Many lighting showrooms have customers walk in weekly with a page they’ve printed out from the Web site Houzz.com, asking where they could buy a particular lighting fixture for their home. At this year’s ALA Conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., Mike Stern of Houzz.com, provided guidance for retailers wishing to create their own page on Houzz that could help drive traffic into their stores.
Stern, who had worked for a general contractor before joining Houzz in its early stages, reassured the audience that it was quite simple to create a profile on the site. However, details make the difference. “The more information you put on your Houzz profile, the more readers you’ll have,” Stern said. “Basically, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”
The Importance of Badges
Stern explained that there are “badges,” such as “Best of Houzz” that businesses can earn. The “Best of Houzz” badge marks people who are exceptional in regard to customer reviews plus their level of participation in the Houzz community. “For example, if you answer photo questions [regarding whose products are in a particular photo, etc.], that type of activity will also help your ranking,” he said.
The “Design” badge relates to the number of times your photos are saved to other users’ Idea Books (a virtual compilation of images the user has saved for future reference).
The “Influencer” badge is new to Houzz and rewards those experts who put content into the discussion areas of the site.
Stern also advocated using “Affiliation” badges (i.e. NKBA, NARI) on your page. “That way, consumers can see that you are participating in the educational efforts of that community. It gives you more credibility,” he noted. When someone clicks on the badge, they will be taken to the Houzz page for that organization. “Having that organization’s Affiliation badge on your profile allows you to be found in a more targeted directory,” he said, adding that an ALA Professional badge will debut in the near future.
How Consumers Use Houzz
“The number one way that consumers find a business on Houzz is through the Photo Search function,” Stern said. The more specific you are in captioning your photos, the better: For example, “recessed lighting in Vancouver, Washington.” The more recent a photo is, the more often it is “saved” to an Ideabook, according to Stern. Why? Since the site is continually updated, the most recent photo postings appear at the top of the Search page.
The second most common method that consumers use to navigate Houzz is through keywords.
“Get specific with what’s in your photos so they become more targeted in the search,” Stern said. “Don’t just put ‘rug,’ but ‘black and white pattern rug.’ Users will also use a finish name/color as the keyword.”
Tagging photos can always be done at a later date, if need be. Stern recommended doing a search for your own business name and a product you carry to make a tag.
Buying/Selling on Houzz
As of 2015, there is a “Marketplace” listing on Houzz that works in conjunction with the “Shop” function.
“People can purchase products through Houzz using Marketplace,” Stern remarked. “It’s like an Amazon.com-style of marketplace for the renovation industry.” He noted that Lighting has become the second most popular category in “Shop.”
Can anyone sell a lighting manufacturer’s products on Houzz? The answer is no. “We only want people/companies who would normally be selling that product through traditional channels,” Stern clarified.
While it is free for a lighting showroom to have a profile page, upload limitless photos, and perform tagging on Houzz, there is a more advanced opportunity available called the ProPlus program.
“The ProPlus program is Houzz’s source of revenue,” Stern explained. “By having a ProPlus account, your business will be able to be searched by area – such as by county or zip code – or by more specific searches such as by brand name.” Participating in the ProPlus program does not have a set price; instead, the fee is on a sliding scale depending on what the company wants to have. “Houzz works with the company to customize [features] à la carte.”
“One of the advantages of having a paid page is that your business can show up in searches of different areas if that is one of the features you wanted. For example, if someone is looking for interior designers in Newport Beach, but you are located in Irvine, you can pay to have your company show up in that search criteria.”
It is important to note that while lighting manufacturers can set up a profile page on Houzz, they are not allowed to have a “Shop” button for consumers to buy direct or show pricing.
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“Having that organization’s Affiliation badge on your profile allows you to be found in a more targeted directory.”
The Reviews Process
Much like Amazon.com, Houzz offers a starred Reviews section. “When a review is submitted, it does not automatically go live,” Stern said. “We go over it to make sure the person is correctly articulating the experience. Harsh language is not allowed. If the review is negative (under 3 stars), we will call and ask the person submitting the review why their experience was negative in order to better understand the situation. We want to make sure the problem wasn’t because of something that was out of the provider’s control, such as a weather or traffic event. If the complaint is about service at the store, we will need some sort of proof – like a receipt – that the person actually went into that store.”
The company that provided the service is also given the opportunity to respond to the review. “At Houzz, it’s important that we give you a voice. That helps with the ‘warm relationship’ that you can build with clients,” Stern noted. Naturally, the more reviews a company receives, the higher up on the list of providers they go. The back-and-forth between customer and company on a review ends with that company’s response. “The person who writes a negative review and receives a response from you will not be able to then reply to your response,” he said. Similarly, Houzz also monitors company responses as well.
According to Stern, the most active section of Houzz.com is the “Advice” section. “This is where people are coming to hang out,” he stated. “It’s a very active section because it is made up of people who are starting to source their project.”
To get involved, Stern suggested lighting showrooms and manufacturers search “lighting” in that section. “This is where you can go to jump in. You can narrow your search in Advice by territory [to answer the questions of potential customers], but you don’t have to. Basically, when you offer advice in this section, you are putting your brand out there with the chance that someone will find you. Depending on how you answered their questions, consumers can gauge your level of knowledge on the topic.”
In evaluating the site’s statistics, Stern revealed that consumers typically take up to six months to decide who they want to work with on their project. “They’ll notice you if you’re very active,” he said.
How to Use Idea Books
“The cornerstone of Houzz has always been its Idea Books,” Stern remarked. “You can create Idea Books on any topic, such as Chandeliers or Landscape Lighting, or Pendants. You can then tell a client in your store, ‘Go to my Houzz page and look at my Chandelier Idea Book,” he noted. “You can also ‘share’ your Idea Book by using the ‘collaborate’ button, which will give your client editing privileges. You can also mark the shared Idea Book as ‘private,’ so that only you and your customer can see it. By going through the products you offer in this manner, they can essentially ‘shop’ your store at home.” As part of the Collaborate function, you and your client can also write comments to one another (the conversation appears in the Comments section that only you and your client can see).”
Participating on Houzz.com gives your company additional exposure to consumers regarding your services and product assortment and establishes your store as an important resource.