Howard’s – Case Study

  • Howard’s, a home appliance retailer, was losing market share and being brought down by negative reviews. 
  • Redefine Marketing Group stepped in to help manage their online reputation, starting with responding to negative reviews and launching efforts to attain new positive ones. 
  • We also set up a robust content plan that would help draw in the brand’s target audience, helping it maintain and grow market share as it was drawn away by competitors.

Aiming to become America’s primary source of major appliances, Howard’s Appliance, TV & Mattress Store is setting new customer service standards with knowledgeable product specialists, design professionals, and even architects on hand to provide expert advice. Leading Southern California’s appliance scene for over 75 years, it was in 2019 that Howard’s pivoted to the direction that appliance giant Sears was – a financial spiral and the closure of multiple stores. 

With stores closing, the last thing that any brand wants is to lose market share – unfortunately, that’s exactly what Howard’s was experiencing. 

The challenge

Larger national competitors like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Best Buy were rapidly snatching up much of Howard’s standing market share. These brands had powerful reputations and brand resonance backing them – a brand resonance and awareness that Howard’s was missing among critical markets. To keep cooking with gas, Howard’s would need to get its name in front of Millennials, Gen X, and younger portions of the Boomer generation of shoppers – those making major appliance buying decisions. 

What’s worse, a slew of poor reviews on their website were not doing much to retain the much-needed brand resonance or build confidence in shoppers, especially those in their target demographic. 

Redefine’s solutions 

Redefine Marketing Group went all in on formulating a brand new digital marketing strategy to help capture that ideal demographic of shoppers. Once they’d found a way to hook that audience, they would eventually be able to win back that precious market share for the company. Reigniting growth on all fronts would only serve to help Howard’s in the long run. 

Improving online reputation  

With its foundations planted throughout the Southern California area, local SEO would depend on having a positive online reputation across the social media sites most commonly used by their demographics and within their Google Business Profile. Facebook and Yelp would be areas of heavy focus, as they’re not only heavy-hitting spots for their target audience but also crucial for shaping online reputation through reviews. A positive online reputation leads to customers getting through the door in person. 

Online reputation management (ORM) allows business owners to manage how their brand is perceived within SERPs – to a certain extent. The process entails keeping an ear out for places the brand is mentioned online and, importantly, hinges on how negative feedback is handled. It’s so effective that, according to Forbes, 97% of business owners consider ORM a critical part of their overall marketing strategy. 

Rankings and reviews 

Our first plan was to address response management and tackle those negative reviews. 

No business wants a negative review, but they’re inevitable – someone will find something to be displeased with, and simply deleting or sweeping negative reviews under the rug is not considered best practice. The best way to meet a negative review is to respond to it, and offer a solution or an explanation. 

In the case of Howard’s, we ensured that those negative reviews were handled respectfully and fielded to the customer service team, where they could work out a solution internally. Not only was this crucial in turning around the brand’s online reputation, but it would also uphold Howard’s ideal of robust, top-notch customer service. 

We also turned to ratings – the star rankings that customers were leaving the locations they’d visited. The team at Redefine dug deep into those rankings to discover that, at the start of the campaign, the average star rating across 15 locations was 3.95. We worked to draw in more positive reviews and rankings from in-store and online purchases. By the end, we’d boosted review volume and, in turn, the average ranking. By 2022, the average rating was a stellar 4.45 stars – peaking at 4.7 stars. 

Taking it a step further with insights 

At Redefine Marketing Group, we’re always looking to push the envelope further. We combed through and analyzed reviews collected between 2019 and 2022 to find oft-talked-about pain points from their customers. We uncovered that obstacles within the delivery experience most frequently disappointed or frustrated their customer base.

We let Howard’s in on the insights we’d extracted. This gave them an idea of where they needed to make adjustments or improvements within those processes, which helped turn around the sentiments expressed through reviews.

Content focus 

Content should not be skipped when it comes to a digital marketing strategy. To attain our goal of connecting with Howard’s target audience, our content approach would be to use written blogs to answer the questions they were asking. This would get eyes on the site’s landing pages and provide content that search engines and their algorithms consider ‘helpful.’ 

The first course of action was to create plenty of SEO-friendly content. We’d take a keyword, like ‘home appliances,’ and see what people within those demographics were searching for related to that keyword. Matching keyword intent would help Howard’s ‘corner the market,’ so to speak, on being an ‘expert’ in that topic. 

We also considered their target markets as we penned this content. For example, Millennials were likely beginning to live in their own places and might be looking to buy anything from eco-friendly home appliances to compact appliances that could fit in the small space of an apartment. 

While we were focusing on the target audiences, that’s not to say that every blog post was that strict, either. ‘Non-segmented posts that could appeal to all three tiers of their target audience and a broader one alike, would prove just as evergreen—and just as effective at drawing in more traffic. 

Driving engagement through social media 

The brand would need to ensure that it maintained a solid presence on the social media channels that worked best for it. With the topical research we’d gathered from creating our content topics, we lined up posting calendars for key social media hotspots, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Posts. Working in tandem with the marketing team, Redefine took to social media to promote giveaways and sweepstakes. 

The results were as desired: Howard’s online following was activated and engaged, interacting with their content in a big way. 

Across three different giveaways or sweepstakes campaigns, Howard’s enjoyed an 18,300 increase in organic reach, audience growth of 1,400 followers across platforms, and a massive uptick in overall engagement. 

The result 

By the end of our hard-working campaign with Howard’s, we took a step back to see if we’d met our goals – and we, and the marketing team at Howard’s, were pleased with the results. With over 5.8k page-one rankings and their average review rating bumping up by 17%, they managed to net 3,200 more referring domains. This all led to customer acquisition increasing by 44%.

Page 1 rankings Average review ratingCustomer Acquisition Referring domains   

Redefining response management 

How a brand is perceived online is more crucial than ever, especially when it comes to keeping a tight hold on an increasingly competitive market. This was true to Howard’s as it tried to retain its own market share against the powerful pull of national brands like Lowe’s and Best Buy. The problem is that online response and reputation management can be complicated and time-consuming. That’s where we can help. 

If you need help mitigating reviews, creating a winning content plan, or developing a social media strategy that works, contact Redefine Marketing Group today. We are a team of enthusiastic experts who can get your brand on the right track to retaining and growing your online search presence.

Author avatar
Stephanie Fehrmann
Stephanie was an SEO content writer before transitioning to a management role. As the co-founder and Head of Content at RMG, she oversees everything from the development of content strategies and content creation to day-to-day office operations. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Journalism, and enjoys showing clients the power and versatility of content.
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