Leadership

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Here Are 3 Simple Tips to Help Boost Customer Loyalty

Any business leader working in retail understands how important customer satisfaction is to their bottom line. All too often, however, retailers focus so much on attracting new customers that they forget to nurture their existing customer base, which is crucial to maintaining a thriving business.

Furniture retailers, in particular, can be a bit neglectful when it comes to building customer loyalty. This is because many furniture shoppers make a major purchase only every five years or so. However, there are a number of things that retailers can do to shorten the interval between customer visits and ensure that customers return time and time again to make purchases both large and small. The following tips provide some easy ways to boost customer loyalty in any area of retail.

 

  1. Offer a loyalty program.

There are an estimated 3.8 billion individual loyalty program memberships in the United States, but the question is: Do these programs work?

The answer is both “yes” and “no.” While the average consumer belongs to over 13 loyalty programs, they actively use fewer than half. That’s why it’s important for retailers to make sure their programs offer attractive awards and a personalized shopping experience. Rather than sending out the same offers to all members, use the customer data collected through the program to provide relevant offers to each member.

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When considering what to offer, keep in mind that consumers are most likely to stay active in a program that gives them free samples and discounts. Customers also appreciate being able to access their loyalty programs via their mobile phones. Investing in this type of capability may increase customer participation.

Doing all you can to engage rewards members will pay you in spades—research has shown that over 85 percent of customers are loyal to the business where they maintain active rewards program memberships.

 

  1. Communicate with your customers.

You can’t expect to build or maintain a loyal customer base if you don’t reach out regularly to past customers. To do this, it’s best to use multiple channels of communication, including e-mail and traditional mail. These two channels are particularly useful for communicating store news and sending out promotional offers and discounts to customers.

In this day and age, it’s also very important that you leverage the power of social media to communicate with customers and give them a place to interact with your business and each other. Maintaining a strong online presence via Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms can take some effort, but the payoff comes in the form of free, direct access to your customers 24/7. Social media also gives you the opportunity to show the personal side of your business as you build an engaged community with a steady stream of posts and comments.

In addition, social media sites provide an excellent platform to respond to concerns and feedback and show consumers that you value their opinions and are committed to offering top-notch customer service. This, in turn, can lead to greater customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations, which can bring new customers through your doors.

 

  1. Focus on providing a great customer experience.

Whether you’re interacting with customers online, over the phone, or in person, your main focus should be on making the experience as positive as possible. Recent research has shown that a large majority of consumers believe that the quality of a company’s customer service reflects how much they value the people who shop in their stores. All in all, a customer who does not feel valued by a business isn’t likely to stay loyal to the brand.

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Creating a great experience with every interaction will help you stand out from the competition and keep customers returning to you when they’re looking to make a purchase. It’s important to note that providing consistently good service to each customer requires the efforts of everyone in your store. Business owners and managers may set the bar, but lower-level staff members are typically the direct link between your business and its customers.

Assembling a strong team of employees and training them to be friendly, helpful, and efficient is the best thing that you can do in the customer service department. Always keep in mind that your customers have a number of choices when it comes to where they shop. If they feel valued and respected regardless of whether they make a purchase, your customers will reward you by bringing repeat business and recommending your store to family and friends.

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What You Need to Know about Furniture Today’s Leadership Conference

furnituretodayleadershipconferenceEach year, the top furniture retailers and manufacturers in the home furnishings industry gather at Furniture Today’s Leadership Conference. The multi-day event features expert speakers, panel discussions, and insightful presentations.

The Furniture Today 2018 Leadership Conference takes place November 27-29 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Following is an overview of everything you need to know about the industry event.

 

Venue Location, Travel Details, and Lodging Options

Furniture Today’s 2018 Leadership Conference will be held at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort on Dream Tree Boulevard. Those flying in for the event will likely land at either Orlando International Airport or Orlando Executive Airport. These are both approximately 30 minutes from the conference venue.

The conference does not provide transportation between the hotel and the airport. However, attendees can hire a taxi, hop on a shuttle, or rent a car. During the event, attendees can take advantage of reduced valet parking rates at the Four Seasons.

The hotel room block reserved for attendees at the Four Seasons Orlando is sold out. However, there are numerous lodging options in the area. Nearby hotels include Villas of Grand Cypress (3 miles away), Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (4 miles away), and Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress (5 miles away).

 

Four Seasons Orlando

Four Seasons Orlando | Image by Inside the Magic | Flickr

 

Registration Information

Those planning to attend the Leadership Conference can register for the event online. Registration pricing ranges from $599 for home furnishings retailers to $1,499 for third-party service providers. The rate for manufacturers is $1,250 per person. Spouses and other non-industry guests can attend conference activities for $499 per person. Registered parties who find that they are no longer able to attend may be subject to a cancellation fee of up to 50 percent of the registration total.

 

What to Expect from the Educational Programming

One of the main highlights of Furniture Today’s 2018 Leadership Conference is the all-star lineup of prominent speakers. Vincent Boles, a US Army general who served in the military for over three decades, is the event’s keynote speaker. During his presentation, Boles will discuss the leadership insights and experience he gained over the years serving as an Army general, executive coach, university professor, and owner of a supply chain consulting practice.

In addition to General Boles, expert speakers and panelists include Clarence Smith and Irv Blumkin. The home furnishings executives are directing a peer-to-peer leadership session focused on furniture retail. During the discussion, Smith, Blumkin, and other panelists will cover topics ranging from merchandising and retail technology to human resources and business management.

Other speakers include Liza Hausman of Houzz and Alessandra Wood of Modsy. Their merchandising session will focus on holistic retail and discuss how consumers are engaging with businesses through both in-store and online environments.

TedX speaker Andrew Tarvin will discuss leadership through improvisation. Danny Kim, a millennial executive coach, will explore how today’s furniture industry leaders can best manage a multi-generational workplace that is affected by technology and social media. Attendees can also learn about human resources best practices from furniture industry veterans Joe Genduso and Victor Herrera.

A leadership session examining the customer experience will focus specifically on what furniture retailers and manufacturers need to do in order to compete for customers in a retail environment dominated by big-box and online companies. Strategic consulting executive Lorri Kelly will lead the discussion.

To close the show, a “Future of the Industry” panel led by Ryan Blumkin, Mark Mueller, and Travis Wagner will address how the next generation will guide the future of furniture retail and manufacturing. Following the panel, Furniture Today Editor-in-Chief Bill McLoughlin will officially wrap up the 2018 Leadership Conference.

 

What about Networking?

Outside of the learning activities, there will be plenty of time for attendees to socialize and network with other leaders in the home furnishings industry. On the afternoon of November 27, Leadership Conference sponsor Malouf will host a golf tournament at the Tranquilo Golf Club.

Attendees not interested in hitting the fairways can instead take part in a tour of a local furniture store’s warehouse, showroom, and adjoining café and wine bar. In the evening, attendees can return to the Four Seasons Orlando for a cocktail reception and dinner in the hotel’s grand ballroom.

Other networking activities at the conference will include an awards dinner and after-party on the evening of November 28. More information is available at www.leadershipcon.com.

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Traditional Marketing Actually Matters in the New Digital Age

While it’s important for today’s furniture retailers to market via social media and other digital channels, doing so should not come at the expense of traditional marketing efforts. Of course, most prospective customers are spending a significant amount of time online, but they are still reading the newspaper, watching television, and tuning into the radio. In fact, the average person spends 112 minutes each day listening to the radio and five hours each day in front of the TV. Also, while online and satellite radio services are increasingly popular, more than 90 percent of Americans still listen to AM/FM stations and all of the advertising they broadcast.

People are also exposed to visual advertising each day when they drive past billboards on their way to work and return home to find flyers and brochures in their mailboxes. It’s true that the ways people consume information have changed, but the types of advertising and promotion that worked prior to the digital age are still effective at spreading a brand’s message among potential customers. The fact that radio, television, and print media remain an integral part of most people’s daily routines is exactly why furniture retailers should continue to include these channels in their marketing campaigns. Read on to learn more about traditional marketing methods and find out how you can make them work for your business.

 

Traditional Marketing Channels for Furniture Retailers

Direct mail and printed ads—In a largely brick-and-mortar industry like furniture retail, direct mail can be very effective at generating sales. This is particularly true of small retailers that rely on local customers to remain in business. Flyers, brochures, and even postcards are especially useful for advertising in-store events and other special offers.

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Direct mail is also perfect for delivering coupons, which are great tools for getting customers into a store. In a recent survey of furniture shoppers, 70 percent of respondents said that a coupon or ad delivered to their mailbox had led them to take action on a purchase within the last year.

While the main goal of direct mail campaigns is to increase store traffic, they also work for retailers looking to simply boost their brand awareness. In fact, studies have shown that brand recall is much higher among those who received direct mailers as opposed to digital advertisements sent via email.

 

Outdoor advertising—Falling under the category of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, billboards are common, hard-to-miss sights along highways and freeways across the United States. Like direct mail, billboards are strongly effective at promoting brand recall among those who notice them, and they are great tools for advertising sales, new product lines, and store grand openings.

Advancements in digital technology have led to billboards with giant LED screens that bring an advertising message to life using vivid colors and eye-catching movement. It’s also important to note that OOH advertising isn’t limited to billboards. To promote their store, furniture retailers can also use smaller signage on bus benches, public transport, and vehicles.

 

Radio and TV spots—Although radio and television advertisements are more expensive than other traditional marketing channels, they are also among the most effective. Retailers on a budget may want to forgo the TV commercials and opt instead for a radio ad, which is a more affordable option that still has the ability to reach a large number of people. While the exact figure varies among industries, radio advertisements have the ability to generate up to $17 in revenue for every dollar spent on the ad.

Despite the expense, the main benefit of advertising on television is that it gives retailers the ability to use sight, sound, and motion to showcase their products while attaching personality to their business. Consumers also trust TV commercials more than other forms of advertising, which is great for retailers looking to build credibility in their community.

 

Tips to Consider

Now that you know about the traditional marketing channels available to furniture retailers, how can you use them to spread your business’ message? Here are a few quick tips for creating an effective advertising campaign:

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  1. Target the right audience.

For direct mail campaigns, it’s important for retailers to understand their customer demographics and find ways to target those who will most likely come into their stores. Tools like the U.S. Post Office’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program can be helpful in accomplishing this goal.

 

  1. Run multiple advertisements.

Whether it’s in a newspaper, on the radio, or on TV, a single advertisement alone isn’t very effective at attracting new customers. Running different ads simultaneously in several formats or running the same ad for an extended period will do a better job of boosting business awareness.

 

  1. Be creative.

Just because they’re labeled “traditional” doesn’t mean that billboard, print, radio, and TV ads should hold back on the creativity. Advertisements with eye-catching logos and designs, and well-crafted photos, videos, and ad copy will attract more attention and potentially more business.

 

  1. Reach out to the community.

Along with using creativity in the content of their advertisements, furniture retailers should be creative in the other ways they communicate their brand locally. Donating products for local contests and raffles or sponsoring sports teams, community groups, and/or events offers retailers the opportunity to fulfill marketing objectives while showing potential customers they are committed to their community.

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Your Complete Guide to the 2018 NEXT Conference

NEXTlogoThe time has come again for furniture retailers and other industry professionals to gather at the NEXT Conference, a three-day interactive forum focused on marketing, technology, and business strategies that can help them to earn repeat customers. The 2018 event will take place from September 24-26 at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. In addition to prominent speakers in the area of retail, marketing, and consumer relations, the 2018 NEXT Conference will feature a range of educational sessions and networking events to help attendees enhance their professional knowledge and skills while making new connections with others in the retail industry. If you plan to attend, read on to learn how to prepare and what to expect when you get there.

How to Register

Registration for the 2018 NEXT Conference is a simple process. Retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, and other prospective attendees can visit Next.PBMConferences.com and click on the “Register Now” button on the home page. Doing so will take you to a registration page where you will enter personal information, including your name, address, and job title, before paying any applicable registration fees. Alternatively, you can choose to register on-site from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the opening day of the event. Registration rates range from $499 for retailers to $999 for manufacturers, suppliers, and other attendees.

 

Where to Stay and How to Get Around

NEXT Conference organizers have reserved a block of hotel rooms for attendees at Hotel Van Zandt, which is located only minutes from the conference venue. Rooms start at $239 per night and can be booked through the NEXT Conference website or by calling the hotel directly. Of course, attendees also have the option to stay at one of the many other hotels in the Austin area.

Moody Theater

Image courtesy Todd Dwyer | Flickr

Those flying into Austin will likely arrive at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). At AUS, attendees can pick up a rental car, take the Super Shuttle, or hire a taxi to travel to their hotel or the conference venue, which is located approximately 10 miles away from AUS. Transportation services will not be provided during the event, so attendees will have to walk, rent a car, hire a service, or take public transportation to travel between their hotel and The Moody Theater.

 

Lineup of Speakers

Each year, the NEXT Conference features a lineup of prominent speakers with diverse backgrounds in marketing and advertising, retail sales, and business leadership. Over a dozen big-name speakers will speak at this year’s conference, including Gay Gaddis, Steve Dennis, and Phil Gwoke.

A Texas-based marketing executive, keynote speaker Gay Gaddis oversees The Think Tank (T3), which she launched in 1989 after cashing in a $16,000 IRA. Gaddis, who has worked with some of the country’s top companies, will take the stage at the NEXT Conference to discuss how attendees can harness their personal power to make their own way in business.

Opening speaker Steve Dennis is the president of SageBerry Consulting. Before assuming his current position, Steve Dennis served as the chief strategy officer and head of multichannel marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group. He has used his extensive experience to write and speak on retail innovation. His presentation at the 2018 NEXT Conference will focus on helping attendees to stay fresh in today’s retail environment.

On the morning of September 25, Phil Gwoke will address the NEXT audience. Gwoke, a former high school teacher and small business owner, is a respected expert in generational intelligence. He will leverage his expertise to discuss the four generations that comprise today’s retail market and provide insight into how salespeople can be successful in reaching each age group.

In addition to gaining insights from the three featured speakers, attendees at the 2018 NEXT Conference will have an opportunity to learn from a number of other marketers and retail leaders, including Jasmine Jaco, Casey Miller, Tim McLain, and Shrenik Sadalgi. Bill McLoughlin and Catherine Silver from Furniture Today will also present at the event.

 

What Attendees Can Expect to Learn at the NEXT Conference

Beyond the presentations on personal power, retail innovation, and generational demographics, NEXT attendees will learn how to harness creative marketing and modern tools to drive the growth of their companies. Conference sessions will focus on how retailers can create compelling stories to promote products and brands while reaching new customers through technology and experiential merchandising. Speaker Seth Weisblatt will also discuss how attendees can use social media, data mining, and other digital marketing tools to stand out from their competitors.

 

Opportunities for Networking and Socializing

Outside of the educational programming, attendees will have an opportunity to socialize and establish new professional connections during several networking activities. The conference will include daily networking breaks, as well as special events such as luncheons and cocktail parties. On September 25, Catherine Silver, the vice president of the parent company of Furniture Today, will host a ceremony recognizing the winners of the Impact Mentorship Award and the Impact Innovator Awards. Before traveling back home, attendees can also take part in networking excursions throughout Austin on the morning of September 26. More information about all the activities at the 2018 NEXT Conference is available at Next.PBMConferences.com.

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9 of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Who Started with Little Money

A recent study conducted by Harvard Business School found that 50 percent of all new businesses in the United States fail within the first five years, and over 70 percent of companies never make it to their 10th anniversary. While these statistics are quite discouraging, they didn’t prevent the most successful entrepreneurs from launching their own enterprises with nothing more than a good idea, a commitment to hard work, and a strong motivation to succeed.

Some of these entrepreneurs have become well-known public figures, while others remain relatively unheard of, but they all prove that it is possible for anyone to attain success in today’s competitive business environment. The following is a look at 9 successful entrepreneurs who launched businesses with very little money:

 

  1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Image courtesy Andrea Omizzolo | Flickr

Now a household name, Steve Jobs cofounded Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak in 1976 using $1,350 the two college dropouts made by selling some personal items. This initial investment quickly grew to $200 million thanks to sales of the user-friendly Apple II computer. Driven by Jobs’ later innovations, including the iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone, Apple is currently valued at an astonishing $1 trillion.

 

  1. Henry Ford

Anyone growing up in the United States is likely quite familiar with Henry Ford. The father of the assembly line, he launched the Ford Motor Company in 1903 using cash supplied mostly by relatives and friends of Alexander V. Malcomson, an early investor in Ford’s designs. In addition to streamlining the auto-manufacturing process, Ford was known for treating his employees very well. His high wages attracted reliable workers and helped him take his company to the top of the automobile industry.

 

  1. John Pemberton

John Pemberton

Image courtesy justiny8s | Flickr

The founder of one of the world’s most iconic brands, John Pemberton created Coca-Cola based on a non-alcoholic version of his French Wine Coca nerve tonic. The Georgia pharmacist developed the soda-fountain drink with little financial backing and initially sold the product for a mere 5 cents a gallon. Although Pemberton died before Coca-Cola really took off, his invention would go on to become a globally recognized product.

 

  1. Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz

Although this entry technically counts as two entrepreneurs, they are listed together because they are both responsible for creating the successful Burt’s Bees line of personal care products. Using Quimby’s creativity and leftover wax from Shavitz’ honey business, the couple began creating and selling homemade candles. With $200 made during their first craft fair, they launched a candle-making operation that made $20,000 in its first year. After adding other products, most notably lip balm, Burt’s Bees became a very successful company. In 2007, Clorox acquired the brand for $925 million.

 

  1. Sam Walton

Initially the owner of several Ben Franklin franchises, Sam Walton took out a loan from his father-in-law to open his first store in Newport, Arkansas, in the mid-1940s. The location’s success allowed him to quickly pay back the loan, and he was soon operating stores in two additional states. During his early career, Walton established the retail practices that would come to define Walmart, which he launched in the early 1960s. Today, Walmart brings in over $500 billion in annual revenue and employs 2.3 million people worldwide.

 

  1. Daymond John

FUBU founder Daymond John launched his business empire selling handmade wool hats on a street corner in Queens. His first batch of hats netted John $800 and encouraged him to continue pursuing the endeavor. Later, John’s mother mortgaged her home to finance his pursuits, and he began to expand his line to include hip-hop-inspired T-shirts, sportswear, and accessories. To date, FUBU has generated over $6 billion in retail sales. Daymond John is worth an estimated $300 million.

 

  1. Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso

Image courtesy TechCrunch | Flickr

Not your typical entrepreneurial success story, Sophia Amoruso never intended to launch a business. At 22, she started an eBay store that grew into the Nasty Gal clothing brand. Amoruso eventually stepped down as CEO of Nasty Gal, which at its height was worth $350 million. She currently leads Girlboss, a community and media company that supports the endeavors of working women.

 

  1. David Packard and William Redington Hewlett

Another two-for-one entry on this list, William (Bill) Redington Hewlett and David Packard met each other while studying engineering at Stanford University in the early 1930s. Encouraged by a Stanford professor, the pair used a $500 loan and a second-hand drill press to launch Hewlett Packard from a small garage in Palo Alto. The two men developed a wide range of innovative tech products over the years and helped give rise to what became known as Silicon Valley. The garage where Hewlett and Packard started their business is now a California Historic Landmark, and Hewlett Packard is worth approximately $27.4 billion.

 

  1. Kevin Plank

Although Kevin Plank grew up in a prominent Maryland family, his success as an entrepreneur stemmed from his own hard work and determination. As a student at the University of Maryland, he launched Cupid’s Valentine, a company that sold roses on Valentine’s Day. With the $17,000 he made from the venture, Plank developed and started selling the first products that would make up his Under Armour brand. Today, Under Armour generates close to $5 billion in annual revenue.

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Spotlight – Social Media Best Practices for Furniture Retailers

Along with providing a space where users can chat with friends, catch up on news, and follow the latest celebrity gossip, social media channels can be a great source of business information. Alerts about upcoming sales, pictures of the newest product arrivals, reviews, and helpful shopping and design tips are all available on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With so many people using these and other sites on a daily basis, social media is playing an increasingly important role in many retailers’ marketing strategies.

According to Social Media Examiner’s 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 92 percent of marketing professionals say that social media is important to their work. Many marketers and retail professionals, however, still struggle with implementing the right strategy to reach their target audience. This problem is particularly prevalent for many retailers in the home furnishings industry, which has been somewhat slow to fully embrace new technologies, including social media.

The good news is that leveraging social media to attract and engage customers does not have to be an overly complicated task. Read on to learn more about social media and the marketing channels available to your business.

 

Why Use Social Media?

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The easy answer to this question is that these platforms are extremely popular. An estimated 2.62 billion people worldwide use social media, and this number is only expected to climb in the coming years. Ensuring that your business has a presence on prominent online channels can help you reach the many people who use social sites every day to connect not only with friends and family, but also with local businesses.

Studies have shown that while price is the leading factor in determining where an individual shops, knowing and trusting a business is also very important to today’s consumers. When used effectively, social media provides a way for retailers to build trust and brand awareness while showing the personal and sometimes light-hearted side of their business. Although boosting profits is the ultimate goal of all retail marketing strategies, social media offers the unique opportunity to drive sales by starting a conversation, building a community, and making personal connections with customers.

 

Mastering Facebook

Although it has been the recipient of negative press recently, Facebook still reigns as the top social media channel in terms of the number of daily users. The platform is also the top choice for marketers looking to reach consumers through social media.

Retailers wanting to get the most out of their Facebook page may want to start by rethinking the size and content of their posts. A recent study conducted by social media analytics company Quintly found that posts with fewer than 50 characters resulted in the most interactions. Posts with no text at all came in second place. Quintly also found that visual content is extremely effective at driving Facebook interactions. Video is the best way to boost engagement, but posts with images are also popular.

Using the Quintly study as a guide, retailers may be able to improve the effectiveness of their Facebook page by avoiding wordy posts and embracing video content, which still appears to be underused as a marketing tool. Retailers may also want to minimize the number of posts that include links. Although posts with links to products are pervasive on Facebook, they are less effective than videos, images, and status updates at boosting online interactions.

 

Embracing Instagram and Twitter

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Facebook may have the most active users, but it certainly isn’t the only social media platform that retailers should be using to reach their customers. While these platforms require a somewhat different approach, Instagram and Twitter are also effective tools for driving consumer engagement.

Because visuals are an important part of most marketing messages, more and more companies are using Instagram to build brand awareness. This is especially true in the home furnishings industry where design, color, texture, and functionality all come together in each product. To boost your Instagram account, include more product videos and consider posting user-generated content that highlights items found in your store. Don’t overdo it, however. For an Instagram account with less than 10,000 followers, one post per day should be sufficient.

Due to its character limit, marketing on Twitter can pose some challenges. However, it is the perfect platform for promoting discounts and sales events. Retailers can boost sales by creating special offers for followers. They can also drive engagement and attract more followers by using target keywords and hashtags to reach specific audiences.

 

Final Tips

In addition to focusing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, retailers looking to reach the largest possible audience on social media should maintain a presence on other platforms, including Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and Tumblr. While retailers should treat each platform differently, it’s important to post content that starts a conversation and is worthy of a customer’s time.

Overall, the tone of social media posts should be friendly and conversational rather than salesy and promotional. It’s also important to monitor conversations and respond to customers’ questions, concerns, and even negative comments. Be genuine and add personality to your posts, and don’t forget to use social media accounts to show your company’s involvement in the local community.

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Here Is the Latest Community News from Ashley Furniture

As the world’s top furniture manufacturer, Ashley Furniture Industries maintains a strong presence in communities throughout the United States and over 120 other countries across the globe. With its manufacturing facilities and Ashley HomeStores, the company has grown in recent decades to become a billion-dollar enterprise comprising more than 800 retail locations. While the company is known for its quality products and designs, exceptional service, and unmatched value, Ashley is also recognized for supporting a wide range of worthy causes and organizations.

Through its community engagement efforts, the Wisconsin-based company directs funds and resources to various programs and activities in the areas of art, education, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. Ashley Furniture’s recent work in the community demonstrates its commitment to giving back. The following provides an overview of what the company has been up to lately:

Hope to Dream Events Benefit Children in Memphis and Atlanta

Ashley’s giving programs include Hope to Dream, which provides twin mattresses, bed frames, pillows, and other bedding supplies to children across the country. Since founding the program in 2010, the company has donated more than 50,000 new beds with the help of various community partners.

At the end of the 2018 school year, Ashley HomeStore hosted a special event alongside Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. Approximately 50 Club members and their families took part in the event, which included a water balloon toss, face painting, and other fun activities. Before leaving, each child also received a mattress and bedding from the Hope to Dream program.

In Tennessee, Ashley recently partnered with the University of Memphis football team on a Hope to Dream event at the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex. The event, which featured kids’ activities, football drills, and a facility tour, marked the fourth consecutive year that Ashley and the Memphis Tigers have worked together through Hope to Dream. In 2018, 100 children received mattresses and brand-new bed sets thanks to Ashley Furniture and the Memphis Tigers football program.

Ashley Employees Help Build Homes for Families in Need

Ashley HomeStore employees in Trenton, New Jersey partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing units for members of the local community. The partnership was made possible thanks to an internal program at Ashley HomeStore of Metro New York/New Jersey that encourages employees to take a day off work for community service projects. Throughout the month of May 2018, 60 Ashley employees supported the Habitat project. Ashley and Habitat’s combined efforts resulted in seven new homes.

Arizona Supportive Living Community Receives $100,000 in Furniture

In the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, a group of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is now enjoying a completely furnished new living facility thanks to a donation from Ashley HomeStore. The 26 young men and women benefitting from the donation are residents of Treasure House, a supportive living environment founded by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda.

The facility features individual studio apartments built around several community areas, including a family-style kitchen, game room, and patio. Under the direction of Ashley HomeStore Senior Vice President Kurt Haines, Ashley provided the furniture for Treasure House to ensure that residents have a comfortable place to relax, socialize, and build new skills.

Ashley Furniture Builds Bikes for Arcadia-Area Students

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In its hometown of Arcadia, Wisconsin, Ashley Furniture Industries supports a variety of community initiatives. These include Ashley for the Arts, a weekend festival featuring music, art, and family-oriented entertainment.

Along with planning for the upcoming festival, the company recently partnered with Ashley’s Angels to donate bikes, helmets, and bike locks to 42 students from three local schools. Ashley employees training at the Ashley Leadership Institute built the 42 bikes as part of a team-building exercise to develop cooperation, communication, and other leadership skills.

Ashley’s Angels, a youth-focused nonprofit group founded by Ashley employees, delivered 14 bikes to each of the three schools in Arcadia and the nearby communities of Whitehall and Independence. The schools awarded the bikes to lucky second- and third-grade students through raffle-style drawings.

Since its founding in 1997, Ashley’s Angels has supported programs and initiatives assisting over 20,000 children in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

College-Bound Young Men and Women Receive $285,000 in Scholarships

Throughout its history, Ashley Furniture Industries has focused much of its community giving on ensuring that students across the United States have access to quality education. As part of these efforts, the company provides scholarship opportunities for children of Ashley employees.

The opportunities include the Ashley Grants-in-Aid Scholarship and the Wanek Engineering and Design Scholarship, which provide one-time awards of $2,000 and $3,333, respectively. In 2018, Ashley Furniture distributed $285,000 to over 125 high school graduates. Over the years, the company has awarded more than 2,000 scholarships and directed millions of dollars toward education programming nationwide.

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Top Reasons for Ashley Furniture’s Amazing Success

AshleyFurnitureAlthough there are a number of major players in the US furniture market, Ashley Furniture stands out from the rest. The American furniture manufacturer and retailer has a history dating back to 1945, but the company’s rise to the top of the industry began in 1970 when current chairman Ron Wanek launched a small furniture manufacturing operation in Arcadia, Wisconsin. Since then, Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., has grown to become an international company operating in more than 120 countries around the world.

In addition to its role as the world’s largest furniture manufacturer, the company is also the largest furniture retailer in North America. The first Ashley HomeStore opened its doors in 1997, and two decades later, Ashley celebrated the opening of its 700th store location. Today, Ashley HomeStores bring in $3.8 billion in annual sales, nearly twice as much as its closest competitor.

The success of Ashley Furniture and its growth from a relatively unknown brand into a household name are not simply the result of good fortune. Ashley’s commitment to being the best furniture company in the world drives its success and continues to shape its daily operations.

Here’s a look at what makes Ashley Furniture a dominant industry leader:

 

Quality Products

From day one, Ashley Furniture Industries has focused on providing customers with top-quality home furnishings. The company’s manufacturing process begins with skilled engineers and designers who travel worldwide to find the latest trends, materials, and technologies. Then, every material and design is tested in Ashley’s state-of-the-art physical testing labs to ensure that it meets the company’s quality standards.

Ashley Furniture’s manufacturing practices and technologies ensure that each product produced is in line with the company’s goal to offer customers exceptional out-of-the-box quality at an affordable price. Ashley also partners with best-in-class suppliers and strives to hire disciplined and committed employees to keep quality at the heart of everything it does.

The company’s focus on operational and manufacturing excellence also supports its efforts to provide stylish, durable furnishings for the entire home. Today, Ashley customers can choose from items across 19 product categories, including bedroom, outdoor, home office, and entertainment.

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Commitment to Efficiency

As part of its mission to improve quality, reduce costs, and increase business, Ashley Furniture works toward continuous improvement by employing innovative production equipment and lean manufacturing principles at its US facilities in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. The company’s patented assembly methods and streamlined systems support the Ashley team of manufacturing workers as they produce over 50,000 units each day.

Ashley’s commitment to efficiency extends from the factory floor to every area of the supply chain. In 1972, Ron Wanek established Ashley Logistics to manage the transportation and delivery of the company’s products. The Ashley fleet now comprises over 800 vehicles and 3,500 trailers that enable the company to move and deliver more than 30 million pieces of furniture each year. The fleet utilizes an advanced dispatch and routing system that ensures on-time delivery to customers in nearly every part of North America. Ashley is capable of delivering products to US customers in two days or less, a service that no other furniture company in the country can match.

In addition to speeding up production and delivery, Ashley’s efficient manufacturing processes and delivery systems translate into savings for customers. Providing customers with quality products on time and at an exceptional value is in line with the company’s growth-focused efforts to not only stay in business, but also increase profitability over the long term.

bedroom

 

Focus on People and Community

With the understanding that any company is only as good as its employees, Ashley Furniture invests in its people through job skills training and management coaching, as well as direct communication and support. Once a person accepts a position with Ashley, he or she receives job-specific training in manufacturing, distribution, and logistics. All employees have the opportunity for continued professional development as they work toward higher levels of leadership within the company.

Those who attain leadership positions at Ashley continue to develop their professional competencies through the Wanek School of Business Leadership. Ashley leaders take part in online learning and classroom education programs while taking on challenging job assignments that sharpen their skills. Throughout the process, they also receive feedback, personal coaching, and mentoring from other experienced Ashley leaders. All these activities support ongoing employee improvement.

Along with investing in its employees, Ashley Furniture gives back to the communities it serves. The company supports local economies and contributes millions of dollars each year to national charities and nonprofit groups, including City of Hope, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the American Heart Association. Ashley also supports local education programs serving students from grade school through college. Ashley’s work in the community is part of its efforts to make a positive impact while advancing its business goals as North America’s furniture leader.

employee engagement

Practical Advice on How to Improve Employee Engagement

Maintaining a positive, productive, and profitable workplace requires employees who are engaged in their job and committed to giving their best every day. Engaged employees work harder and are willing to go the extra mile because they feel connected to their company. In a retail environment, such as furniture sales, employees who are committed and dedicated to their work help to increase sales and annual revenues while promoting customer loyalty and satisfaction. Satisfied employees are also much less likely to leave their jobs. Reduced employee turnover means that furniture retailers can save on the significant costs associated with hiring and training new workers.

Despite the many benefits that come with employee engagement, many business owners are failing or simply not trying to cultivate an engaged workplace. In fact, recent research found that nearly 35 percent of the American retail workforce is disengaged from their jobs. Fortunately, retail business leaders who are interested in boosting engagement among their employees can find success by following a few simple tips.

 

employee

 

Make Communication and Positivity a Priority

Communication is a crucial aspect of business operations for companies of all sizes. Business leaders who communicate their expectations to each employee will have greater success in attaining overall company goals. In addition to providing clear guidance and instruction, prioritizing communication in the workplace also involves embracing transparency and accessibility. Retail employees who view managers and owners as another part of the team that is available to assist them will have a deeper sense of investment in their work and the company.

Focusing on positive communication and taking time out to thank employees for their work are other ways that business leaders can improve workplace morale and engagement. Overly critical work environments are stressful and prevent employees from speaking their minds. Supportive and positive workplaces, on the other hand, foster engagement and motivate employees to perform at their very best.

 

Hire and Provide Support for Strong Managerial Staff

Much of the responsibility for promoting employee engagement lies with managers. The most successful managerial staff members are those who want their people to succeed and will provide the support and guidance they need to do so. Effective managers also understand their employees’ strengths and value their contributions to the company.

When hiring from outside sources or promoting from within, business leaders should focus on finding managers who possess the leadership traits needed to improve engagement among workers. Providing ongoing coaching and holding managers accountable for employee engagement are keys to continued success. Research has shown that companies with supportive managerial staff have employees that are 67 percent more engaged than those at non-supportive organizations.

 

management team

 

Implement Recognition and Reward Programs

It should go without saying that an employee who feels respected and valued for his or her work will be more motivated to continue supporting the company’s goals. Offering a simple verbal “thank you” can go a long way in showing appreciation for outstanding employees, but managers and business owners can take things a step further by providing employee rewards and incentives.

Recognizing employees with a “Wall of Fame” board, an employee of the month party, or shout out on social media can all be part of a rewards program. In the furniture retail industry, employers can motivate associates with leaderboards for top sales or number of hours worked during a busy season. Offering employee discounts for outstanding work is another way that retailers can engage sales associates while making them feel valued.

 

Give Employees Room to Grow

The potential for internal growth plays an important role in driving employee engagement. Regardless of the type of work that one does, it is difficult to remain engaged when daily tasks never change. For this reason, business owners looking to attract and retain top talent should examine the growth opportunities they provide to potential and current employees.

Although managers often correlate growth opportunities with a salary increase or a new job title, many employees can get the same satisfaction from growing within their current position. Providing employees with training and new leadership opportunities can be all that is needed to increase their engagement and break up the monotony of their day-to-day work.

 

employee

 

Do Something outside of Work

Along with allowing a little time for fun in the workplace, business leaders can promote employee engagement by organizing social events. Social activities outside of work give employees the chance to interact and develop personal relationships with one another in a relaxed environment. When teams of workers enjoy each other’s company, they are often more productive professionally.

Employees’ personal schedules can sometimes make it difficult for everyone to attend any one event, so companies should try to organize several throughout the year. Activities can include a company softball tournament or barbecue, weekly happy hour, or an evening at a professional sports venue. Bringing employees and managers together for volunteer projects also provides a way to increase engagement while maintaining a positive presence in the local community.

phone

8 of the Best Tips for Successful SMS Marketing

Marketing via short message service (SMS) offers furniture retailers and other business owners with the opportunity to send customers permission-based text messages highlighting upcoming sales, product promotions, and in-store events. In addition to providing a cost-effective way to reach customers, SMS marketing can help to generate leads and track consumer preferences.

One of the main reasons why SMS should be part of any business’ marketing strategy is the fact that so many people use text messaging on a daily basis. Outside of face-to-face conversation, texting is one of the most commonly used forms of communication in the United States.

The preference for communicating via text has led many US consumers to expect messaging from the businesses that they support. Consumers have also shown a willingness to read the messages that businesses send. In fact, the open rate of promotions and offers sent via text is approximately 98 percent. Compare that to the 22 percent of promotional emails that are read, and it’s easy to see why SMS marketing makes sense for retail businesses. Fortunately, launching an effective SMS campaign to boost your business’ success can be relatively simple with a few pieces of practical advice.

 

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  1. Respect Your Customer

It’s important for business owners to understand that sending business text messages to customers who have not agreed to receive them is not only bad form — it’s also illegal. You should respect potential customers and the law by ensuring that you invite users to opt into an SMS messaging list using an automated agreement form or another method. When someone agrees to receive messages, business owners can add another layer of transparency by sending a confirmation message that provides information detailing when and how often texts will be sent and what kind of content they’ll contain.

 

  1. Provide a Reason to Opt In

Recent surveys have found that approximately 90 percent of today’s consumers would like to use text messaging to communicate with businesses. Just because consumers are willing to use business messaging, however, does not mean that they’re ready to have their phones flooded with useless information. Offering value in the form of exclusive deals, purchase and delivery updates, and relevant news will provide users with motivation to opt in and even look forward to receiving business messages.

 

  1. Make It Easy to Unsubscribe

While this may seem counterintuitive, providing customers with an easy way to opt out of future messages is a good practice for any SMS campaign. Businesses that do their job of offering value-based messages will not likely see a large number of users opting out just because it’s easy to do so. Ensuring that subscribers have the ability to opt out is also required by law.

 

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  1. Don’t Waste Characters

Getting to the point quickly is important when you consider that each message must be limited to only 160 characters. Be sure to make every character count by using concise language to provide value and build customer relationships. Use short words whenever possible and ensure that the message leads with a compelling statement. Ultimately, the goal of SMS marketing is to motivate customers to act, so it’s also important to use some of the available characters for a direct call to action.

 

  1. Recognize the Importance of Timing and Frequency

In addition to being annoying, a text message sent in the middle of the night isn’t going to encourage many people to act on an offer. The most effective SMS campaigns use timely messages sent during regular business hours. It’s also important for business owners to manage the frequency of their messages so that users remain engaged, but not overloaded with updates and offers. One text per week is a good idea for most retail businesses.

 

  1. Focus on Personalization

The ability to personalize messages is one of the top benefits of SMS marketing. While texting already feels more personal than other forms of marketing communication, it can seem even more friendly when a person’s name and location are included in the message. Business owners can also use SMS to customize offers based on their customers’ buying habits and specific interests.

 

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency

Regardless of the content, personalization, and value of a message, there is no guarantee that customers will follow through when actually responding to an offer. Business owners can maximize the chances that they will be able to get people to do what they want by creating a sense of urgency within the message. One of the easiest ways to do so is by promoting an exclusive sale with a looming end date that is clearly communicated in the offer. Using links that send customers to a web page with a countdown timer can also create a sense of urgency.

 

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  1. Use Messaging to Increase Sales

The purpose of any SMS marketing campaign is to improve brand awareness and, ultimately, increase profits. One effective use of SMS messaging is referred to as an “abandoned cart reminder.” Retailers who conduct business online can send this type of message to customers who added items to their cart but did not follow through in actually buying them. Simply helping customers to complete a purchase via SMS can help business owners to improve their bottom line.