Omnichannel Retail: The Future of Furniture and Homewares
In the early days of e-commerce, buying furniture online was not common. Nowadays, direct-to-consumer brands have made names for themselves by being the modern, digitally-native version of last century’s home and furniture retailers. The adoption of omnichannel approach over the last few years has helped many retailers in the sector strike the right balance — one that has enabled them to boost both online and offline revenue.
Bridging the gap between online and offline
Unlike multichannel, an omnichannel business strategy prioritises establishing and maintaining a cohesive brand experience across all mediums. It is even not enough that you make all of your channels shoppable. Fundamentally, you focus on creating smooth transitions between those touchpoints. All to build a meaningful and the best shopping experience for your customers.
According to Statista, $294 billion expected in online furniture sales by 2022. This means retailers cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to integrate sales opportunities across channels. To meet this market demands, brick-and-mortars have to improve their in-store journey with personalization and faster checkout capabilities.
Meanwhile, digitally native brands have also improved their e-commerce experience to include better information and visualization techniques. They combine strong merchandise management capabilities with virtual shopping and augmented reality applications. Not to mention fast payment and fulfilment options.
Brands in a unique category like furniture are navigating these challenges and establishing a consistent footprint across all platforms. Here are the key takeaways we can learn from them:
1. Different channels different stories
For retailers that create and sell elevated home essentials, the change manifested in how they communicated product information to shoppers in their stores versus online. For them, websites and mobile apps are not just a means of ordering. They are the front doors to their stores.
Meanwhile, stores are not just showrooms. They offer inspiration and community. What’s more, they function as test labs, help desks, purchase points, pickup and return locations, and shipping centres. It is about meeting the customer where they are and how they prefer to shop.
This has become a brand’s biggest challenge: What attracts a consumer on Instagram may not be the same thing that makes a shopper click through an email. Also, that may not be the same messaging that catches a homeowner’s eye in a print catalogue or in the in-store solution.
2. The retail store is still here to stay
The rise of e-commerce does not spell the death of the brick-and-mortars. Having a physical storefront is a two-way street. It’s about giving a company immediate and direct access to its customers while allowing customers to interact with the product. And the latter is key for home furnishings. People want to know exactly what they are getting, how the product feels, and how to use it. Essentially, an omnichannel strategy allows customers to have the confidence of getting the product right the first time.
The importance of creating that customer confidence was something that comfort brands such as Casper, Purple and Joybird have discovered. Started out as a digitally native brand, they have all now opened or will soon open brick-and-mortar storefronts.
Casper, the online bed-in-a-box pioneer that disrupted the traditional mattress retail business, is bringing the experience of sleeping in a Casper bed to a whole new level. They have opened its first nap showroom, as opposed to a bed store in New York City, called The Dreamery. It is a place where people can actually sleep, rather than just buy a new mattress. Essentially, Casper is providing the in-store experience while understanding that millennials will still go home and make the final purchase online.
3. Interactive digital content
If you’re selling physical and tangible products, you can leverage visual communication and omnichannel strategy in a lot of ways. Specifically, if you’re in e-commerce, you can use 3D models and virtual tours to offer a 360 product viewing experience.
This immersive “try before you buy” approach to online shopping transforms how customers interact with the products they want to buy. Thanks to 3D imaging and recent advances in AR mobile technology, furniture retailers can provide a more engaging and interactive customer experience. With 3D models and virtual tours, customers are able to zoom in and out, rotate, and view the product from the comfort of their home. More importantly, all of these features can skyrocket a brand’s conversions. So, in addition to boosting your brand reach, interactive digital content can also increase your conversion rates.
In a unique category like furniture and homewares, the bar for omnichannel approach is only rising. Ultimately, it is all about getting all the pieces in the puzzle to fit together seamlessly for the customer. If you can do that well enough, you will have customers flocking to you and your brand.