AVB-BrandSource unveils new digital, store experience initiatives during spring Summit

More video content, store makeover program in the works

NASHVILLE — AVB-BrandSource announced a series of digital marketing and other initiatives during its spring Summit here, designed to boost the business of its member stores and marry their online and in-store profiles in the most cost-effective way possible.

Under the theme “Better Together,” the March 1-4 event at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, also experienced a big jump in attendance over last year as the member-owned furniture, electronics and appliance buying group celebrated its 50th anniversary.

During his “State of the Union” address, CEO Jim Ristow outlined the group’s recent work building infrastructure over the past two years to support members’ more robust retail websites, social media and other digital marketing strategies while offering a taste of what’s to come.

As part of a new initiative the buying group calls “Project Blackburn” (for the fifth tallest peak in the United States) AVB BrandSource is advancing website video content in a way Ristow said will separate its members from the competition and put it on the same footing with other retail categories consumers shop for online. The videos will be produced entirely by the group’s AVB marketing company, using its own expert videographers along with the best store salespeople from across its member base.

“We’re going to have thousands of thousands of product reviews and hundreds of technology reviews,” Ristow told Furniture Today during the Summit. The tech reviews might cover, for instance, foam vs. traditional mattresses and other topics that don’t necessarily call out brands.

 

Another initiative, AVB Makeover, takes its inspiration from the once popular “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” television show. AVB’s plan is to sponsor seven of its member stores — including six BrandSource members — for a refresh of their spaces with new signage, paint and other elements that Ristow said will help retailers match the “beautiful digital online experiences” with a like in-store experience.

For the makeovers, the buying group sends in its own team of construction and design experts to handle the work over a three-day period to minimize disruption. Members have to apply for the makeovers AVB is sponsoring, but Ristow noted the same tool kit its using is available to any member.

AVB BrandSource also is helping to take the confusion and heavy cost out of digital price tags that were available on the Summit Expo floor at special pricing. And it’s providing members a tool that makes it easy for them to link the three-color tags and their websites so prices are consistent across channels. They also can be preset to change — up or down — automatically and simultaneously.

And just as it has built a website platform in-house for its members that Ristow said costs 40% to 50% less than competitors while offering more robust features, one of the company’s goals with the digital price tag program was to bring down the expense.

The tags typically can cost hundreds of dollars a month to rent. AVB-BrandSource, through a program with partner SES-Imagotag, was offering tags retailers could buy — not rent — for nearly 70% less than standard pricing, he said.

Ristow said the group worked hard to bring to the Summit a strong educational program and values across categories and services here. It was rewarded with attendance that was up nearly 30% over last year’s spring Summit (although the group doesn’t disclose its actual head count).

AVB has grown to roughly 4,000 member owners doing an estimate $19.5 billion in annual sales. Furniture and bedding, Ristow said, have grown dramatically in the past few years to about 30% of that volume, and in the past two years or so, the BrandSource division has added more than 1,000 home furnishing store members, including several large players.

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