September 23, 2010, 9:42 AM

Ashley Furniture embraces social media

The store-based retailer hopes to get consumers talking about furniture.

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Ashley Furniture HomeStore, which sells only through brick-and-mortar stores, has taken its first steps into social media in an effort to engage consumers and provide product tips. Shoppers still have to buy furniture at Ashley’s chain of more than 300 independently owned retail stores, but the company hopes to boost those sales through Facebook and other sites.

Ashley Furniture worked with iCrossing, a digital marketing agency, to create the social media strategy. The retailer maintains a corporate web site that features product and promotional information, but all sales happen at stores.

Ashley makes no apology for embracing social media later than many other retailers. “We knew we wanted to be there and do it correctly with a strategy,” says Stacy Roshto, the retailer’s director of web strategy and digital media.  “It took time to plan and organize. We wanted to stack our cards for success.”

Besides its new Facebook page, Ashley Furniture has a presence on Twitter, YouTube and photo-sharing site Flickr. Individual store owners can maintain social media placements for their own stores, Roshto says.

Ashley Furniture hopes to use social media to encourage brand engagement for consumers and to spur consumers to talk with one other about Ashley products. For example, consumers can share and comment on photographs of their favorite furniture pieces with other visitors on the company’s Facebook page. Roshto says the company also will help spark conversations among shoppers by posting content, such as the best way to clean furniture.        

“So many times brands use social media incorrectly and if you do something wrong you don’t get a lot of second chances,” she says. “We are positioning this as a place consumers can go to for robust information and for fun.”

The company plans to market its social media program through in-store promotions and print advertisements. Ashley also is working with City of Hope, a cancer center, to drive Facebook “Likes” for Ashley Furniture. For every consumer who “Likes” Ashley Furniture, the company will donate 25 cents to the center.

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