When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it disrupted the typical customer purchase journey in a big way for Sofology. Before purchasing online, 80 percent of their customers typically wish to visit a store to complete the ‘sit test’, and make sure they are completely happy with the product before opening their wallets to a sizeable purchase. National and regional lockdowns obviously made that very challenging.
Like many businesses across the UK, Sofology was at that time managing listings on a channel-by-channel basis, with employees sporadically updating the likes of Google and Facebook on an ad hoc basis and unable to manage many other search platforms. This combined with the brand’s growth and the opening of new stores (there are currently over 50, across the UK) was making it harder to keep customers informed throughout the pandemic.
Without a central platform to manage UK wide store listings, Sofology was unable to effectively inform customers of store hour changes and closures, which was crucial in enabling them to conduct the all-important 'sit test' and complete their purchase.
With the explosion of information and data online, Sofology realised that search has never been more important. However, while the world of consumer search has innovated over time, enterprise search has not. In fact, the majority of enterprise search is powered by outdated keyword technology that only scans for keywords and delivers a list of hyperlinks rather than actually answering questions.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the upheaval of the customer journey which left their businesses like theirs, which rely on customers entering stores, to look for new ways to stay connected and keep customers informed. Adaptations were needed to cope with that shift, and they identified that a robust, data-driven approach to operations was required to allow customer satisfaction to remain central to the business.
It was apparent that there was a huge opportunity to increase sales by driving more people to the stores where they could build a basket and then complete the transaction at home. Sofology identified that reliable listings would make it possible to achieve this. Customers would then be able to do their research online, come into store to do the ‘sit-test’ and finally complete their purchase from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
Using the Yext platform, they were able to construct what they called a Knowledge Graph, to serve as a central database (or ‘source of truth’) for all of the company’s information for every store, across over 200 search endpoints. This made it easy to ensure listings were always updated and accurate, unlike the more ad hoc approach they employed previously. Having solid, reliable information made it much easier to move customers to the next stage of their sales journey.
The platform also allowed Sofology to take its listings to the next level and make information as compelling as possible, by including additional details such as wheelchair accessibility, free parking and other amenities, meaning customers were now able to make informed decisions and choose the store that’s best for them. Meanwhile the AI-powered platform was able to understand natural language, so customers could be given direct answers to their online questions rather than just links.
- 7x ROI from foot traffic in the back half of 2020 alone
- 33 percent YOY click growth in year one, with a location information focus
- 95 percent YOY click growth in year two, with a focus on product information
What the client said
“Without a central platform to manage the operational side of things, we simply wouldn’t have been able to effectively inform customers of store hour changes and closures,” said James Robinson, Head of Conversion Rate Optimisation at Sofology. “So making store listings accurate was key in boosting conversion. To be able to post updates and do it instantly was crucial. Yext has been instrumental in helping us to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.”