By Steve Davidson, vice president of Fortegra’s Warranty Product Group
(Reprinted from Retail Customer Experience)
With more options available and greater access to information than ever, the consumer buying experience is in transition. As a result, many traditional retailers are struggling in the face of challenges — specifically from their online competitors. Among them, furniture retailers are finding it particularly difficult as many have been slow to adapt to the effects e-commerce has had on their industry.
Yet, despite these challenges, industry experts agree that traditional home furnishing providers should not be dissuaded as the opportunities presented by online sales far outweigh any headaches.
From online to in-store
Those furniture retailers who have faced the challenge head on are finding that today’s technology provides a low barrier to entry for the uninitiated. Modern tools have made it easy to not only develop an online presence, but also to showcase merchandise, handle fulfillment, and meet consumers where they are to draw them into the store.
That invitation to visit the brick-and-mortar location remains the ultimate goal and presents an advantage for traditional home furnishing businesses. Why? Because consumers still currently prefer the tactile experience of shopping for big furniture purchases in person.
While 90% of furniture shoppers use online research to compare products and take in reviews before making a final decision, similar to those shopping for a new car or upgrading their mattress, just 14% indicate they prefer finalizing the purchase online. Knowing that these consumers ultimately want to finalize their purchase on the sales floor, it spells opportunity for furniture retailers to advertise showroom experiences that support consumer purchasing habits and can — hopefully — help seal the deal.
Though a preference for in-store purchases may still be the case now, the needle continues to move toward digital. Again, a huge percentage of the legwork is being done while sitting down — particularly with furniture. In a recent GPShopper survey, 63% of total respondents said home décor was the product category they’d be most likely to begin investigating online.
As you might expect, younger consumers are spearheading the webrooming trend, with millennials and Gen X leading the way. With this buying segment continuing to grow, signs point toward an embrace of convenience and a growing appetite for online furniture purchases as well.
While brick-and-mortar may currently enjoy an advantage that suits traditional methods, changing trends should not be ignored. Now is the time for furniture retailers to act on digital — because the future of furniture is online.