Reaching out online
Thomas Russell -- Furniture Today, January 2, 2012
STANLEYTOWN, Va. — Youth and infant furniture manufacturer Young America is taking an unconventional approach to driving traffic to local retailers that sell its line.
Starting this week, the company is posting prices of its products on its website at www.youngamerica.com. Consumers can buy direct online, but the site encourages them to purchase at their local dealer, where they can receive a discount.
A "Buy Local and Save" logo is prominently displayed on the site, which also features a dealer locator.
Young America, a division of Stanley Furniture, also is launching a mobile app that allows shoppers to use their smartphone to research product and prices. Consumers can see a wide array of product offerings and finish options and either buy online or find local dealers that carry the line at a discount.
By using such technology, the company seeks to appeal to female shoppers, said Neil MacKenzie, marketing director. Young America cites research by brand-focused mobile advertising network Greystripe stating that 53% of female shoppers purchased a smartphone after becoming a mom and 68% of moms use a smartphone while shopping.
Consumers also will be able to scan a QR code on product hangtags in the stores, which will take them to a mobile version of the Young America site. There, they can compare the store's price with the online price.
The initiative ties in with the company's national advertising campaign that aims to boost consumer recognition and acceptance of the brand. In April and May, it did even more targeted advertising in Atlanta and Connecticut test markets.
"In these test markets, we spent a little more in a concentrated area," said MacKenzie, adding that the test markets help executives see from a demographic standpoint how the broader marketplace might react.
The campaign highlighted the safety and environmentally friendly elements of Young America products.
"We really began targeting and focusing our message on safety and making sure we got credit with the consumer," MacKenzie said. "We tried to communicate the types of things that you can't see that are most important."
In September and October, the company came back with additional advertising initiatives, putting the prices on the website for the two test markets and also touting the Buy Local and Save concept.
During this two month period, the company reported no online sales of the Young America product. However, it did notice an increase in traffic to its site as well as consumer registrations on the Y.A. Club portion of the site. It also received some positive reports from dealers in the test markets.
One retailer in Connecticut saw a greater call volume from people asking about the brand, while another liked the ability to pull up the non-discounted price on the Young America website to share that information with the customer in the store.
In Kennesaw, Ga., retailer A Room of Their Own got a call from a customer who was seeking details on a full over full bunkbed with storage. After the retailer gave the information and quoted a discounted price, the woman made the purchase the same day over the phone.
"I think it will be very beneficial," said Scott Hellman, owner of A Room of Their Own. "We saw almost immediately customers locating the furniture online and very quickly calling us and seeing value in the in-store price."
Hellman also sees value in the Buy Local and Save initiative over the long term.
"We have to make sure we are competitive on a daily basis," he said, adding that today's consumer is very educated and knows how to research product through the Internet and other technologies. "With Buy Local and Save, the customer sees a value in coming in the store versus purchasing online."
Young America presented the concept to its Young America Signature Shop operators at a conference in November. It also presented those dealers iPads they can use in their stores to pull up information on the line, including photos of products and custom finishes.
Company officials said the response at the conference was positive, particularly as the retailers grasped how the Internet can help drive traffic to their stores.
"Once everyone understands what we are doing, not a single customer objects to it," said Kevin Bowman, senior vice president of sales.
That response, along with the results in the test markets, encouraged the company to roll out the program nationally.
Officials said they believe the technological applications will address the way consumers shop today by merging material usually found in print catalogs with digital content to make product information more accessible to salespeople and consumers.
"We will be giving the consumer information they want at their fingertips," said Bowman.