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Becker Furniture World Uses Internet Strategy To Boost Traffic

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A Little History – Becker Furniture World was founded in 1978 by the Huseby family. It all started with a 500 square foot building used to distribute wholesale furniture and manufacture select products. As an experiment, the store was opened to the public and sales became so successful the business began to focus exclusively on selling retail in 1986. Success led to one building expansion after another until its current quarter-million square feet. Becker Furniture World has grown to become the most shopped furniture store in the state of Minnesota. Despite being a 60-minute drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul, it has successfully drawn traffic from the twin cities to its store by positioning itself as a home furnishing destination. With over 250,000 square feet of showroom space under one roof, Becker offers an unparalleled selection of home furnishings. Responding to Competition – Over the past three years competitors have built several large stores along the main route to Becker and advertised heavily on billboards to try to siphon off traffic headed toward Becker. Becker’s business suffered from the increased competition. They came out swinging with a two-pronged strategy: 1. Destination, destination, destination – In an effort to convince twin cities shoppers to make the trip off the beaten path, Becker expanded its merchandising strategy beyond home furnishings to encompass everything related to home improvement. “Whether customers are building, remodeling or just improving the look and feel of their home, they are able to make all their selections at Becker Furniture World Home Center,” stated JR Wilson, Becker’s President. In July 2007 Becker Furniture World expanded to include an innovative new Home Center where the best-in-class home improvement retailers unite under one roof. The Home Center displays products from branded partners offering everything from floor coverings, electronics and appliances, window treatments, pools and spas, fireplaces, paint, lighting, landscaping, plumbing fixtures, granite tops, storage systems, game tables and a design studio—all under one roof. The concept comes to life in the Idea House—a 4,300 square foot home built inside the store—decked out with an in-ground pool, home furnishings and partners’ product offerings. 2. Spread the word – To educate the market about their new, bigger and broader destination, Becker invested in marketing. They hired Horich Parks Lebow Advertising to create a new ad campaign to reach potential shoppers in their homes and in their cars. Becker also hired FurnitureDealer.net to help them reach people on the Internet, an increasingly important medium. In fact American adults spend an average of 3.6 hours a day on the internet, 44% more than they spend watching TV1. What are they doing online? After email, search engines and maps, the fourth most common online activity is “researching a product or service before buying it.” What products are they researching? Furniture is the 8th most searched product across search engines. An Economic Perfect Storm – The first half of 2008 was among the worst in a generation for furniture retailers in the Minneapolis St. Paul area as revenue declined between 20-40% according to industry watchers, driven by a perfect storm of negative economic factors. The real estate market was in turmoil with sales of new and existing homes at a 20 year low. The credit crunch also triggered a decline in remodeling activity as lenders cut back on home equity loans, and record fuel prices caused the first reduction in miles driven since 1973. Becker Furniture World was in the eye of the perfect storm. It had made a significant investment to create its Home Center just as the real estate bubble burst and the credit crunch squeezed home equity loans. To make matters worse, Becker’s store is located 60 minutes from the metro area, a significantly longer drive for twin cities residents than competitors’ stores, exposing Becker to even greater downside risk as gasoline prices skyrocketed. Surprising Business Results – One would expect Becker’s sales to have taken a beating, right? Wrong—Becker’s revenue year-to-date has increased over last year. Andy Bernstein, President of FurnitureDealet.net who manages Becker’s internet marketing strategy, is pleased with his client’s positive results. “Becker’s website helps them weather the storm,” according to Bernstein who explains, “The real estate slump has reduced demand for furniture. And fuel prices have dampened consumers’ willingness to drive to furniture stores to window shop. Serious shoppers are being more diligent about researching online, so they’re more prepared when they come to the store,” claims Bernstein. “It’s common for shoppers to bring printouts from our website into the store,” according to Wilson. Innovative Multi-Channel Strategy – “The FurnitureDealer.net online strategy dovetails with our in-store strategy,” says Wilson. “The website does very well on search engines like Google and Yahoo. Online furniture shoppers from our local area find BeckerFurnitureWorld.com. The site is intuitive to research as broadly and deeply as desired. It features detailed information and photos for more than 12,000 items from our key suppliers. We also provide showroom photographs of the actual products on display in our store for shoppers to see and salespeople to show.” FurnitureDealer.net has helped Becker execute this strategy. According to Bernstein, “We continuously expand and update Becker’s online product catalog. And we make the site search engine friendly. Our goal is to get Becker’s site listed on the first page of search results whenever local furniture shoppers Google the products and brands Becker carries. ” Traffic to BeckerFurnitureWorld.com increased 31% compared to last year. Why? Furniture shoppers are increasingly finding Becker’s website from search engines. In fact over half of its visitors arrive from search engines by typing search terms other than “Becker”, up over 5 percentage points from a year ago. Consumers searching product categories (i.e., “sofa”), brands (i.e., “Broyhill”) and geographical combinations (i.e., “Kincaid nightstand minneapolis”) are finding Becker’s site. “And when they arrive at Becker’s site, shoppers are finding what they’re looking for,” according to Bernstein’s analysis of website analytic data. “The average visitor spends over 5 minutes and views over 10 pages on the site because it’s full of easy-to-find content including specifications, rich descriptions and high quality images.” Converting Website Traffic into Qualified Leads – Soon after the new website was launched in 2006 it generated leads beyond expectations. “As soon as the new website went live we started getting about 100 phone inquiries a day from visitors to our website,” says Wilson. “And the call volume hasn’t declined.” Becker also receives an average of over 10 email inquiries a day from their website. “The email inquiries we receive include useful information provided by the shopper such as her contact information and which products she’s interested in,” says Wilson. “Our sales people follow up on her inquiry via email or phone to get a clearer understanding of what she wants and suggest merchandise she can see online or in the store.” A New Look and Feel Online – Based on its success, Becker and FurnitureDealer.net recently reinvigorated the website to align it even more closely with the store. The most prominent enhancement is a new look and feel featuring a clean, sophisticated design. “Our goal was to try to replicate the store experience on our website,” says Wilson. “We want visitors to our website to feel like the store is making a house call. Once they see what a great destination the store is online, we think they’ll make the trip.” The newly designed website includes rich descriptions and 360o images of its showrooms to complement its robust online product catalog and display gallery. FurnitureDealer.net also created a separate website for the Becker Home Center. It has the same look and feel as the redesigned Becker Furniture World website, and the two sites link seamlessly. The Home Center site enables visitors to visualize the product showrooms of Becker’s partners and reinforces why Becker is a one-of-a-kind destination.

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