We are in age of buying and selling practically anything online. It is no surprise that the furniture industry has also moved to the web.
More and more sellers have recognized the advantages to advertising and selling furniture online. The alternative, traditional brick and mortar stores. Online furniture sellers find that their customer base often prefers surfing, clicking and buying. The traditional method of trying out pieces in multiple showrooms and placing an order. Selling online presents a new set of challenges for the vendor. There are three of big e-commerce retailers in online furniture stores. They have incorporated new ways of presenting their pieces to the online consumer base for effective sales.
Amazon, Walmart and Wayfair
Choosing where to sell among Amazon Vendor Central, Walmart Supplier Center or Wayfair Extranet Advantage can be a difficult decision. Each of these online marketplaces offer different advantages.
Amazon has a massive customer base that is loyal to the platform. Furthermore, it has three different online sales platforms. There’s invitation only Vendor Central. There’s also Vendor Express and Seller Central. Amazon makes it effortless for vendors by handling everything once the products are added. Pricing, shipping, returns, and distribution options are through Amazon directly. Dropship distribution is another option.
Walmart offers two seller options: Supplier Center and Marketplace. To become a supplier, the seller must submit an application. They must comply with Walmart’s Standards for Suppliers and meet all requirements regarding the supply chain. Marketplace is a third-party retailer platform. The advantage is that the seller would align their unique identity and brand with the world’s largest retailer.
Wayfair offers a retailer channel partnering option. It is enhanced by an affiliate program that can boost advertising on blogs and buying guides. Wayfair separately offers extensive trade services to interior designers, architects, and home stagers. This ultimately can boost furniture sales toward industry trends and a more high-end clientele.
Increase in Online Sales
According to a study in mid-2017, 96% of Americans shop online. The two biggest reasons that people are shopping online are saving time and avoiding crowds. The survey also revealed that 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen X-ers prefer shopping online over in-store. They also spend nearly 50% more time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older generations (four hours). We will examine who will be shopping for home furniture online in the next decade. It is imperative to recognize the convenience of online shopping. From there they can curate a customer experience suitable for buying furniture online.
What keeps customers from buying online?
There are two major obstacles preventing buyers from purchasing items online. Those include prohibitive shipping and return costs and the inability to try out the product in person.
Shipping and return options should be affordable, reliable and easy to manage. The seller will find more success as there is less risk for the buyer. Amazon, Walmart and Wayfair have all recognized this obstacle. In turn they have offered seamless and free or affordable shipping options to their customers.
Amazon’s Shipping Solution
Amazon has created one of the most advanced fulfillment networks in the world, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Additionally, the seller can store their products in Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Amazon will pick, pack, ship, and provide customer service for these products. Moreover, it is important to ship a package without any concern over damage. It must be packed well. The solution is it will be handled by large, industrial machines most of the time, amidst many truck-to-truck shifts. This means that the item should be wrapped in plastic, strapped solidly to a wooden forklift pallet. Additionally it will be protected in Styrofoam, cardboard, or wooden crating. This helps to prevent dents and damage to sensitive furniture exteriors.
Trying Out the Product
A buyer may be unhappy with the touch and feel of the furniture after buying online. They can often return it easily. This risk is still disconcerting to many online shoppers. Wayfair has recognized the need to integrate a digital rendition of furniture. Moreover, the integration needed to be into the customer’s home setting. What better way to boost the customer’s likelihood to buy.
Wayfair has an iOS and Android app, Shop All Things Home. It allows customers to easily discover, visualize and purchase. Items range from their favorite furniture to décor items. The bonus, All from their mobile devices. When shoppers find a piece they love, they can simply tap the “View in Room 3D” button displayed beneath the product. Just like that, they see the image in their home. Shoppers can even use the virtual reality of the app to rearrange products in their room. There is also a rotate and walk around to view. Most importantly, the product can instantly be purchased without having to leave the Wayfair app.
The Next Frontier of Online Shopping
To bridge the gap between those who prefer shopping in person with online shoppers there are some considerations. Perhaps it is time to start thinking differently and convert some store real estate into virtual showrooms. Last year, IKEA Deutschland partnered with Cologne based digital agency Demodern . The goal was to pioneer a virtual reality shopping experience. The Virtual Home Experience in the Berlin-Lichtenberg IKEA store intertwines a visual interface. Furthermore, there’s motion design with touchless interactions. The result is a multi-dimensional brand and product experience. It looks and feels like IKEA. Simple interactions allow the user to customize the room’s interior and details. Then the shopper can place orders in store or online to fulfill their VR design experience.
Even Amazon has recently opened over a dozen bookstores in the U.S. They recognized that many book shoppers prefer flipping through the pages of a book before selecting their next read. As a physical extension of Amazon.com, Amazon Books integrates the benefits of offline and online shopping. They offer thousands of titles in store and millions more online. This blend of physical and online could potentially be the solution to converting more potential buyers to shopping online. They offer excellent customer service and the feel of a traditional shopping experience. Plus, more options available to customers.