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Salesforce Helps Room & Board Eliminate Distinctions Between Physical And Digital Channels

Siloed sales do not exist at the high-end furniture company, say Salesforce's Shelley Bransten and Room & Board's Kimberly Ruthenbeck.

Whether a customer sees this living room in person or online, it doesn't matter to Room & Board.
Whether a customer sees this living room in person or online, it doesn’t matter to Room & Board.

The concept of bridging sales success between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar for marketers is a staple of every digital business conference. Instead of offering the usual talking points and plans for synthesizing interactive and physical sales channels, executives from cloud-based customer relationship management platform Salesforce demonstrated that idea in action in a demo held at its client Room & Board’s Chelsea flagship earlier this week.

The event was held ahead of of Salesforce’s Connections conference at the Javits Center in New York this week, to give an exclusive look at how it has been breaking down barriers to create an actionable “omnichannel” strategy, which is centered around aligning the customer experience around the general definition of the “sale,” whether that purchase decision is happening online, in-store, or via a call center.

After some mingling over wine and hor d’oeuvres in the exceedingly comfortable foyer of Room & Board, the presentation began.

A Demonstration

To better explain the kind of experience Salesforce wants to give its customers, a Salesforce rep walked the audience through the furniture shopping experience of a fictional customer by the name of “Ben.”

Ben was looking to buy a couch. He scrolled through the Room & Board site, browsing and comparing. He added a nice looking blue one to his cart (other popular pieces suggested below based on his browsing history), went to checkout, and prepared to purchase his new couch. But then he stopped, his cursor hesitantly hovering over the “Confirm” button. Ben decided he didn’t want to buy that couch after all and closed the window.

Undaunted, Room & Board sends Ben an email the next day. The rep notes that a direct email to the customer gets a huge click rate. He opens it up and sees a list of suggested couches, including a familiar looking blue one front and center. The email is personalized to him, suggesting other items, referencing his location, referencing his almost-purchase of the couch. This time, he buys it.

Personalize Everything

Salesforce is not interested in reiterating the same hollow words of advice. “Everybody knows mobile is important,” said Shelley Bransten, SVP for Retail & Consumer Products Industry Solutions at Salesforce. The importance of mobile is old news. What is important is the way those new digital areas are used to better engage the customer. Bransten’s solution: “Personalize everything.”

“The key is personalization,” said Kimberly Ruthenbeck, Room & Board’s Director of Web Experience. “People are sent messages and served ads based on what they’ve done across all our marketing channels, since people are not a singular ‘e-commerce shopper’ or an ‘in-store shopper.’  They’re all of the above.”

R&B's Kimberly Ruthenbeck
R&B’s Kimberly Ruthenbeck

The Beauty of Breaking Barriers

That “all of the above” thinking led Room & Board to eliminate the dividing lines between their many channels of marketing. It doesn’t matter to them from where a customer comes, whether that’s through the website, through the physical store, or through a call center.

“One of the most frustrating things I’ve always experienced as customer,” said Ruthenbeck, “is if a store doesn’t know who you are, you get an email with one offer and then a different offer is presented in the store. We as retailers need to know who our customers are, no matter where they are. And we need to reach them on their terms.”

“There are a lot of territory wars within retailers over whether the e-commerce channel or the physical store channel gets credit for the sale,” Ruthenbeck added.

“We had a conversation about how to remove the competition and let the customer be first no matter where they bought something from us,” she continued. “We just wanted them to have the absolute best possible experience on their terms. So what we changed is, the manager of a particular store is responsible for all the sales that happen within 100 miles of the store’s location, no matter where it was transacted.”

This makes much less of a divide between the digital and physical channels of a store’s marketing presence. The result then is that the customer is treated to more fully integrated experience, using every possible channel and capability to identify and customize the way they engage with the store.

Ruthenbeck made a point of noting, “I have no idea how much business this physical space [Room & Board’s Chelsea flagship store] did last month. But I do know what the market did. That is the beauty of breaking down the barriers.”

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.