HFA member Matter Brothers Furniture always had a plan to venture into e-commerce, but there always seemed to be bigger projects – a new POS system, reorganizing the warehouse and showroom floors – to tackle in the company’s five-year plan.
“There was always something that seemed more important,” said Kim Dominguez, Matter Brothers’ director of marketing. “Something that could make us wait on e-commerce.”
Almost overnight, the pandemic changed the company’s priorities. Within 14 days of shutting down last spring, Matter Brothers’ e-commerce site was up and running. There were pain points along the way, glitches that were fixed as the days went on. The site did not have the polished, seamless experience that Matter Brothers, a Top 100 retailer, is known for by its customers, but Dominguez said company officials were fine with that.
“We had to decide, do we want to be perfect or do we want to get it done?” she said. “We chose to get it done.”
Today, Matter Brothers could serve as a white paper for furniture stores – long resistant to change within their industry – successfully expanding into e-commerce. Online sales are increasing over the past month since May. Other customers who started online are completing their sales journey in the showroom. It’s not uncommon for Matter Brothers to write up a $20,000 ticket from a customer who shopped the store’s website at home before venturing out.
“We knew that 63 percent of customers were beginning their journey online,” said Dominguez. “After COVID hit, that number went up 33 percent in the first two quarters so we had to set in and step in quick.”
Investing heavily in e-commerce
Dominguez said Matter Brothers is investing as much in the e-commerce side of its business as it is in its five brick-and-mortar stores in Southwest Florida. “We look at online as our new flagship store,” she said. That includes a new way of looking at digital marketing. Matter Brothers no longer invests in print advertising or circulars. “We do television and digital marketing exclusively,” she said.
That means Matter Brothers has increased staffing to tend to its website, which now has an e-commerce manager. It also means the store is listening to customers more through the website’s live chat. Employees answering questions are no longer grounded in customer service. They have sales backgrounds and can help the customer online or steer them into the store for a more personal touch.
A new way of selling means a new learning curve for employees. Dominguez said that learning, which includes screening and qualifying leads, starts with the floor team. “The education begins with them because they’re the first contact we have with the customer after they visit online, but we envision everyone being trained again to some extent. (E-commerce) is not going away. It’s only going to get bigger for us.”