Third-generation owner John Hoelscher with son Matthew, who helped spur the company’s digital evolution.
MTEQ proves a force multiplier for this South Texas dealer
By Alan Wolf, YSN
Residents of the San Antonio bedroom communities of Pleasanton and Floresville, Texas, have long turned to Hoelscher’s Fine Furniture, Appliances and Electronics for all their big-ticket home goods needs.
Founded in 1949 by A.T. “Pappy” Hoelscher, the company started out selling tractors, but prompted by a faulty product line from International Harvester, switched to furniture and appliances in 1963.
Today the business is led by third-generation owner John Hoelscher, who prides himself on a wide selection of styles and price points, a friendly and knowledgeable sales staff, and “the best overall value in town.” Furniture currently comprises about 72% of the product mix, followed by appliances and a smattering of consumer electronics (a holdover from the past, when Hoelscher’s hosted in-store RadioShack shops). But, as Hoelscher notes, the exact ratios are always in flux, depending on consumer demand and marketplace conditions.
The family hitched its wagon to BrandSource more than 15 years ago, after first testing the waters with two other buying groups. The Hoelschers were initially drawn to BrandSource’s merchandising might in appliances and electronics, and the fact that the group was “more in tune with our business,” he said. And, with the nearest big-box competitors a comfortable 50 miles away, that was plenty enough at the time.
But the company also has an eye on growth, having branched out from its Pleasanton roots to open a showroom in the Floresville market, and a third location remains a possibility. However, Hoelscher came to realize that even added real estate had its limits if you continue serving the same, aging customer base.
Enter Hoelscher’s son Matthew, a fourth-generation, 30-something principal who saw the value in digital marketing but lacked the hyper-precision of AVB Marketing’s tools to pinpoint specific ZIP codes and audiences. Beginning with the group’s proprietary Alta e-commerce website and expanding into digital advertising under AVB Marketing’s guidance, the Hoelschers began seeing “different age groups coming in that wouldn’t normally be in our stores,” Hoelscher said. “We brought in younger traffic, a different mix, by going after customers where we don’t have a physical presence.”
By leveraging AVB Marketing’s easily-implemented technology, the business was able to extend its market reach out to a radius of 150 miles, drawing in both new customers and new consumer segments with its digital lasso. But it didn’t end there; buoyed by their success, the Hoelschers began adding additional services from AVB Marketing’s tool chest, otherwise known as MTEQ (marketing + technology).
For Hoelscher’s, these seamlessly integrated initiatives include the HUB, a customer relationship management tool (CRM) that lets you create and send quotes to customers via text or email, and such in-store marvels as KIOSQ and digital price tags. The former is essentially a freestanding, silent salesperson that allows customers to shop an endless aisle of inventory from an interactive display, while the electronic price tags, supplied by industry leader SES-imagotag, assure accurate, up-to-the-minute pricing and product information on the sales floor.
Controlled by AVB Marketing’s LINQ backend system, the price tags’ displays are automatically adjusted every morning and afternoon. The on-the-fly updates are based on scrapes of competitors’ pricing and any specific parameters set by the Hoelschers — in this case, a $20-higher delta, given the long distances to the nearest box stores.
“The prices change to keep us competitive,” Hoelscher said. “It’s a very nice program.”
Hoelscher also likes the mix-and-match nature of the MTEQ offerings. “There are different options you can use,” he said. “If we see one thing doing better than another and it’s making us money, we can spend more on it. If something’s not doing as well, we can move the money to another bucket.”
Occasionally, those kinds of decisions lead to a bit of contention between father and son, although Hoelscher concedes that Matthew has the upper hand in all things digital. “There’s a total difference between me and Matthew,” he said. “He’s more technically-minded. Me, I still use two fingers on the keyboard.” Fortunately for all BrandSource members, the hunt-and-peck approach is plenty sufficient, given the ease with which the MTEQ solutions can be plugged in to dealers’ existing systems.
Those solutions were especially welcome last year, given the inventory imbalances that impacted furniture dealers in particular. But with hard work, long hours and AVB Marketing’s support, business was up for Hoelscher’s. “With all the bumps and bruises from everything that went on, you were lucky if you were above the previous year,” Hoelscher said. “And we were.”
Indeed, according to AVB Marketing Account Executive Shiloh Carlson, “Hoelscher’s saw the benefits of their digital marketing, email advertising and website optimizations, with an average 40% increase in their online conversions year-over-year in 2022.”
As for father and son, any disagreements over digital allocations are left on the doorstep. “We do everything and anything that needs to get done,” Hoelscher said. “If a truck needs to be unloaded, Matthew and I are out there”— confident in the knowledge that Hoelscher’s digital engines are running smoothly.
YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.