20 July 2024, 13:26
By Mike Murray Mar 01, 2017

Brave new (digital) world

In the first of a new series in which bed retailer Mike Murray outlines his approach to digital marketing and ecommerce, the Land of Beds MD explains why ignoring this growing channel – and the social media surrounding it – is no longer an option …

It’s a very different world since my grandfather Harry Murray first opened a home furniture business more than four decades ago. He could not have predicted that in the future, our buyers would purchase their new bed on a smartphone and give real-time feedback on their customer service experience to a global network of millions of social media users.

The first online shopping system was demonstrated by English inventor Michael Aldrich in 1979. It would be a decade later before the first internet-based system for ecommerce was unveiled, allowing people to make purchases with a credit card.

Our ecommerce story started in 2009 – shortly after I joined the family business. As I launched Land of Beds’ first ecommerce website, global ecommerce sales topped $1t for the first time in history. By 2013, we had been Highly Commended at the National Bed Federation’s awards in the E-tailer of the Year category.

Ecommerce became ‘how we do things around here’, while also ensuring we continued to offer bricks and mortar stores for customers who preferred to get professionally fitted for a bed.  

With ecommerce transforming our business’ fortunes – delivering a seven-figure YoY increase in turnover – it became clear that continuing to develop our digital strategy was critical to our future growth plans.  

Mastering the dark arts of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising (Google Adwords) are essential if you want to make sure that you are best placed to convert customers in their research and buying phases online.

Both are about being seen at the very moment when customers are searching for the things you offer, and driving traffic to your website. It is therefore critical that you deliver a positive customer service experience online – focusing on buyer confidence and convenience, making it easy for people to make informed choices and removing any potential barriers to a sale.  

Within the mix, you also need to engage in social media. Even if you don’t use it yourself, trust me when I say buyers do. There are an estimated 32 million Facebook users in the UK – more than half of the nation’s population have an account. According to Statista, the number of Facebook users aged between 25 and 35 years is expected to reach 7.4 million by 2017.

When it comes to promoting your brand and your values, as well as the services and products you retail, to targeted customers – based on their specific interests and demographic – Facebook is an outstanding platform. For example, if you want to reach people experiencing back pain with an interest in orthopaedic solutions who live within a specific radius of your store, Facebook enables you to do that, with paid advertising for a price and a budget you set and manage yourself.  

Did you also know that more than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices? YouTube and smartphones are marketing tools you simply cannot afford to ignore if you want to place key messages about your products and services right in the palm of people’s hands.

Social media is also transforming the face of customer service. Researchers Nielsen found that 33% of people would rather contact a company via social media than by picking up the telephone. Pew Research added that 58% of consumers used their mobile phones while shopping in-store, rising to 78% for 18-29 year olds.

The advent of the smartphone therefore means that – good or bad – the consumers’ experience of your customer service can be broadcast instantly to their followers.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that by not having a social media presence, you can escape online criticism. People will still go online to express their happiness or annoyance, and you have no mechanism to thank or assist them. When it comes to social media, having a voice and being transparent and accountable are essential to protect and enhance your company’s reputation.

“Do not make the mistake of thinking that by not having a social media presence, you can escape online criticism”

Don’t forget to learn from web reviews to constantly improve your customers’ experience face-to-face, too. There should be a synergy between your digital and in-store strategies, so that no customer is forgotten and every potential buyer feels engaged.

One of my favourite things about digital marketing is that everything is measurable. If you rent a billboard on a busy road, how do you know which of the drivers converted into a sale? With Google Adwords and social media, you can tell exactly how many people clicked on your website and even what they did when they got to the checkout.

I look forward to sharing more of the digital marketing tips that have propelled Land of Beds to the award-winning company it is today. In the meantime, if you have any questions, tweet us at @landofbeds!

Mike Murray (Jnr) is the MD of Land of Beds, a third-generation family-run retailer based in Frodsham, Cheshire. The business has won multiple awards for its innovative approach to digital marketing and ecommerce, based upon a strong traditional retail foundation. Discover Mike's series in Furniture News magazine, starting in the January 2017 issue.

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