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Interview with Chip West

Research shows that more diversification in media buys can be beneficial for many furniture retailers.

For this installment in Furniture World’s series on advertising best practices, we interviewed Chip West, director of category strategy for the national sales team at Vericast, a marketing solutions company. Vericast helps businesses across many industry verticals, including grocery, consumer packaged goods, restaurant, retail, and financial services connect with consumers through data, analytics, and a broad portfolio of digital, print and payment solutions.

“Our company started in the print space,” West explained. “We were and continue to be the largest shared mail advertiser in the USA. Furniture and bedding retailers and their ad agencies use our distribution platform to co-mingle messages in shared packaging targeted to about 70 million households weekly down to the neighborhood level across the country.

“This covers most DMAs across the country, with content that can be customized by neighborhoods, and we have access to vast amounts of first and third-party data, often incorporating unique data from our furniture retail partners that help us develop targeted approaches to reach their customers.

“Over time, the platform has evolved with patented technology, including digital infrastructure to deliver offline and online solutions helping clients and shoppers connect.”

A Diversified Ad Spend

When asked to share the major advertising deficiencies among furniture retailers today, West observed that many retailers don’t diversify their media enough. “Instead,” he said, “they choose to put all their eggs mostly in one basket. That’s probably not the right approach in today’s world. Consumers engage with a lot of media throughout the day, ingesting a huge amount of information online, print, and broadcast. All this information affects their decisions about which furniture stores to visit. There’s a lot of data suggesting that the more media a retailer layers in to connect through multiple media channels, the better the response is likely to be.”

70% of purchase influence is driven by print and digital media.

Consumer Spending For 2022

“Our studies show that 70 percent of consumers agree that spending on home and family will have an even higher priority in 2022 than in 2021. Roughly 23 percent said they planned to purchase home decor and furnishings. Therefore, omni-channel approaches are critical to reaching out to furniture shoppers.

“When making advertising decisions,” he continued, “it’s important to consider the difference between engagement and influence. Just because you may consume a lot of a particular medium doesn’t necessarily mean you are influenced by it.

“Other studies show what influences consumers when they’re making a purchase. Prosper Insights & Analytics, a well-known data company, reported that 70 percent of the media’s influence on those planning to buy furniture and mattresses comes from print and digital components (Source: Prosper Insights & Analytics, 2021).

“That statistic suggests furniture retailers whose media investments are too heavily weighted toward broadcast are likely to sacrifice market share among consumers already thinking about or shopping for furniture.

“We all know that over the years, newspaper readership has declined. According to research by Nielsen Scarborough, a company that collects local and national consumer insights, 74 percent of U.S. households have not read a newspaper in the past week. However, nearly half of recent furniture purchasers say that they spend more time with advertising mail than before the pandemic. Advertising mail is tangible and has longer shelf life than other media. It makes a lot of sense because buying furniture is a purchase that requires ideation and research. This is reflected in sales data from home furnishings retailers collected over time following the release of a print mailer.

 

Source: Vericast Awareness-to-Activation Study, October 2021

 

“About half of furniture consumers surveyed say that seeing an ad both in print and online motivates them to make a purchase. Online intent signals can identify households in-market to buy furniture. Infusing digital advertising is a great way to reach them with an additional touchpoint. So, a strategy of having an always-on approach with digital combined with print and other media has proven to be a terrific way to bring in-store traffic and make more sales.”

Retail Messaging

Moving on to ad messaging in light of recent logistics and supply chain challenges, Chip West mentioned that Vericast is encouraging retailers to reconsider repeating pre-pandemic advertising messages.

“Retailers who have ample inventory and/or lines made in North America will have continued success shouting that out. Retailers who have goods that are in stock or minimally delayed have a distinct advantage worth promoting. On the other hand, retailers that are not so lucky can focus on a more limited selection of in-stock items or general messaging that avoids traditional price/ item advertising.

“In 2021 and beyond, we saw advertisers continue to promote in-store events and promotions focused during the tax-refund season. Not everybody files their taxes at the same time, so the most successful advertising ensures offers are delivered to shoppers at the same time they get their refunds. That’s because those dollars get spent pretty quickly.

“Inflation will make financing offers even more important, especially for millennials who have purchased homes or plan to buy them in the coming months. They are the largest share of home buyers today at 37 percent. Eighty percent of millennials are likely to make a major purchase in the next six months. This group typically buys older homes that need repair or renovation. Financing offers are an excellent way retailers can get them into stores to buy furniture on an accelerated timeline. Consider offers featuring home offices and furniture for family and common, multi-use rooms.

Also, millennials are the largest group of new movers, the biggest trigger for home furnishing purchases. Unfortunately, many furniture retailers still don’t emphasize reaching new movers as much as they should. So, it’s a big opportunity to bring in lots of new business.”

Other Advertising Considerations

West also commented on the following advertising considerations:

  • Website Messaging: Many retailers need to ensure their websites better reflect the experience customers will have when they visit their stores. It doesn’t matter what the mismatch is; consumers want to see these two experiences tied seamlessly together.

  • Recruiting: More furniture retailers should consider leveraging their display ads, as appropriate, for recruitment. This is more important than ever before due to the current hiring environment.

  • Message Timing: Another important consideration for advertisers is the timing of advertising offers. When extended delivery times are a concern, retailers should let shoppers know that they need to consider moving up their shopping timeline to increase the chance of receiving goods intended for seasonal use or in time for an upcoming life event.

  • Additional Timing Issues: Historically, a lot of furniture stores focus their messaging to promote big three-day weekends; Presidents’ Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Back-to-School, Back-to-College, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Black Friday weekend. Although October through December traditionally registers the strongest sales for home furnishings retailers, it’s fairly consistent from month to month when we look at the sales trend-line for the year. Frequent messaging is especially important now to reach ready-to-buy furniture shoppers as industry sales may be softening.

There are so many life events that create selling opportunities. Moving to a new home is a big one, but people need furniture when family members move in or out, get married, downsize or make home improvements. Any of these can trigger a need for new furniture. That is why we see retailers getting better returns when they spread their messaging out and use greater frequency to motivate consumers year-round.

Source: Vericast Consumers Studies (Recent Furniture Purchasers)
released 2021 Study, October 2021

Questions about the topics covered in this interview can be directed to Chip West care of editor@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.