Ashley Furniture Sees Huge Boost In Revenue From SMS

In a tough economy, companies are in need of alternative advertising methods to keep customers coming in, and to maintain name recognition in an increasingly crowded market. Traditional marketing, while still effective, has lost its luster so to speak in recent times, and brands are searching for unique methods to spread their message. More and more, companies are turning to digital marketing, and more importantly mobile marketing to fill that need, and give customers and brands a new opportunity to interact using new-age methodology.

Ashley Furniture HomeStores of Charlotte, North Carolina and upstate South Carolina make up eight of the 377 independently-owned regional retail stores
that exclusively sell the Ashley Furniture brand across the United States. The small group of stores decided that the time was right to explore alternative methods besides its more traditional means of newspaper advertising which has been increasingly less effective in recent times. Their answer- make the switch to digital marketing using a combination of SMS and email messaging.

The furniture retailer chose mobileStorm, a leading digital and mobile marketing company, to handle the delivery and tracking of the campaigns through its mobileStorm 4.0 digital messaging platform. The highly integrated platform allowed Ashley Furniture HomeStore to deploy and monitor the success of their campaigns in real-time while tweaking accordingly to maintain a successful experience overall. To say the least, the switch to digital marketing and mobile techniques proved to be a huge success. To build on that success, Ashley Furniture HomeStore officials decided to expand its reach and put on a four-day “secret sale” to be announced only by SMS and email messaging.

The foundation for such a campaign was the fact that Ashley Furniture HomeStore has cultivated permission-based messaging relationships with its consumers to curb thinking, common within the mobile marketing industry, that email and SMS messages are often mistaken for spam. The effort on behalf of Ashley to build highly-interactive contacts with a growing base of active subscribers, has ensured that its consumers want to continue receiving messages from the retailer based on positive and relevant subscription and sending policies.

Working with mobileStorm’s 4.0 platform, the company deployed a series of promotions to swell opt-ins and build on its ever-increasing database of contacts to better prepare for its “secret sale” promotion. Some of the promotions used included:

  • Free Gas Giveaway. Ashley Furniture HomeStore implemented a multi-channel campaign in which it advertised its free gas contest via TV, radio, newspapers, and even Facebook. Interested consumers were prompted to text keywords like GAS and DRIVE to a short code—ultimately generating more than 1,000 text-message subscribers.
  • Email coupons. The retailer sent its first mobileStorm-powered email campaign, offering coupons to 27,000 of its customers.
  • One-day secret sale. This “12-hour private event” was announced only via SMS and email to subscribers, on the evening before the sale began. It generated $30,000 in just one day.
  • $500 shopping spree. The furniture chain puts on a weekly contest in which customers participate, via SMS, to win a shopping spree. With this campaign, the company also gathers demographic information on its customers, adding to the database of people who ultimately received the Secret Sale coupons.

With its extremely high-quality contact database, Ashley Furniture HomeStorewas ready to deploy its secret sale. The sale ran from July 10th through the 14th, 2008 and was sent secretly only to its list of SMS and email subscribers it worked so diligently to create. Overall, the retailer sent out 34,743 permission-based messages in all. Included in the total were 28,743 emails, and 6,000 SMS messages. To better gauge the success of the campaign, officials waited for the morning of July 10th to send the messages- the first day of the 5-day secret sale. Each message sent included digital coupons for furniture, accessories, and mattresses, and was not enhanced by any coinciding print or other media announcements.

The result after the short, five-day sale was nothing short of astonishing. Across all its stores, Ashley Furniture HomeStore generated a total of $138,460 in revenue. This was after offering a total of $24,491 in discounts via its email and SMS coupons. Of the revenue generated by coupon type, after discounts, $85,438 was attributed to SMS, while $53,022 was attributed to email. During the campaign, Ashley officials used mobileStorm’s ability to report campaign results in real-time to track the conversion rate for each individual coupon code. The company could then easily find which coupon was the most redeemed overall, as well as which coupon generated the greatest amount of revenue.

After it was all said and done, the company realized an impressive return on investment for its use of mobileStorm’s digital marketing abilities. After discounts, for every dollar spent, the retailer generated approximately $122 with mobileStorm SMS and about $76 with mobileStorm email.

The truly impressive aspect of this campaign was the fact that SMS outweighed email by a significant margin compared to the number of messages sent. Nearly 30,000 emails were sent out, resulting in $53,022 in revenues. This is still considered a relative success, but not compared to a return of nearly $86,000 on only 6,000 text messages sent.

“These new forms of digital marketing via email and especially SMS have really impressed us out of the gate, and shown us a clear path to offset declining response rates and poor ROI in some of our other forms of advertising,” said Charlie Malouf, co-owner and COO of Ashley Furniture HomeStore of Charlotte, North Carolina and upstate South Carolina.

This shows the undeniable fact that mobile marketing gives by far the most bang for your buck overall. The direct-to-consumer aspect, combined with the personal interactivity it creates between a consumer and a brand proves it’s the leading form of digital marketing and can provide the widest return on investment for anyone seeking new-age advertising techniques. Of course, the success of any SMS campaign relies heavily on the diligence taken in creating an opt-in database, which Ashley has proven it can do very well.

“We have been most surprised with the revenue generated from a simple 160-character text message with a sale offer. No doubt about it, this has been a game-changer for us,” Mr. Malouf continued. “With two simple SMS campaigns, we’ve generated over $100,000 in new business. Our efforts with mobileStorm’s permission-based digital messaging platform will increase and continue over time. We’ll not only use email and text messaging as a means to drive business, but in the future, we’ll also use these forms of new media as a way to effectively communicate directly with our customers. We’re still learning and have a long way to go, but the early indicators have been quite promising.”