Frontera Furniture has defined comfort and luxury in the outdoor furniture business since 1992. With physical stores in Houston and one of the first outdoor furniture stores on the web, Frontera flourished rapidly.
As time passed, the opportunities online grew tenfold and Frontera’s business evolved to focus solely on the online storefront. At the same time, the company began publishing a gorgeous mail order catalog and manufacturing a proprietary line of premium Brazilian Cherry outdoor furniture, including what was to become its signature piece, The World’s Finest Rocker.
Approaching Frontera’s 20 year anniversary in 2012, the owner decided to take the business to the next level by seeking out an outside consultant, someone who could not only manage the business day-to-day but, more importantly, had the know-how and experience to take the brand to new heights.
That’s when I got involved.
Frontera always had a high repeat purchase rate; once they were able to convert a visitor into a customer, that customer was likely to come back. There were many reasons for this, including a truly beautiful and quality product, extremely attentive customer service, and a clever owner who was knew how to market to the key demographic. So the challenge for Frontera was how to bring in new, qualified visitors, profitably.
The long-view solution to this issue for Frontera.com (and many online stores) was Search Engine Optimization (SEO). More of a marathon than a sprint, good SEO requires identification of keywords that are truly in the store’s sweet spot, configuration of the website to be SEO-friendly, properly formatted meta data, reciprocal links, and perhaps most importantly, fresh (ongoing) content incorporating the target keywords. Achieving first page organic rankings on Google (and other search engines, to a lesser degree) can dramatically improve the profitability of any web store.
The next priority for Frontera was Google Pay-per-Click (PPC) analysis. A PPC campaign is the fastest way to jumpstart web store traffic, but also one of the quickest ways to lose money fast. Clicks to your website are no guarantee of purchases, so it’s always smart to start off small and build based on data-driven success.
Frontera’s traffic priorities next turned to an affiliate program. By offering incentives (in the form of a percentage of sales) to other website owners who were willing to promote Frontera via banner ads and blog entries, Referral traffic and sales grew steadily. Any web store can develop an affiliate program, but the best way to start is to sign up for a 3rd party affiliate platform like Share-A-Sale (www.shareasale.com).
At the same time that we were working on SEO (before we revamped the PPC campaigns) we forged a parallel path to improve the sales conversion rate. This is a key bucket to address before driving a significant increase in traffic, for obvious reasons (no sense flooding the store with traffic when our low conversion rate predicts that most won’t buy).
Sales conversion rate can be affected by a myriad of online store variables, but the first place I started was a healthy competitive analysis. Though it’s tempting at times to focus only on the microcosm of your own web store, living in a vacuum is a dangerous proposition. It’s critical to understand your online competition; who are your key competitors, what do they sell, what products do they promote, how do prices compare, what are their shipping and return policies, how have they set up product categorization, what kind of image does their brand portray, and most importantly, what are real customers saying about the shopping experience? Understanding these factors (and more) is the first step towards refining your store’s shopping experience.
Next, I focused on Frontera.com. What was their key demographic? I conducted some user testing, both by sending friends and colleagues a series of shopping exercises and then collecting their feedback, and by employing a 3rd party service (I like UserTesting.com). The idea is to remove any roadblocks visitors might encounter throughout the buying process that would prevent them from completing the sale. Roadblocks can include:
Frontera was selling furniture pieces individually and customers were building their own ensembles in the shopping cart. This was fine for savvy shoppers who were very particular about creating a specific furniture configuration, but it could be a frustrating process for shoppers who simply wanted to pay one price for an common patio furniture ensemble.
The answer to this problem was simple: offer both ways to shop. For the customer who was shopping for a full patio furniture set, we built desirable ensembles with attractive price points; for the customer who preferred to mix and match their own pieces, we continued to offer Build Your Own Collection skus.
My other primary focus to increase Frontera’s AOV was more effective use of merchandising upsells, cross-sells, and suggested accessories. An upsell is a similar product but more expensive, e.g. if you like an 8 Gig Ipod, then how about a 16 Gig Ipod for x dollars more? A cross-sell is a product that would enhance the main product, for example, a fancy set of earphones for that Ipod. A suggested accessory is a product that is needed for the main product to be used effectively, e.g. a charging cable.
Frontera spent more than two decades developing a strong brand that stood for luxury, quality, comfort, and amazing customer service, so I had a strong foundation to build on.
One of my first areas of focus was to identify Frontera’s key benefits and message them consistently in all marketing pieces: Free Shipping, Low Price Promise, Est. 1992. These simple messages addressed critical potential road blocks for visitors considering a purchase – “I’m not going to have to pay to ship this heavy furniture, I’m getting the best price out there, and I can trust this company because they’ve been in business a long time.
Next, we renewed our focus on Frontera’s signature furniture piece, a carefully-designed and extremely well-made outdoor rocking chair truly unique to the marketplace. Up to this point, the rocker was called The Independence Rocker, a name favored for its patriotic slant. I recommended a new brand name that better romanced the quality and comfort of the chair, the World’s Finest Rocker. Simple, iconic, and a bold declaration of quality – all attributes of the rocker itself.
Finally, I addressed the store’s logo. It was a classy logo using a very traditional, elegant font (black in color), and the tagline was ‘Fine Furniture for the Home and Garden.’ All-in-all, this was a pretty decent representation of the company and the brand. But our key demographic was aging, and the younger members of the audience, the web-savvy shoppers, were quickly becoming a larger piece of the pie. So we developed a logo using a cleaner, more modern font, slightly softer colors, and a tagline with more personality: ‘Distinctive Style from Front Porch to Backyard.’
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