Unify your brand’s store and online experience to create connected customer journeys
As lockdowns and quarantines became the norm in 2020, consumers found their homes to serve a more multi-functional purpose in accommodating remote work, homeschooling, and home exercise. Curating a comfortable home environment wasn’t just a luxury; it became a necessity.
The furniture/homeware industry's growth increasingly finds consumers pivoting from bricks to clicks. This new dynamic has created an opportunity for savvy home retailers to reimagine their ecommerce strategy using cutting-edge technology to unify their store and online experience for consumers. For example, one quick improvement furniture/homeware retailers can improve their customer’s experience is to offer curbside pickup, which is easily deployable in just two weeks with the right innovative technology.
Store-based retailers, such as Home Depot Inc. and Macy’s Inc., display a fraction of their furniture in a store while encouraging shoppers with in-store displays extending their brand's experience online with a more extensive assortment of sizes, color, and fabric.
Forecasts prove the rise in creating thoughtfully-curated homes will continue. Statista projects revenue in furniture and homeware is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2020-2025) of 3.1%, resulting in a projected market volume of $61.21M by 2025. With a projected rate of 27.7%, the furniture and homeware segment's user penetration is highest in the United Kingdom, followed by Norway (25.9%) and the United States (22.9%).
Companies selling furniture and homeware online in the UK and Ireland enjoyed a 318% YoY increase in traffic in Q2 as consumers were confined to home. As stores reopened in Q3, online surges continued, and traffic remained 113% up on the previous year.
Top Observations Driving Online Retail
In a recent roundtable discussion organized by OSF Digital and led by Craig Smith, Retail Digital Transformation Director at Salesforce, and James Bruce, Director of Commerce Experience at OSF Digital, leaders in the homeware industry explained how they are adapting their digital and commerce strategy to exceed their customer’s post-COVID expectations. They offer their top insights here:
- Because of the pandemic, homeware retailers are feeling optimistic about growth, expecting to see increased traffic organically, which creates dramatic savings in YoY PPC budgets
- The shift from bricks to clicks require brands to restrategize their ecommerce plans to focus on unifying in-store and online experiences to create a connected journey
- Customers enjoy engaging with VP and AR technologies such as room planning; however, leaders found it’s the human connections through live chat that have the most impact on conversion
6 Recommendations to Create a Seamless Experience
Homeware leaders engaged with the roundtable discussion recognized a “pent up demand” of consumers, focusing on how to deliver an ecommerce solution best to keep customers completing transactions online. The most successful retailers were homeware leaders who already had an ecommerce digital solution in motion when COVID-19 hit. Here are the roundtable recommendations:
1) Blend online/in-store experiences: Homeware leaders noticed while customers are now more willing to buy online, they may still want to try out a sofa first. With larger showroom space, it’s more accessible to social distance. Currently, they combine sales efforts to create a one-way video tour where someone in a store can show a customer the sofa online and speak to its qualities and benefits.
2) Budget for visual search: This technology allows consumers to take photos of their kitchen, and then a homeware goods web site shows a similar product that would look good in their kitchen. Leaders recognize a gap between making visual search easy to use but appealing enough to a broad audience to justify the purchase; however, they believe it’s wise to budget heavily for these types of technology innovations to stand out and get better ROI.
3) Use samples to convert customers: Customers still want to see a product in their own home, so flooring samples help in this regard. A buyer’s journey may take weeks and multiple visits; samples continue to be a strong indication of interest.
4) Human connection still outplays tech:People want guidance and the chance to talk to someone before making large purchases, so homeware retailers have found a salesperson in-store or via chat significantly helps finalize a sale.
5) Rethink supply chains: With a clear desire to reinvigorate homes, consumers will have far less tolerance in the future to wait for 6 to 8 weeks for large ticket items such as beds or sofas to be made. A flexible supply chain can help in the event another lockdown occurs.
6) Add interactive elements to store browsing: Homeware retailers who want to increase interactivity and engagement can add a quiz recommending products to shoppers based on their style and product functionality, simplifying the path to purchase.
What’s Next for the Homeware Industry?
While furniture and homeware retailers have relied heavily on physical showrooms, 2020 proved the need to invest significantly in digital channels. Stores will continue to be central to the industry; however, brands need a greater alignment to a long-term digital strategy.
To create a digital-first strategy in the homeware market, brands should leverage the current consumer buying trends to capitalize on digital market opportunities. Brands know they have a wealth of data on customers but recognize a shortcoming making data actionable with a personalized shopping journey. While ordering a sample and offering a discount may entice consumers, successful brands will need to unify in-store and online experiences to create a connected commerce experience for customers.
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