Furniture manufacturer La-Z-Boy has switched up its marketing message to communicate critical information and highlight its digital shopping features. After an initial shock of retail sales in March, online sales for furniture have bounced back, says Eli Winkler, La-Z-Boy’s chief marketing officer.

During the coronavirus pandemic, furniture brand manufacturer La-Z-Boy Inc., like many other merchants, had to change its marketing strategy.

Typically, La-Z-Boy’s marketing has two main messages. One message is the brand sells and manufactures a broad range of furniture for the entire home, not just its well-known recliner. And the other message is that the retailer can offer quick customization of its products because it is a brand manufacturer. Beyond these two messages, the brand will also try to promote its free design services for consumers.

La-Z-Boy focuses on customer communication

Now, however, the retailer is focused on communicating critical information, such as whether its stores are open or not, and if orders are on time or delayed, to help the consumer feel informed and confident, says Eli Winkler, La-Z-Boy’s chief marketing officer.

“We’ve really tried to be sensitive to what consumers are facing, the reality that their needs are evolving and that no two people are the same,” he says.

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For example, La-Z-Boy now offers private appointments in its stores. A consumer can schedule an appointment online for before or after hours and then shop alone in the store. It also has a portion of its SKUs available in 3D so consumer can design their space using augmented reality to see what the furniture looks like in their home, also without visiting a store.

La-Z-Boy adjusted marketing strategy to relate to the coronavirus moment

Also within its marketing messages, the brand has switched up its content to cater to consumers in different situations. For example, some consumers have more time on their hands than usual and are looking to fill it. Therefore, La-Z-Boy provides content, such as Facebook posts, about how to create a pillow fort with a family, or about snuggling up on the couch. La-Z-Boy declined to share how its adjusted its marketing budget during the coronavirus, although it continues to market on it’s usual digital channels, including social media and YouTube, Winkler says.

La-Z-Boy’s social media ads appear to be making an impact on its website traffic during the pandemic, although it’s had more limited results with paid search, referrals and display ads, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb Ltd. In March and April 2020, paid search generated 8.9% of U.S. desktop traffic to La-Z-Boy.com, social media generated 3.2% of traffic, referrals 1.5% and display ads 3.9%. This is compared with the average during 12-month period February 2019-2020, when paid search generated roughly 14.9% of of U.S. desktop traffic, social 2.0%, referrals 2.7% and display ads 8.9% . (Traffic coming from email, organic search, and direct from the site generate the remaining share.)

While furniture sales at the start of the pandemic were almost exclusively for home office pieces, other furniture categories began to see a lift after a few weeks, Winkler says. Now, online sales from all of its furniture categories are rebounding, including patio furniture sales, which have their normal spring-time increases, Winkler says without revealing exact figures.

“In March there was this initial shock to the system across all of retail,” Winkler says.

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“As consumers have been home for weeks and months now, they are starting to recognize perhaps it’s time for a change, or their furniture wasn’t as comfortable as they once thought,” he adds.

Although, website traffic continues to be down for La-Z-Boy.com since February 2020, according to SimilarWeb data. The ecommerce site had 1.69 million U.S. site visitors in February 2020, before dropped it 1.03 million in March, and then 750,800 in April, according to SimilarWeb. May traffic is starting to rebound, as in the 28-day period at the start of May, La-Z-Boy.com generated 1.25 million site visits in the U.S. By comparison, the site had with 1.65 million U.S. site visits in May 2019.

La-Z-Boy launches ‘thank you’ campaign for healthcare workers

One reason for the traffic rebound could be it’s most recent marketing campaign. In mid-May, La-Z-Boy launched a campaign dedicated to healthcare workers and plans to donate $1 million worth of furniture to healthcare workers. The idea is that healthcare workers can have a comfortable place to come home to when they do have a chance to come home and spend meaningful time with their families, Winkler says.

La-Z-Boy is working with the American Nurses Association and local hospitals near its Michigan headquarters to select the medical professionals. The organizations will then reach out to the recipients by mid-summer, offer them the choice of a sofa, chair or recliner, and deliver the product by late summer and early fall.

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The brand will continue to reach out to medical professionals until it hits $1 million, but Winkler is confident it will donate furniture to at least 1,000 people. The recipients are randomly selected from a pool of front-line nurses, and no one has been selected yet, he says.

The video campaign also encourages consumers to say thank you to healthcare workers by taking a picture and posting it on social media with the hashtag “#OneMillionThanks.”

Over the course of a few weeks, La-Z-Boy worked with a few of its marketing vendors, including ad agencies RPA and Zimmerman Advertising, to produce the campaign, he says.

La-Z-Boy, No. 440 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, has promoted the video on paid social channels and within its own digital marketing campaigns. The brand has not been targeting a certain demographic. Winkler emphasizes that this is La-Z-Boy’s way of showing thanks and it’s not about gaining recognition.

The response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and “tremendous,” Winkler says without revealing figures.

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“One Million Thanks is also a very different endeavor for La-Z-Boy in that it’s aimed at generating support rather than spurring sales and is, therefore, not being evaluated in the same way previous marketing campaigns have been,” La-Z-Boy says. It would not reveal how is it evaluating this campaign.

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