A three part series exploring the marketing progression of home furnishings retailers
In a sea of digital content, a consumer’s path to purchase has become even more complex. Retailers are competing against, not only competitors, but also blogs, social media and lifestyle sites with inspirational and aspirational content. Having a presence throughout the customer journey is vital for any retailer to accomplish both revenue and brand goals and this especially holds true for the home market.
Across the board, home retail furnishers and providers are experiencing static sales growth. With $30 billion in annual revenue and only a 1.9% annual growth rate, the need to evolve is essential as not one home retailer is standing above the crowd for all advertising touch points.
This blog series will explore guiding trends of the home market and uncover the essential opportunities that face this competitive marketplace. But before we can analyze the present, and predict the future, we need to take a step back and look at where the home market advertising started and how it engaged with consumers.
Retro: What is old is new again?
The foundation for many home retailers started with catalogs – and for good reason. Home catalogs are a powerful way to engage a target audience and provide the visual real estate to tell a unique brand story. Recipients open catalogs showcasing perfect floor layouts and decorative touches. This forces consumers to reexamine their own surroundings and perhaps opt to upgrade to products featured within those glossy pages. When mailed to the right audience with the right content and frequency, the catalog is a forceful way to represent a brand while also generating sales. Nearly every consumer has a mailing address, which has allowed home retailers an expansive reach to uncover the right audiences for their offer. Along with data enhancements, a catalog provides a one-two punch for dynamic audience-to-format targeting.
For home retailers, catalogs or source books, are still just as integral to brand marketing and sales strategies as they were 10 years ago; however the science has evolved. As consumers, we now expect to see regular mailers from the likes of Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, West Elm and Restoration Hardware. However, despite consumers’ preconceived expectations of these catalog offerings, retailers are still finding that they can infuse an element of surprise within traditional direct mail strategies.
In early June, targeted consumers across the country found a hefty shrink wrapped delivery of source books ranging from 13-17 pounds. While most of the industry was reducing page counts and cadence, Restoration Hardware introduced one sourcebook mailing to serve as the authoritative voice for an entire calendar year. Restoration Hardware customers are familiar with supersized books from the brand, with some of their past books weighing in at 8 pounds. But this year, the furnishing company pushed their tried and true mailing tactics to the extreme. The brand initiated a bold direct mail play that incorporated the brand’s style and identity while igniting mass customer response. While some recipients were too baffled or annoyed to even bother cutting through the shrink wrap, those whose curiosities were piqued found an introduction or explanation of the new and enlarged annual source books. Recognizing the need for reinvigoration, Restoration Hardware is initiating a new brand model of less frequency and higher impact. Now, selected consumers will receive deliveries from the brand once a year. The annual source books encompass every piece and collection Restoration has to offer for the year, allowing recipients to collect and maintain a vast library of everything they could possibly want or need in home design.
This direct mail shakeup reinvigorated word of mouth marketing buzz for the home furnishings vertical, proving that there continues to be a place for direct mail traditions to cultivate engagement and inspiration despite this increasingly digital and mobile-first age. However, the challenge for these retailers will be to constantly innovate within a tried and true practice by further aligning marketing channels and efforts.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I will expand upon the current media mix challenges facing home retailers today.