At CEO Summit, retailers rethink connecting with shoppers online and in their homes

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Some of the nation's biggest furniture retailers spent Tuesday discussing how to better connect with consumers at the HFA's CEO Summit in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Smaller furniture retailers take heart. Even the country’s top retailers share many of the same staffing problems you have. At the second day of the Home Furnishings Association’s CEO Summit in Pebble Beach,Calif., those Top 100 retailers spent this morning discussing ways and days to better use their staff.

Mark Schumacher, executive vice president of the HFA, and Keith Koenig, CEO of City Furniture, led a lively morning discussion with Scott Hill, CEO of PERQ, and David Kain of Kain Automotive, exploring ways retailers can better use employees on the showroom floor and, more importantly, in their customers’ living rooms.

Some participants extolled the benefits of dispatching sales associates and designers to customers’ homes. Their success is hard to ignore: Retailers have achieved much greater closing rates and higher sales tickets in homes than in stores.

David Kain, left, and Scott Hill told retailers to train their staffs to better engage with shoppers who visit their websites.

Co-navigating the transaction

Kain and Hill told retailers to keep staffing their stores Saturdays and Sundays — the busiest days for most retailers —  but not to neglect the other five days of the week. Business may be slower, but that leaves more time for store owners to train associates on pursuing digital leads and scheduling in-home visits.

Kain and Hill pointed to co-navigating — a digital sales strategy adopted by the automotive industry — in which sales associates engage consumers on the company’s website, answering questions, guiding them to product preferences and eventually steering them to the store’s front door.

With co-navigating, the power is in the engagement, said Schumacher. The associate accompanies the consumer every step of the way, creating a much-needed connection. That connection is important in car sales where, according to Kain, 75 percent of consumers buy from the first person who engages them. Kain and Hill said the numbers can be comparable for the furniture industry if retailers put together a similar sales model.

Use staff efficiently and strategically

That model requires discipline on the part of retailers to use their sales staff in the most efficient and strategic ways, Schumacher said.

The CEO Summit is a three-day gathering of 50 owners, presidents and chief executives of Top 100 furniture retailers. Its mission is to address challenges that impact HFA members of all sizes, with the intent of finding solutions all members can implement in their stores. The Summit concludes Wednesday. Look for updates on HFA channels and in-depth coverage in the HFA’s next Insights Magazine.


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