automation will hurt the authenticity of their customer interactions.

But putting more faith in automation is the best way to drive action. Something as simple as an automated welcome email ensures that small businesses can strike when the iron’s hot and reach new subscribers at  the exact time that they’re highly engaged with a business.

 

For example, gourmet coffee retailer Door County Coffee & Tea Co. uses its automated welcome email to deliver a coupon for all first-time customers — driving sales from new customers on an ongoing basis. 

Similarly, when a business foregoes pen and paper sign-up sheets in favor of tablet apps and “text-to-join” tools, they’re able to add new contacts to their email lists immediately. Another benefit? More advanced automation, like triggered emails, can be the secret to effective follow-up based on audience action and behavior.

Related: 7 Statistics That Prove Email Marketing Isn’t Dead

A 2014 Raab Report found that 60 percent of companies with revenues exceeding $500 million had already implemented marketing automation, but just 3 percent of small businesses with less than $5 million in revenue had actually invested in it. A lot has changed in the almost four years since, but one thing has stayed the same: Aautomation is still being underutilized by small and mid-sized businesses.

That’s not smart: Automation is like the personal assistant most business owners could never afford. And it’s time small businesses embraced it.

 Artificial intelligence is the next best thing to face-to-face.

What’s the easiest way to turn subscribers off? Send them a message that has nothing to do with them.

Consider: People have high expectations for businesses. They want to receive experiences that are perfectly tailored to their interests. In person, that’s pretty simple. You have a quick, one-on-one conversation to hear about what they’re looking for and then explain what you have to offer that could be a good fit.

The inbox is different: Delivering engaging experiences is a lot harder when all you have to go on is a name and email address.

That’s why artificial intelligence (AI) can be your secret to getting a fuller picture of your email subscribers and how to best reach them. A recent Salesforce report found that 57 percent of marketing leaders surveyed called AI absolutely or very essential in helping them deliver an optimal, one-to-one communications experience. Separately, 64 percent said their companies had become more focused on providing a consistent experience across every channel as a result of changing customer expectations.

With data now available across multiple devices and marketing channels, AI has the power to unlock information, such as which products a specific email subscriber has looked at on your website. And that advancement can potentially boost the effectiveness of a company’s marketing automation efforts, allowing it to follow up with targeted email campaigns that will push prospective buyers toward a purchase.

 Ultimately, it all comes down to personalization.

The Salesforce survey found that more than half of consumers and 65 percent of B2B buyers surveyed were likely to switch brands if a company didn’t make an effort to personalize its communications to them.

And this is exactly the advantage small business have that larger companies just can’t touch. Small businesses know their customers better than anyone, so they already have a big leg up in the personalization game.

But making marketing messages “feel” personal relies on more than knowledge and data alone. Personalization also means continuing to get to know people, asking thoughtful questions, and showing them that their opinions matter.

One great example is Sheena McDeavitt’s strategy as marketing director for the Hajoca Corporation. McDeavitt personalizes emails and gathers feedback by adding quick one-question polls to her emails. When planning events, she takes the time to ask her subscribers what timing is best for them. She also regularly asks if her messages are relevant to their interests.

Adding polls the way McDeavitt does makes her company’s emails more interactive and boosts her click-through rates to an enviable 30 percent.

So, how can small businesses tackle these emerging, sometimes daunting trends?

Actually, there are three ways:

1. First off, remember that no one has all the answers. Most small businesses have enough on their plate just keeping their business running. They’d rather not have to worry about learning the latest technology or keeping up with every marketing trend. if this describes your business, start small, experiment and find the tactics and technology that work best for you. 

2. Get to know your subscribers better, and increase personalization by including polls in your emails. Not only is this an easy way for small businesses to learn more about their subscribers, it leads to more engaging emails and gives subscribers a chance to voice their preferences proactively.

3. Another option is to find a service that offers the features you need to succeed.Options include customizable mobile-responsive email templates, contact-management and reporting tools that makes things like automation and AI simple and accessible.

4. Set up automated annual date-based reminders, like birthday coupons or membership renewals. These are a nice, personalized touch and an efficient way to build customer relationships without your having to create a new email every month.

Related: Email Validation: A Critical Success Factor in Email Marketing

Ultimately, automation, AI and personalization are all trends that are accessible to any business, and will give small businesses the ability to compete — without breaking a sweat. So, take that, big guys.

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