The home furniture industry is thriving. This past April, industry sales hit a 20-year high. From April 2021 to April 2022, U.S. consumers spent over $12.2 billion on home furnishings.
At the same time, the industry continues to grapple with evolving consumer habits and economic challenges. Rising inflation, ongoing supply chain issues and a fluctuating housing market are creating an uncertain environment for furniture companies.
As home retailers look to the future, meeting the demands of the omnichannel consumer will be essential. In this article, we’ll explore how furniture shopping has changed and what brands can do to support omnichannel shoppers.
A New Way to Shop for Furniture
The pandemic sparked a flurry of activity in the home furnishings industry. Stuck at home, consumers focused their attention on remodeling. According to the Census Bureau, U.S. consumers spent $10.7 billion on home furnishings in 2020.
At the same time, the pandemic accelerated ecommerce and the rise of the digital-first shopper. Although 53% of furniture shoppers still prefer to shop in stores, consumers are turning to online channels for inspiration and product research.
The omnichannel shopper presents new challenges for the furniture industry. Today, consumers expect a fast, personalized and seamless experience across channels. At the same time, the rise of new digital channels—such as the metaverse—is creating opportunities for customer engagement and brand loyalty.
4 Ways to Create an Engaging Omnichannel Furniture Shopping Experience
For furniture brands, creating seamless experiences online and offline is critical. Here are four tips for designing the furniture shopping experience of the future.
1. Support the research process
Today, 90% of consumers engage in webrooming. Also known as ROPO—research online, purchase offline—this behavior boomed during the pandemic. In an effort to limit in-person interactions, shoppers turned to digital channels for product research.
For furniture brands, optimizing for webrooming behavior is essential. By investing in the research experience, brands drive customer loyalty and average order value.
Here are a few ways brands are supporting ROPO.
- Optimize for mobile: Brands must cater their shopping experiences to smartphone users. Ikea uses its RoomPlanner app to help customers redesign their homes. Users can upload floor dimensions, pick products for each room and create a wishlist.
- Promote customer reviews and UGC: Today, 55% of consumers interact with user-generated content before making a purchase. West Elm showcases customers’ Instagram photos for each product with a “Styles in Real Life” section.
- Use video: Lowe’s uses YouTube to inspire and educate customers. The home improvement retailer has over 1.1 million subscribers, offering playlists like “DIY Basics” and “Quick Storage Tips.”
- Offer bundles: Article uses “Bundles” to drive inspiration and increase average order value. The direct-to-consumer (DTC) home furnishings brand creates ready-to-purchase collections for each room. Consumers receive a discount when they buy multiple items together.
2. Make Personalization a Priority
Customers expect furniture brands to anticipate their needs. Companies must use data to suggest products before customers realize they need them.
- Last year, Home Depot partnered with Adobe to enhance its product recommendations. The big-box retailer analyzes consumers’ recent purchases. The company then suggests products they will need to finish their projects.
- Casper uses a mattress quiz to learn about customers’ lifestyles and sleeping preferences. The brand then suggests mattresses tailored to their lifestyle.
But personalization goes beyond tailored product recommendations. Customers want to be able to customize their furniture to suit their lifestyles—such as fabrics that are suitable for homes with young children or pets.
From smart closets to modular magnetic storage, customizable and tech-enabled furniture is transforming consumers’ homes. DTC brand Floyd offers modular furniture that can grow with customers as their lifestyle changes.
Eight Sleep mattresses track your sleep performance, including heart and respiratory rate. As you sleep, its Autopilot feature adjusts the mattress’s temperature to fit your body’s needs. And its Gentle Rise alarm wakes up sleepers at the optimal time.
3. Invest in technology
Furniture is an expensive purchase that will likely remain in the home for an extended period of time. Despite the rise of DTC furniture brands over the last decade, most consumers are still hesitant to buy furniture online.
The rise of new technology—including AR and VR experiences—makes it easier for consumers to visualize products in their spaces. Interior Define found that customers who use its AR tool are 8x more likely to convert.
- Gucci’s Decor SLAM AR experience lets customers visualize its home products in their spaces. Using the app, shoppers “place” objects in their homes.
- Primer uses AR to let customers see how wallpaper or paint will look on their walls.
- Lazzoni uses the metaverse to put customers in charge of the design process. Customers build virtual designs that can be manufactured in real life.
- In October 2022, West Elm announced West Elm Home Design, its metaverse experience. Users can decorate their virtual homes with over 150 products. The experience also features interactive games and design challenges.
4. Deliver memorable store experiences
Despite the shift to a digital-first world, stores are still an essential channel. Today, 56% of consumers want to interact with products in-person before buying.
But the furniture store experience of today must differ from the stuffy showrooms of generations past. The consumer no longer wants to view products and browse binders of swatches. Instead, consumers expect engaging store experiences.
Storytelling and exploration
In its “digital experience” concept store, BoConcept welcomes customers with short films about its product development and designers. Customers then take an interactive quiz to create a personalized style profile. As consumers shop, they can place RFID-embedded swatches on a sensor to see different products in that material.
Interior design services are not new—companies like Crate & Barrel have offered the service for decades. However, brands across price points are dedicating more store space to consultation services. Parachute recently opened the Parachute Design Studio in West Hollywood. The space functions as a retail store and interior design workspace.
Brands are also using shop-in-shops and brand partnerships to differentiate the store experience. When Burrow opened its New York City flagship, it dedicated space for DTC brands like Clare and The Sill. Last year, Walmart partnered with GAP Home to offer an exclusive furniture collection.
Creating the Furniture Shopping Experience of the Future with Salesfloor
Salesfloor is an all-in-one customer experience platform that helps brands meet the needs of omnichannel consumers. With virtual shopping, appointment management and clienteling tools, furniture brands deliver a personalized and engaging customer experience.
Book a demo today to learn how Salesfloor is revolutionizing the home furniture shopping experience.