Furniture Row Polishes Its Email Reputation

Beginning with a single store in 1974, Furniture Row has grown into a national chain known for its tagline “Real Furniture. Real Value.” with over 350 stores in more than 30 states. But it needed to do a better job of getting its emails into inboxes.

The company sends from 45 million to 50 million email messages a year. But “we noticed issues we didn’t quite understand,” says James Einspahr, head of the digital team at Furniture Row.

One was that it might take time to reach certain inboxes. 

“For instance, we might do a two-day sale, and see Yahoo email not hit until two days later,” Einspahr says. “We don’t want to have to eat sales prices when those sales are no longer taking place.” 

On a broader front, the company was suffering from reputational issues, receiving only a moderate rating from Google.   

It’s even possible that the brand was damaged by possible hijacking and by mistakes within the company — “the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing,” Einspahr explains.



It wasn’t easy to deal with all that. “The big internet service providers — Google, Microsoft — were giving us a problem,” Einspahr says. “A lot of time, you don’t get a lot of information back.”

Late in 2016, Furniture Row started talking to 250ok, and began working with that firm early the next year.

It soon went through a rigorous examination of its operation, and quickly implemented DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance).

“Part of the entire process was getting onboard their platform, using their tools, not only to get DMARC set up but also to visualize and show data and see the levels of rejection status,” Einspahr continues.

“It started with the audit, and we helped manage the process,” says 250ok’s Matthew Vernhout. “’This is legit, this is not,  this is coming from an internal source or an unknown system.” That led to the setting of standards.   

Since then, open rates have gone from the low- to mid 20s to the mid-to high 20s. Einspahr correlates that with the 10 to 15% improvement in inbox placement.

And that may be due to finally reaching a high reputation level in Google.  That equates to big numbers. 

“When 60% of users are Gmail users, you start getting pretty big gains,” Einspahr says.

Meanwhile, the relationship with 250ok has broadened. “We process all the reporting they receive, and report back to them,” Vernhout says. “They have a snapshot whether policy is changed, whether a new mail source is fraudulent.”

Finally, the chain has changed  email service providers and is now working with Cordial.

Furniture Row has a wide audience, but is slightly skewed more to females. People tend to shop for furniture during life events—“they graduate, buy their first apartment, get married, buy their first house, have kids, buy a bigger house,” Einspahr says. 

It has some e-commerce business, but it largely still has a brick-and-mortar model. “When you’re dealing with tactiles like furniture, you want to touch it, feel it, sit on it — it’s part of the equation,” James says. That said, the firm is moving toward making a bigger push online.

The email program is now rolling along nicely, with copy and all other elements being handled in-house. The company sends a number of promotional emails, with a sale going out once or twice a week.

In addition, it sends engagement emails on style and home design “so people are not blasted by promotion, promotion, promotion,” Einspahr contends. And there are cart-abandonment emails and other transactional messages. One recent email featured a turquoise theme. “Cool & contemporary,” it said. “This contemporary room features pieces in various cool blue hues and splashes of intense aquamarine. The room’s white rug and darker occasional tables serve as the neutral backdrop to these pops of color.”

The call to action states: “Explore Cool Hues.”

What’s next? The firm hopes to leverage BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) an authentication standard that some call DMARC 2.0. Among other things, it can display the brand’s logo in real estate controlled by the email application and within the emails themselves — but only for authenticated emails.

As befits a firm with a high reputation score, Furniture Row is careful not to be intrusive.  “In today’s digital space there has to be, a balance — we want to be there when they want us to be there, and not be there when they don’t,” Einspahr concludes.  

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