E-commerce is here to stay. Get your employees trained for the online demand to come

For months, years even, Home Furnishings Association member Matter Brothers put off selling furniture and accessories online. The company had a robust website packed with product, but to buy that product meant getting in the car and making a trip to one of the company’s 10 stores.

Kim Dominguez, Matter Brothers Furniture director of marketing, said the company was moving forward on an e-commerce plan, but slowly. The pandemic changed that, and quickly.

Within 14 days of being shut down, Matter Brothers had integrated an e-commerce piece into its website. “For months prior (to the pandemic) we were analyzing platforms and technologies and how we could find the perfect solution for us,” said Dominguez. “But when COVID hit we realized, do we want to be perfect in all we do, or do we want to get it done? It was a huge learning experience for us.”

It has also been a successful experience.

Matter Brothers’ online sales continue to grow over each preceding month, and the company continues to learn and adjust on the fly. Dominguez and Big Sandy Superstore CEO Rob VanHoose shared their companies’ e-commerce success stories during the pandemic with HFA CEO Mark Schumacher on a recent HFA Live webinar. More importantly, both retailers shared secrets to how their stores have been so successful.

Chief among secrets: Staying in constant contact with customers who have purchased online and letting them know when their product will be delivered.

Better phone and chat skills

VanHoose said his top sales associates don’t always want to answer phones or live chats because that takes them away from sales, but they need the training to deal with those potential customers, especially in these days of supply and logistic delays. “What we’re stressing to our salespeople is that people can get ticked off if they find their (purchase order) has been pushed out again,” he said. “We can sell and still stay in touch with customers every two weeks. That’s our new normal, keeping salespeople waiting on you as a customer before and after the sale.”

Dominguez said Matter Brothers is hiring just as aggressively for online sales as they are for their brick-and-mortar stores. “We’re investing as much online as anywhere else,” she said. “At least for now, online is our new flagship store.”

Both retailers say e-commerce is here to stay and that retailers need to embrace it now. “If you’re not using this time to arrive and stay better, you’re wasting a lot of time,” said VanHoose. “Online acceleration, as a habit, has been moved up five years because of the pandemic. Even little old ladies are checking out with a shopping cart.”

To hear more tips from Dominguez and VanHoose about selling online, or to hear other HFA education webinars, visit the HFA’s webinar page.

In addition to educational webinars, HFA offers members solutions to their retail needs. Want to learn more? 

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