I remember my mom dragging me into a furniture store in our small town with one simple mission: finding a couch. For 10-year-old me, it didn’t seem too complicated—you just walk into the store, browse, and buy what you like. I didn’t care for it much, as long as it had soft cushions I could lay horizontally on it while watching episodes of Spongebob, that’s all I really cared about. I look back on those days fondly. When furniture was sold out of catalogs and orders were placed over the phone or at a desk with a helpful lady named Susan.
Wait, furniture retailers still do business this way? You’re kidding me, right? In an era of digital commerce, where catalogs are digitized and transactions occur with the quick entry of a CVV number, there are still stores out there who don’t take orders online? It’s almost like owning a vegetarian restaurant and only serving vegetarians—some of us meat-eaters like veggies too!
In an industry that is growing at an alarming rate, many furniture retailers are turning their backs on the opportunity to go digital and grow their customer base—but why? There are a variety of excuses that many retailers have clung to for years; if you’re looking for a comprehensive list of reasons, you should read this article where we dispel those myths. Either way, selling online is actually a lot easier than you think, let me tell you why.
Furniture retailers should start selling online.
Millennials are the majority.
Buyer expectations have skyrocketed with the introduction of millennial buyers. They don’t have the time, energy, or patience for anything less than instant and it shows. With millennials dominating over 50% of the luxury buying market, it is anticipated that by 2022, eCommerce furniture sales will top $100 billion. It’s pretty clear, if your brand isn’t going digital, you’re leaving money on the table.
Growing outside local markets.
Why limit yourself to a small customer base? Many retailers do business within their local area, usually a 100-mile radius. This market though profitable, it is limited in size, thus limited in sales. With an eCommerce site, the opportunity to expand outside your local market increases greatly, allowing you to reach new customers that were once untapped. It puts your product in front of them giving them the opportunity to engage and make purchases. Starting small with a few items can indicate whether expanding outside your local market is the right direction for your brand.
Operate with efficiency.
Moving to an eCommerce model isn’t exclusively beneficial for the customer. In fact, I would argue that it benefits the retailer just as much if not more. Shifting your focus toward digital forces you to evaluate your current business practices and identify room for improvement. Many of the processes traditionally handled manually by employees are offboarded to your eCommerce platform and agency, allowing you and your team to focus on the important thing—making a great product. Over time, these changes will put dollars back into your pocket and propel you forward.
We want to start selling our furniture online, where do we start?
Starting an eCommerce branch of your store is actually easier than you think. Yes, selling online is an investment, you have to pay to play, but the reward for making the jump goes far beyond the dollars put down. Let me throw a nice statistic at you just for reference: on average, brick and mortars that open an online store are making 28% more in revenue via their online channel. Now if that doesn’t wet your whistle, I don’t know what will.
Now let’s get down to the grit and give you some practical items to kickstart this process.
Staffing (Company Audit)
Before you even process your first order, you’re going to need some staff. Chances are you already have employees managing incoming inventory, orders, and shipping. Look at your current landscape of employees and identify opportunities for cross-training in this area. It’s not a complete overhaul of your operations, it’s an update—one that will ensure your eCommerce operation is well supported.
Consider these few questions when addressing staffing:
- Do you have staff that handles incoming and outgoing orders?
- How many employees do you have packing and shipping products?
- Do you have someone to handle customer service inquiries?
Ever heard of the acronym Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)? Well, it applies here. Don’t anticipate that you are going to start selling your entire inventory, especially if you’re a furniture retailer that carries large products like couches and desks. Start small—maybe a few lamps, some end tables, a nice stool—these items are easier to dropship. This decreases your overhead so you aren’t having to hold inventory of those items and can pay for them as they are sold. From there it’s a matter of finding a shipping partner that works best with your operations. Whether it be FedEx, UPS, or USPS spending the time to understand what shipping carriers offer and how your business can leverage their service, will ensure that you are ready to take on digital orders.
The other factor to consider with inventory is product imagery and visuals. There are some industries where you can get away with average images and mediocre visual content, but furniture is quite the opposite. Competing online means delivering a top-tier experience across the board, including your visuals. Customers don’t want to just see standard product images, they want full room mock-ups, high definition images that showcase craftsmanship, and enticing video. Without these elements, your site lacks the strength it needs to compete in the eCommerce ecosystem. Ask yourself these questions:
- Will you get product imagery from the manufacturer?
- Can you take your own photos?
- Do you have the budget to hire someone?
Converting Your Website
This is the last and most pivotal step in your eCommerce journey: building your website. For many retailers, their current site structure is a great starting point, allowing you to build up from where you are, rather than starting from scratch. With so many different eCommerce platform solutions, retailers have the cream of the crop to choose from, but allow us to recommend one of our favorite platforms.
Shopify is a comprehensive eCommerce platform that allows you to get up and running fast. With a simple setup process and intuitive interface, brands can jump run into eCommerce without hassle. Don’t worry about having to manage your in-store and online sales separately, as Shopify has created a point of sale (POS) system that connects directly to your store. This allows you to manage all of your inventory, sales, and customer information in one place. And training in Shopify is easy, with training tools and tutorials, any employee can learn the ins and outs of the system quickly. If you want your transition to eCommerce to be simple and efficient, Shopify is the way to go.
It’s time to start selling.
Ecommerce is growing and customers are craving better digital experiences from furniture retailers. Don’t be the retailer that holds out for something better, because you’ll be waiting a long time. Don’t overcomplicate it—compile a staff capable of managing the day to day operations, prepare your inventory, and build yourself a kick-ass site. Got it? Now go do it!
Don’t worry, we didn’t expect you to do this all on your own, that’s why we are here. We have helped countless retailers move into eCommerce and are ready to take on your project. Contact us and we can get you started.