Q&A: RoomStore’s Ned Crosby

Furniture seller RoomStore, which has 60 retail locations in the South and Midwest, noticed a growth in its web channel’s page views, visits and sales. With multichannel in mind, RoomStore hired Blueport Commerce to revamp its e-commerce site in August. Multichannel Merchant senior writer Tim Parry talked about the redesign with Ned Crosby, RoomStore’s chief merchandising and marketing officer.

Why a Web redesign? Was RoomStore.com broken or did it need a few tweaks?

Big-ticket categories have inherently more complex e-commerce needs that go beyond just a simple online storefront. The goal has always been to develop the site as multichannel sales driver, helping to promote lead generation, store traffic and online conversions. We leveraged the Blueport Commerce e-commerce platform to help us deliver a truly precise local online experience to our customers, while also extending our delivery area outside the store footprint.

What was RoomStore’s overallredesign goal?

We wanted to create an enhanced and innovative web shopping experience for our customers that really caters to how they want to shop for our products and delivers product information in a format that works for them. We have added in a number of new site features, including collection browsing, shoppable images, live chat, user-generated reviews, an enhanced checkout as well as social bookmarking.

Furniture seems to be one of those itemsthat you need to feel and sit on before you buy it, so how do you sell it online?

The site’s merchandising and product catalog are designed to cater to our customers’ senses, creating a much more interactive online shopping experience designed to mimic how a customer may look at or touch a piece of furniture in store and envision it in their home. Consumers can browse products based on collections and room styles, shop images, read consumer reviews and even live chat with RoomStore staff. All of these components are aimed at arming the shopper with as much information as they need about their intended purchase, ultimately helping them feel comfortable about making the purchase online.

But even if the ultimate purchase is not made through our e-commerce site, it has proven to serve as an invaluable lead generator for in-store sales. Consumers use the site to research their purchase and many of then come in to the store where our sales associates help to close the sale. Rather than two siloed initiatives, we view our physical stores and our online site as a true localized, multichannel strategy aimed at driving sales.

User ratings and reviews are important to consumers, but they can be hard to come by. How do you get RoomStore’scustomers to post their experience to your site?

Actually, we find that when it comes to big-ticket items like an area rug or a $1,000 couch, customers are much more inclined to provide their comments. Unlike smaller commodity purchases, like a T-shirt or a DVD, these high-ticket purchases typically take some time for the customer to research, explore and make a final commitment to the purchase. This process usually makes them much more eager to share their experiences and learnings with others.

You added social bookmarking to the RoomStore website. Before that, was there any sort of evidence pointingtoward consumers sharing your products on Facebook or Tweeting about their experience?

Certainly. Our customers have always been active in discussing our products, be it in person or on the web. Because of the high-ticket nature of our products, having feedback from family or friends has always been a powerful motivator for purchases. By bringing social bookmarking to our site, we have made this process much more brand centric.

Mobile doesn’t seem to be a part of the redesign,but how is RoomStore getting ready for the iPhone and iPad revolution?

Like most retailers, mobile commerce and other innovations such as shopping apps on the iPad are definitely on our radar. We are exploring how these technologies and channels should be incorporated into our strategy and how they would best cater to how our customers shop.

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