The Container Store is often referred to as the creator of the organization category at retail since its founding in 1978, but the company is slowing losing its edge.
Lackluster holiday sales in 2018 led to profits falling more than 30% from previous years, which is likely related to the ever-shifting retail landscape, the prominence of Amazon and the fact consumers have more shopping options than ever.
The retailer’s approach to marketing is effective in many areas, but here’s what they can do take their efforts to the next level and reclaim the organization category again.
Go In-Depth with Video
The projects section on the Container Store’s website is one of the best resources the company offers featuring hundreds of projects to help customers get organized.
These organizing tutorials cover everything from ‘how to organize jewelry’ to ‘how to organize under a kitchen sink’ often with step-by-step written instructions, a short video demonstration and a downloadable checklist of all the materials and products needed.
This content works for the Container Store because it provides easy to follow instructions for a vast range of projects their customers might be considering.
In addition, these tutorials help their website rank in search, can be repurposed for sharing on social media and help with the discovery of their content on YouTube when videos are included.
Suggested Improvement: However, the viewership is low on many of their how-to videos, which can be improved by producing videos that are between two and five minutes long.
Most of their videos on YouTube, especially the ones embedded in their tutorials, are one minute and under in terms of length— 72% of all their videos are that short.
These videos aren’t bad, but it limits their ability to provide value to viewers when they’re that short and are less likely to be discovered on YouTube by a wider audience.
YouTube’s algorithm values watch time, the total time viewers spend watching your videos, on a channel when recommending videos for discovery.
That’s why videos of two to five minutes tend to be the sweet spot when finding the balance between making a concise video and catering to YouTube.
Don’t create longer videos for the sake of it, but choose topics of interest to the Container Store audience that need a few minutes of explanation.
The point of increasing watch time and viewership of these videos is to improve how they rank in Google and YouTube search to reach more of the right people searching for these topics — especially since these videos are already being produced anyways.
Feature People More Prominently
The Container Store is known for its ongoing commitment to conscious-capitalism, the practice of companies being led by a distinct set of ethics and values beyond profit.
For the Container Store, they’ve focused heavily on supporting their employees through building a supportive and collaborative corporate culture.
This commitment to people has led to the organization being listed on ‘Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For’ for 19 years in a row and an annual store employee turnover rate of only 10% as compared to the 67% that most retail stores experience.
With employees happier, better trained and highly compensated, the experience provided to the Container Store customers is often superior to what’s offered elsewhere.
Suggested Improvement: However, people aren’t featured that often in the company’s marketing which is a missed opportunity to highlight its values, but most of all, humanize the organization to showcase more personality.
For instance, customers, employees, and influencers are only featured a handful of times on the company’s social media accounts and primary blog.
Over the last six months, people were only included in the photos and videos the brand shared four times on Instagram, 12 times on the blog, 24 times on Facebook and three times on their Twitter.
It’s not that the company never features people as their YouTube videos over the same time period include people using their products as well as voice-overs and their “What We Stand For” blog, includes a series featuring their employee’s organizing projects.
One way the Container Store could better personalize its marketing efforts is by consistently using Instagram Stories to feature the people behind the brand.
With 500 million daily users, Instagram Stories is an opportunity to be less polished and share useful information about organizing from their leading experts at the company.
It would be beneficial to bring people to the forefront of their marketing more often to purposefully showcase their guiding principles and make the company more relatable.
Prioritize Partnerships with Top Voices
One method of expanding your customer base is partnering with relevant companies and influencers, a technique the Container Store has embraced in a variety of ways.
In the past, the Container Store has highlighted products that align with the rustic decor themes popularized by the HGTV show Fixer Upper, worked with the widely popular home organizers the Home Edit and sold Marie Kondo’s book in their stores to keep pace with some of the most vocal voices in home organization, storage and decor.
Suggested Improvement: While there are costs to any partnership, the Container Store stands to benefit by working more closely with industry leaders of all sizes.
One opportunity worth reviewing further is working with the Home Edit during the launch of their upcoming home organization book that’s at the top of the Amazon charts.
One King’s Lane, Serena & Lily, the Silos (the Joanna and Chip Gaine’s property) and others are hosting stops on their book tour and the Container Store should as well.
The Instagram famous Home Edit attracts a large following of people looking to better organize their lives, which is a great opportunity to host them for a book signing and attract the event attendees to their retail stores solely focused on organizing.
Another partnership worth exploring is working closely with or at least more actively embracing the Marie Kondo movement, recently reignited with her new Netflix show.
Most of the media coverage discussing the popularity of Maria Kondo’s new show has also included discussions of the Container Store as seen in Bloomberg, Vox, Money, the Washington Post, Fast Company and elsewhere.
But what’s missing is the Container Store’s opinion on the matter as this is a definite opportunity to respond and take part in the conversation in a purposeful way.
The Container Store could approach this formally and explore becoming a featured advertiser on future episodes of the show, most likely through product placement.
Or this could be done informally in the short-term by writing articles and social media posts recapping the latest season of the Netflix show and exploring the design trends and the types of products featured in each episode, similar to a shopping guide.
The goal here is to bring the Container Store into the conversations happening across the industry in a relevant way that aligns with the current interests of their customers.
Advertise to Urbanites Living in Smaller Spaces
The custom closets category has proven to be profitable for the Container Store and is an area that the brand is exploring to see if it makes sense to invest in further.
As part of their upgraded Dallas-based flagship store, the brand is testing a range of new in-store offerings to attract customers at retail like the ability to schedule a free session with an organization expert to design your closet or another project.
Customers interested in custom closets are usually homeowners, which are typically a higher income clientele for the brand to attract and sell to across categories.
On average, first time home buyers are 32 years old and have a household income of $75,000 according to the National Association of Relators.
Suggested Improvement: Beyond reaching affluent homeowners, another category of customers to focus on more actively are city residents living in smaller apartments.
For most renters in a city, space is at a premium which requires a unique approach to storage and organization in order to make the most of an apartment.
However, IKEA has long been the go-to furniture and home goods stores for young professionals looking for affordable options that work in small spaces.
It’s important to compete for the attention of this demographic because 36% of U.S. households are renter-occupied with 50% of these renters under 30 years old.
This could be accomplished through creating more resources for the Container Store blog, YouTube channel and social media accounts that provide organizing suggestions to demographics living in cities, renters and anyone living in smaller accommodations.
To ensure this content being created to serve younger city residents actually reaches them, consider paying to have this content distributed by the right publishers.
Investing in these customers earlier in their lifecycle allows the Container Store to provide value to them in the long-term from their time as renters to when they become homeowners.
Optimize for Pinterest Traffic
Home organization can be very visually appealing, which is one of the reasons why the Container Store’s content is seen by over 10 million monthly viewers on Pinterest.
The company also regularly updates its Pinterest account with images of their latest products and projects that have been added to their website and blog.
In addition, their product pages, projects and blog posts include Pinterest sharing buttons making it easier for visitors to share the brand’s images to their own accounts.
According to BuzzSumo, Pinterest drove the most engagement to the Container Store’s content in 2018 over other social networks with an average of 496 Pinterest engagements across 346 articles.
Suggested Improvement: To increase the engagement, traffic, and sales driven from their Pinterest activity, the Container Store can more effectively optimize the images shared on their website and the images uploaded to their account as pins.
When someone currently pins an image from the Container Store’s product pages or articles on their blog, they choose an image to pin based on what’s already on the page.
However, most images included on their website — or any site for that matter — aren’t likely large enough size-wise or vertically oriented for optimal sharing on Pinterest.
To improve the effectiveness of any pinned images, have a Pinterest friendly visual appear as an option for sharing when someone uses the Pinterest sharing button.
This way they’re able to provide an image for visitors to pin for each page that it is vertically oriented, high-quality, sized correctly and includes an accurate description.
The image doesn’t appear on the page or disrupt the experience on the product listing or article as it only visible as an option for sharing on Pinterest.
This can be accomplished through custom development on the website or through using a specialized social sharing plugin that provides these options for Pinterest.
As far as the images uploaded to their Pinterest account directly as pins, some of these visuals should include text and multiple images within the same pin for more context.
Single image pins are still important to upload as the primary type of content shared to a Pinterest account, but intermixing pins with more information encourages interaction.
For example, this pin from the Container Store highlights different shoe storage options to consider and includes text that says ‘Shoe Storage Made Easy’.
Similarly, this pin from Greatist, a healthy lifestyle publication, includes two high quality images with text in the middle providing additional context as to what the pin leads to.
Upload more of these types of pins to the Container Store’s Pinterest account to provide helpful details to pinners and as a result, increase the engagement these pins drive.
Incorporating both approaches to sharing visuals on Pinterest can help improve the impact the Container Store has with its audience active on the social network.
If you’re familiar with the Container Store, how should they level-up their efforts with marketing or otherwise? Share in the comments.
Brian Honigman is the author of this piece and a leading marketing consultant. He’s the author of numerous marketing courses for NYU and LinkedIn, an executive coach for marketers and corporate leaders and instructor of corporate training programs for organizations like the United Nations and Thomson Reuters. Contact him to schedule a training or a coaching call.