A digital future for an analogue industry

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furniture digital marketing

Times are changing

The furniture industry has a reputation for being an Ol’ Boys club with a lot of face-to-face interactions and many industry trade shows to attend every year. My own experience from the industry more or less supports this reputation, as with most reputations they are often founded on at least some degree of truth, as they say “where there is smoke there is usually fire”.

Many industries have undergone great transformations over the past ten years, as they have had to adapt to new buyer behaviours with the shift from bricks to clicks retail. I have previously touched on the subject of e-commerce evolution, where we ten years ago found it unlikely that online retail of things like shoes or clothing would ever become popular, today we love it and most of us have at least at some point shopped online for these items.

I wanted to find out more about the general attitudes towards the use of digital tools as part of sales and marketing among the furniture retailers where I live; in Denmark. I wasn’t able to dig this information out from the corners of the internet, so I set out to conduct a survey on my own, and although it has to be said that my survey carries zilch statistical validity, it does give a good indication of certain trends and attitudes prevalent in the furniture industry.

 

So where is the furniture industry heading?

It is doubtful that the furniture retailers can remain behind their fortified arguments about their products being unsuited for online retail, due to their bulky nature and relatively large price-points, for very much longer.

Although the vast majority of sales still takes place in a physical store; roughly 3% happen purely online (USA & Europe combined data), it would be very unwise to ignore the impact the web has on the industry today. According to a study done in the UK by the Javelin Group the web has a direct impact on 42% of sales and this number is expected to increase to 69% by the year 2020.

So even though you might conduct the actual transaction within the four walls of your showroom, whether or not the customer will even venture into your store in the first place is very much influenced by what they experience online.

Furniture could be one of the last remaining online retail frontiers – so when will they conquer it ?

Probably sooner than many furniture retailers are prepared for. I spoke with many retailers during my survey and I got a clear feeling that most are aware that e-commerce is something they need to include in their business strategy, but they are very unsure of what exactly they should do to make it a success.

I understand where they are coming from; when you venture into uncharted territory where there are very limited established best practices to follow, you must have the guts to set the rules on your own. And that’s scary stuff when you have existed in an analogue world for donkey’s years.

Many fear that online trade will cannibalize in-store sales. This is my advice to them; with limited growth predicted for the industry at large over the next 5 years, and the only discernible growth is taking place on the web, online trade might very well eat away at in-store sales, but if you don’t cannibalize your own store someone else is sure to do it.

Didn’t Know You Could Shop Furniture Like That?

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Today’s world of savvy consumers expect a lot from online retailers; whether you are pure-play online or store plus online, you cannot ignore the power of the modern consumer, as a retailer the viability of your existence is at the mercy their clicks – they can make you or break you.

Although brick and mortar stores still account for 90% of the revenue created, there is a clear shift in the purchasing habits of shoppers, they are migrating online. A survey by UK’s webloyalty shows that overall online purchasing has increased by 27,6 percentage points over the past ten years[1].

Ecommerce evolution

When you think of furniture you don’t immediately think online shopping. But maybe you should. Just maybe furniture today is where shoes were 10 years ago. Back then everyone was saying that you couldn’t buy shoes online, that you had to try them on first. And along came Zappos and ASOS and changed all of that!

Today online sale of furniture account for 8% of the total industry sales in the US and it’s forecast to grow 45% by the time we hit 2015.

But how exactly do you buy furniture online? I wouldn’t trust buying a new sofa from just seeing a picture on a website! Well, some pretty nifty creative gadget are now available courtesy a few businesses with enough foresight to see that this is what tomorrow’s shopper wants.

I want to share two of them with you.

The first one is called LoveMyHome and before I get on with how awesome they are, I want to have full disclosure and let you know that I work with LoveMyHome, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome 🙂

LoveMyHome supply the furniture industry with interactive product visualization tools that help you and me when we shop furniture online. First up is the issue of viewing products properly, that means knowing what a product looks like from all angles. Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t buy an armchair that I didn’t know what looked like from the back. That’s where 3D product visualization comes into play – it allows you to spin the furniture around, zoom in and out and change things like fabric or material if the furniture comes in different colours.

LoveMyHome 3D Room Designer
LoveMyHome 3D Room Designer

Second issue when buying furniture is will it fit in my house. This problem has always existed, whether you shop online or in store. I often get misled when it comes to the size of things when I’m in a furniture store because the store space is so huge it makes the furniture appear smaller than it really is.

Then when you receive delivery of the new King size bed, you realize why they call it King!

So LoveMyHome created a super user friendly 3D Room Designer that allows you to draw your room or house to scale and then place furniture in it to see if it will fit. It is fun to use and you can jump into your own design and take a walk in your own virtual home. It resembles a computer game when you are in this mode, and it is a powerful experience to see your home and the new furniture online like this.

A great way to really understand what something will look like before you buy it. The furniture store equivalent to the fitting room!

Check it out for yourself www.lovemyhome.net. I think all furniture retailers should have this feature as part of their website.

The second one is SnapShop. This little fella is really cool if you just quickly want to get an idea of what something would look like in your home. It works as an augmented reality app and can be downloaded for free from the Itunes store.

The SnapShop app
The SnapShop app

You simply take a picture of the area you want to furnish and then place items on top of the picture. There is access to a number of stores directly from within the app which makes it really easy to find new stuff for your home. You can scale items so they look correct in the picture. For me the big issue with this app is that you don’t actually know when you have hit the right size. Not so cool if you buy something you believe will fit because you have scaled it to fit, but in reality it looks like you have purchased a child’s furniture.

Still it is a very cool tool if you just quickly want to see if something would go with the decor of your home. Check it out here  www.snapshopinc.com

 

 


[1] Experian White Paper: “The changing face of UK retail in today’s multi-channel world” page 8

[2] http://www.webloyalty.co.uk/images/webloyalty-conlumino-home-retail-research.pdf page 19 viewed Feb. 26th 2013

Please The ROPO And They’ll Be Back

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Ok I know that pun was a bit corny – couldn’t help myself.

robo

So what’s ROPO? Why, glad you asked. ROPO short for Research Online Shop Offline, sort of a cousin of Showrooming, and it is what 90% of people do when it comes to purchasing high involvement goods such as consumer electronics and home furnishings. Think about it – didn’t you as well last time you purchased something of significant value?

And we don’t just research in one place, in fact almost half of us use 3 or more channels when conducting our research; smartphone, website, tablet, store etc. All this research has resulted in a purchasing journey that is twice as long today than it was 10 years ago. In 2002 it took us 5.2 days to reach a decision, today the number is 10.3 – and 5.5 of those days are spent looking online. Just when we thought technology was making life faster it turns out to be doing just the opposite. Go figure!

Although the vast majority of purchases still take place in a physical store, there is a clear trend towards less brick & mortar sales and more online sales. Besides up to 80% of consumers indicate that the information they gather during their online research has a direct impact on the purchasing decisions they end up making, regardless of whether the purchase takes place in a store or online.

This speaks volumes for the need to engage consumers while online. If you are a retailer you better make sure your site is experienced as a destination for great content that will inspire, entice and inform your visitors.

Here are 5 tips to for making better online content:

1. – Make it engaging. Capture the imagination of the customer by offering them creative solutions.

2. – Make it relevant. Consumers will leave a site in a heartbeat if it does not answer their questions.

3. – Make it personal. Offer unique solutions that are tailored to the individual.

4. – Make it mobile. Cater to all channels. Anytime anywhere is the mantra for the modern shopper.

5. – Make it complete. Offer solutions to every step of the purchasing journey; from browsing to researching to purchasing.

 

Source: http://www.webloyalty.co.uk/images/webloyalty-conlumino-home-retail-research.pdf

How can you make Showrooming work for you

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??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Basically Showrooming means that consumers browse physical stores in order to gather information only to turn around and purchase the products online. This practice is not likely to become a favorite with retailers anytime soon, as it in 33% of the cases[1] means a lost sale for the brick and mortar store. 90% of smartphone owners who used their mobile while in a store to research products were looking at somebody else’s site. That’s not good news for the pure brick and mortar operations as they have very limited means to fight it. As for multichannel retailers, they better do everything in their power to make sure the consumer is encouraged to surf their site.

If you can’t beat it – join it!

According to an IBM study, Showrooming drives 50% of online sales[2] perhaps not surprising considering one in five American consumers actively practice Showrooming.

The main reason consumers showroom is to compare prices between retailers, so the obvious answer to combat Showrooming would be to be the cheapest. This approach however is gravely flawed, as that would catapult every retailer into the reddest of red oceans, leaving everyone on the brink of extinction.

A much better approach would be to recognize that not all consumers are created equal. Not everyone is driven purely on price. Offering your customers an engaging and satisfying shopping experience will go a long way to retain them in your store. Good old fashion customer service would be a good place to start. A study done by Zendesk shows that the two main factors in creating loyal customers are quality and service, price only makes it to third place[3].

But since 20% of your customers will likely reach for their mobiles while in store anyway, the second place to focus attention is on the online experience you present them with .

Ready – Set – Engage!

Engagement is the keyword here; make the experience interesting and useful. Personalize the journey as much as possible by allowing customers to interact with your brand, make it suit their specific needs and let them share their findings with the world through social media. The more time a consumer spends online with your brand, the more engaged they become and the more likely they are to close the sale with you.

In addition the transition between the online and offline store should be seamless and coherent; the offering, look and feel should be equal across all channels, leaving the customer with the feeling that it is one integrated experience. The use of responsive design when building websites, where the pages will adapt automatically to the medium being used to view them, will go a long way in creating a consistent impression when using a digital medium.

Use data driven marketing and take advantage of what technology makes possible, offer free wi-fi in store and include smart sensors and QR codes offering personally tailored specials and information in real time. A global survey done by Cisco reveal that 75% of consumers want a personalized experience, once they have opted in[4].

By making it more advantageous to be on your site while in store, you actually make Showrooming work for you.