MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ramping up its e-commerce presence during the pandemic helped the Great American Home Store, a five-store chain, to increase online sales by 1,200%.
“In March the world shut down, and we spent 10 days trying to figure out how to move forward,” said Justin Bowen, Great American Home Store’s digital manager. “Our stores were closed for several weeks, but we had launched a new website in January that had e-commerce capabilities that were underutilized, so we decided to reach out to people in the Memphis area to let them know they could buy from us online.”
Bowen said this concerted effort resulted in going from 70 leads a week to more than 400 leads a week.
The retailer worked with tech companies such as Perq and LeadsRX to update their machine learning capabilities to better communicate with potential customers. Bowen said they created a single inbox to route all email, chat, text, Facebook messenger and website inquiries to one designated location.
“This way, whoever was available could connect with that customer and start interacting with them and even bring a colleague with more knowledge into the conversation if necessary — and all of this happened online,” Bowen said.
The retailer also hired specific support agents for online inquiries and trained them to be as knowledgeable as possible to work with customer questions and requests and then pass them off to the correct salesperson.
Over the summer, Bowen said the Great American Home Store continued to refine its digital strategy and processes to generate sales conversations and watched the conversion rate go from 11% to nearly 29%. The team found that almost everyone who came to a store had visited the website first.
“The store has become the last mile of purchase for customers who’ve already done their research and gotten their questions answered,” Bowen added. “The visit to the store is just about trying out product and completing the transaction. We found that 90% of the work has already been done by the salesperson online.”
Bowen believes that Amazon and other e-commerce retailers have trained consumers to want the path of least resistance and that they will even pay more to get that seamless experience.
“We found that, with this new strategy, our web traffic has been up by roughly 60%, since that’s where most customers start the process,” he said. “Instead of putting people at the literal front door to the store, we believe our website is the new front door.”
For that reason, the retailer now has trained staff available to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, and they are considering adding someone for overnights, since the Memphis area is home to FedEx and several manufacturing companies that run 24-hours a day and have workers who shop at all hours.
Other insights include making the Frequency Asked Questions available through chat; putting expected in-stock dates for items directly on the website, especially with the current inventory challenges; and capturing customer information whenever and however possible.
“Moving to this largely digital operation required a complex integration of several dozen or more systems,” Bowen said. “But getting all the forms on site and capturing customer data has allowed us to reach more of the potential shoppers who enter the sales funnel.”
Bowen said it’s important with e-commerce to think a little differently every day about how to reach the customer in order to keep them engaged and coming back for repeat purchases.
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