Furniture manufacturer Flexsteel has announced that it has revamped its website, now designed to help buyers take the guesswork out of the decorating game — stacking the deck by loading it with a variety of high-tech tools designed to assist in the shopping process.
The Dubuque, IA-based company was launched more than a century ago and has continued to evolve — from a traditional furniture company to its recently stated goal of becoming an omnichannel presence in the home furnishings marketplace.
Flexsteel’s journey began with a legacy of quality products, and a unique innovation that dates back to the 1920s, when it introduced its proprietary blue steel spring™, a patented ribbon of steel that made for a clearly defined brand story in all the years since. From the start, the manufacturer focused on telling its story to retailers across the country, for the most part relying on those dealers to convey the blue steel spring benefits — it never wears out or requires adjusting over time. This marketing approach, which focused nearly all selling efforts on gaining coveted space for Flexsteel's products on retail floors, worked for decades.
"Then came the big shift in how we, as consumers, shop for everything," says Sharad Mathur, Vice President of Marketing at Flexsteel. "While nothing changed in terms of our capability to design and manufacture fashionable, quality products that will last, in little more than a decade we moved from the industrial age to the digital. For consumers, new tools continue to appear at an ever-quickening pace. People now habitually start their shopping process online, no matter the product, and the pandemic has only accelerated this trend. Prior to a purchase, they expect to find all the information they require to make their buying decision on your website, on your mobile friendly app, on a screen of one sort or another, wherever they happen to be."
For Flexsteel to remain relevant in today’s marketing environment, the launch of Flexsteel.com brings a visual that is cleaner, brighter, bolder, and from a visual standpoint, much more in line with the look of a major specialty retailer.
Though aimed at a consumer audience, the site remains strictly B2B in support of the retailers that sell Flexsteel's products. "We recognize that the success of our business here at Flexsteel is directly tied to the success of our retail partners," says Jerry Dittmer, Chief Executive Officer. "Our goal was to develop a seamless experience linking our digital platform and our brick-and-mortar dealers to better meet the needs of today's consumers."
"Our website is about providing inspiration, information and communicating our brand story to shoppers," Mathur emphasizes. "The robust digital tools we now provide are designed to lead site visitors to retail stores to complete their purchase, and to assist those stores in positioning and promoting our brand to their customers.
Visualizing Custom Furniture
One of the new tools is digital draping — enabling site visitors to visualize and customize furniture styles and fabrics with a click. Visitors can choose a customizable silhouette from Flexsteel's expansive selection of sofas, chairs, and sectionals, and then personalize the look with your choice of more than 250 standard fabrics from the company's popular South Haven collection. Tap on a fabric and the tool immediately "drapes" your piece, fully covered in the chosen color and pattern. No guesswork necessary.
Users can then rotate the resulting image 360 degrees to view their selection from all angles, zooming in and out to study it closer. Among the choices included in the South Haven collection's simplified pricing program are performance fabrics with stain resistance, sustainable options and even fabrics with UV protection. Visitors to the site can also tap again to request a swatch be sent for a hands-on review.
When a Flexsteel.com visitor hits upon an ideal fabric and frame combination, they can add the image they have created to their favorites, email it to themselves, and/or share with friends, family members via social channels. Or simply print the image out to show a salesperson on the floor of a furniture store.
The Move to Omnichannel Marketing
Mathur is quick to note that the company's digital journey is just beginning. Even so, there are already more tools available here to help consumers create beautiful spaces than the company has previously provided. Along with the aforementioned draping tool, the newly interactive website is loaded with bolder, more inviting images, improved navigation, and a room planner. The room planning tool enables site visitors to move beyond customizing a piece of furniture, to actually placing the furniture in a space. "You input your room's dimensions, along with architectural elements like windows, doors and fireplaces, and the room planner makes it simple to choose from any of our products and design your entire room to scale," he explains.
While these new digital tools give consumers confidence about potential purchases, there is yet more to come. Virtual reality — the kind that enables users to actually move around inside a space they have created — figures prominently in the company's plans over the coming months.
In addition, the company's writing team has been developing fresh, informative, best-in-class content for the website that is conversational in tone, relatable and smart. The new site arrives with an ever-growing library of inspirational blogs packed with design ideas and advice, all aimed at helping people make more informed decisions. The new content is also seamlessly syndicated to the websites of Flexsteel retailers across the country, which ensures that no matter where consumers encounter the brand, the information they find will be accurate, up-to-the-minute, and consistent.
While Flexsteel.com is the most outward expression of Flexsteel's transformation into an omnichannel presence, Mathur reports that the company is also focusing on brand basics such as refreshed store signage and point-of-purchase materials, an updated, easy-to-use in-store kiosk, and a mobile app. There is also plenty of audience engagement at work through improved social outreach via Facebook, Instagram, and other channels.
"Our over-arching goal now is to create conversations with consumers, sharing what's new and how we're trying to position ourselves as a design leader," Mathur says. "We want to know who they are, what they think about us, and what we can do better. Rather than talk at people, we want to really communicate. And being truly omnichannel means that we need to be ready to talk whenever and wherever they want to have the conversation with us.”
"We're on a journey, and it's one that never actually ends," the executive adds. "Flexsteel accomplished wonderful things for more than 100 years, all of which were relevant for a company in the industrial age. Now, the marketplace has evolved, and we are transforming along with it. The end of our story is a long way from being written, but for us, the time has come to turn the next page."