Pulling the trigger
on pre-sales and open sales opportunities
Every furniture retailer knows how challenging it is to find and retain
long-term, career-minded, employees. Along with this talent challenge,
wage inflation has made it a requirement to offer more competitive
compensation to attract and retain top talent.
It’s a difficult situation. On one hand, retailers need to hire and
develop good people. On the other, they must control wage costs to produce
a respectable level of profitability.
Despite these pressures, most store owners continue to operate their
businesses the same way they always have. The result is often overworked
team members, stressful work environments and reduced employee
performance. Ultimately businesses, employees, and customer experiences
suffer. It’s become a chronic problem.
The solution is to implement systems and processes that provide better
results using fewer resources. Doing so enables retailers to employ a
reduced number of good people to handle daily workloads, resulting in more
growth, happier employees, and satisfied customers.
Fortunately, many tasks can now be “triggered” by software that enables
one or more actions to be executed automatically. These actions include
retail workflows, processes, reminders, transactions and communications.
The process is similar to the way a mousetrap works. The mousetrap is the
technology, the removal of the cheese is the trigger, and the springing of
the trap is the action.
With automation, the only limitations are creativity, desire, and the
technology that’s deployed.
Web-CTA (Call-to-action): A CTA is a piece of code on a
website that facilitates sending a digital lead. This engagement-ware code
typically asks website visitors for information in exchange for personal
information. The information request can be a simple item inquiry, a
newsletter sign-up, a sleep profile quiz or a style assessment. The CTA
either launches when a website visitor clicks on a link, or an
auto-launched pop-up can appear after a set time of browsing. Once web
visitors type in the requested information, they typically receive a
message notifying them about next steps to take, or the results of a quiz
they’ve taken are revealed. The CTA process provides retailers with the
ability to follow up with web visitors.
Trigger: Visiting an area on a website.
Auto-Action(s): Information requested, results returned,
lead opportunity generated, follow-up person notified.
2.Chat-bots: When you visit most
websites these days, at the bottom right corner you will likely see a
small person with a cartoon chat bubble. If you click on this chat-bot
icon you will often be asked for basic information such as your mobile
number or email and name. From there, chat-bots differ from CTAs in that
chat-bots engage website visitors in a real-time conversation. In doing
so, data is automatically collected about potential customers and their
needs. Good automation continues after chats are completed. This may
include sending thank-you emails/texts as well as auto-assigning follow-up
communications to lead managers, departments or individuals as
Trigger: Clicking on the bot and typing in contact
Auto-Action(s): Conversation initiated, data collected,
thank you sent, opportunity follow-up assigned.
3.Appointments: Calendars save
everyone time, qualify serious shoppers, and promote the professionalism
of sales teams. Links to one or more digital calendars on retail websites
show the availability for VIP consultations. Calendars can be used to
promote and schedule in-home appointments, in-store concierge services or
sleep profiling, for example. Customers can use them for self-scheduling.
Lead managers can use them for converting digital to in-person
opportunities and sales managers for monitoring and booking salespeople’s
time. After an appointment is scheduled, it can be auto tagged as a ‘hot’
opportunity that can be tracked. A salesperson can be assigned, then
appointment preparation and reminder messages sent from the salesperson to
the prospect automatically. Auto-emails that, for example, ask for
pictures of a room or for current likes and dislikes in advance, can
increase the likelihood of sales and save time.
Trigger: Booking a date and time on the digital calendar.
Auto-Action(s): Confirmations and information requests
sent from salespeople. Reminders sent to salesperson. Lead defined and
tracked as “hot.”
Physical to digital automation: QR codes have become more
prevalent in the age of COVID. They serve as an automation bridge between
the physical and digital worlds. Because of this, businesses can capture
more leads from their physical material and better understand what
customers are looking at. A QR code when scanned can automatically go to a
CTA, a calendar, lead to a drip campaign that targets prospects in a
personalized way, send an offer, or provide information.
When scanned, a QR code on a direct mail piece, for example, can connect
web users with additional product information. It might also trigger an
auto-sent email featuring decorating ideas as well as schedule lead
follow-up with a salesperson. Printing a QR on order checkout paperwork
can facilitate order status, delivery scheduling and service requests.
This can make it easy for customers to get order updates (depending on the
technology) or request an order update from their salesperson within a
certain time frame.
Trigger: Scanning the QR (and possibly entering
Auto-Action(s): Information requested returned to the
user. Follow-up assigned to salesperson.
Uber and Lyft popularized the automated process of vehicle in-process
tracking. This technological advance can be applied to furniture
Quotes and no sale prospects: When prospects provide
their personal information or if they are previous customers and they do
not buy, it makes sense to follow up. However, in practice, if managers do
not inspect to see if follow-up on “hot leads” has been done, there will
be multiple dropped balls. It is challenging to keep track of multiple
quotes, with multiple salespeople, over time, on an ongoing basis. This is
where automation shines. If quotes or non-sale leads are recorded, the
next actions can be predetermined. For instance, thank you messages can be
auto-sent with a button to schedule an appointment. Reminder nudges can be
periodically sent to salespeople on a scheduled frequency until either a
sale is made, or the customer chooses not to purchase. Then, a drip
campaign can be triggered. In effect, strategic automation enables
businesses to cast a wider net, with smaller holes, leading to more fish
Trigger: Quote or non-sale lead recoded in a system.
Auto-Action(s): Salesperson assigned. Customer sent a
thank you note and provided with suggested next steps to take on their
buying journey. Salesperson follow-up prompted. Manager notified of
unexecuted follow-up and open quotes/sales pending.
A QR code when scanned can automatically go to a CTA,
a calendar, lead to a drip campaign that targets prospects in a
personalized way, send an offer, or give some information.”
Open Sales Automations
Open sales follow-up: I believe that businesses should be
fully transparent with their customers regarding the status of their
merchandise. If it has been ordered, is on the water or already in the
warehouse, they deserve to be in the know. Not everyone in the industry
agrees on this point. Some retailers believe they may lose sales, cause
confusion, or create partial delivery requests if they are transparent
with merchandise status. No matter what your views are, open sales
follow-up is more challenging now than ever. Those retailers that use
automation to either give customers direct access to their order status
(like Amazon) or prompt salespeople to follow up, will provide a superior
Trigger: Sale made.
Auto-Action(s): Predesigned and scheduled messages are
sent from salespeople to customers. This may include a thank you
communication for the purchase, order placed, in-production, order status
self-check tracking link or order status request link.
Protection reminder: Product protection, accident
insurance, extended warranties or benefit packages are the most profitable
products customers buy. Not all customers, however, purchase at the point
of sale. Sometimes they are not even made aware that these offerings are
available. Therefore, it makes sense to send automated messages to
customers who did not purchase the protection package. The email can offer
an option for customers to request to be contacted with more information
or to be automatically enrolled in the plan. In these and other messages
some retailers will use a short video to present the product.
Trigger: Sale made without protection.
Auto-Action(s): Consider sending three campaigns
automatically from the salesperson: After the sale, before delivery, last
chance day of or after delivery.
Payment processing: Collecting payments is
time-consuming. Include in your terms that full payment is required on
in-stock merchandise. Find a merchant service that enables you to store
bank account or credit card information so that you can auto process any
Trigger: Merchandise arrives in retailer’s facility.
Auto-Action(s): Notifications are simultaneously sent to
the customer and to your admin notifying them of payment processing.
Delivery scheduling: Delivery scheduling gets done by
salespeople, customer service reps or dedicated delivery coordinators.
This is a time-consuming process with multiple back and forth calls, texts
and emails. Process automation provides huge benefits. When sales arrive
that can be scheduled (either partially or fully depending on the
retailer’s policy), a message can be automatically triggered to the
customer from their salesperson. Date options for delivery can be included
or, even better, include a link so customers can self-schedule their own
Trigger: Sales marked as ready for delivery scheduling.
Auto-Action(s): Pre-designed emails and/or text with
links sent to complete the scheduling process.
Pick-up scheduling: Some retail furniture operations have
up to 30 percent of their sales picked up by customers. It is
time-consuming to inform, remind and coordinate customer pick-ups. When
customers arrive to get their merchandise, warehouse people must stop
doing what they are doing to pull the merchandise while the customer
waits. Automating this workflow speeds up the entire process. As with
delivery scheduling, an automated message is triggered when the
merchandise is in stock. From there, customers are encouraged to select a
date and time for which to schedule their pick-up. Reminders are sent
automatically from the pick-up calendar. Customers send a text once they
arrive, and a return text is sent when everything is ready.
For customers that do not show up or whose merchandise sits in the
warehouse too long, constant reminders can be sent to free up warehouse
Trigger: Merchandise ready for pick-up.
Auto-Action(s): Pre-designed emails/ texts sent with
links to schedule pick up.
Day of Delivery: Uber and Lyft popularized the automated
process of vehicle in-process tracking. This technological advance can be
applied to furniture delivery. On the morning of the delivery, customers
can be sent an email and/or a text with instructions to self-track their
merchandise. Furniture operations that use this technology find that their
retail customers track their deliveries closely. This saves time by
reducing delivery status calls and provides a better and more convenient
Trigger: Date of delivery set.
Auto-Action(s): Email and/or text with tracking
When choosing a system to provide better results using fewer resources,
make sure that pre-sale and open-sale automation can be modified to suit
your specific needs. For example, a business that does more special
orders, design work and house calls, will likely have a greater need for
scheduling time and organizing status follow-up. A high volume, stocking
retailer, might put extra focus on delivery pick-up scheduling to increase
warehouse inventory turns. Whatever your business model, automation is
necessary to accomplish more with less time and give your precious human
talent more time to focus what they do best.
This article was just a sample of what’s possible using automation
technology. In the next issue of Furniture World, we will focus on
post-delivery, re-engagement, vendor and trade related automation.