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January 2014 is the first time since October 2009 that the RTI (Retail traffic Industry) has recorded year on year growth in two consecutive months.  The consumer is beginning to come out from their long hibernation and many of our studios are reporting an increase in traffic.

As our consumers yawn, stretch and blink in the sunshine of newly refurbished studios with stunning displays, do we really know enough about how they got there – and are studios doing enough to ensure that this fragile animal reaches them and them alone as a destination.

Leopards change their spots

Consumer behaviour has changed greatly since 2008, nearly 70% of all purchasing decisions are now researched on the web.  Now you know that’s true, you do it yourself, you check the price and availability of flights, cars – in fact most major purchases, before you even reach a shop or a studio.

This figure will rise and rise given that 34% of under 40’s used online research for their furniture purchases.

Social Butterfly

So, have you looked, really looked at your website recently.  When was it last updated?  How active are you with Social Media?

Encouraging customers to come to you via the internet and social media is key to all our future trading.  How can they find you, if the consumer doesn’t really know that you exist.  If your website is not on Page 1 of Google, they won’t bother to track you down on Page 3.

We all need to deliver an increased brand awareness and in the case of the independent studios, that brand is you.  It will increase enquiries, showroom visits and sales.  More traffic will build you up the rankings.

Most websites seem to want to impress on the consumer that they offer both quality and service.  Not a bad ambition but it’s a very tired and over used phrase, and IMHO should be banned, but ask yourself how the customer can tell the truth of this statement if your website doesn’t engage them, if they can’t pick up any Tweets from your customers, or photos from Facebook.

Most of your major suppliers will be operating a very professional social media outfit, Neff is outstanding at this.  Try tapping into your suppliers through this medium and good news stories and photos are always welcomed by them.  They have a far wider reach than you can imagine.

Keep it up!

Yes, this all takes time, effort and energy.  You can’t just launch yourself into this arena and expect it to happen.  Social Media and websites need a strategy, consistent updating and monitoring to be truly successful in reaching out to new customers.

For the independent studio it is a case of striking a balance between offering traditional values, and delivering it in a more contemporary way.  The internet is 25 years old and is here to stay – let’s make the most of it.

You can always make a start by liking us on Facebook!