Sixty percent of shoppers start their search for new furniture online, according to a study conducted by Luth Research in 2016. On the Internet, modern shoppers have the ability to compare inventory, learn about shipping and assembly costs, and ultimately find those pieces they most want to purchase.
When it comes to online furniture shopping, customers expect to be able to find the information they need easily. Furniture retailers must offer a personalized digital experience that entice visitors to come into their store.
We spoke to several furniture shoppers who have made a major furniture purchase within the last six months, or who plan to buy again soon. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences and expectations while shopping for furniture online.
Furniture Shoppers Want to Compare Options Online
Today’s customers know they have options for buying furniture, and they expect a good digital experience from any retailer when they start their research. Because shoppers are prone to compare local furniture stores with international brands and also web-only outlets, no furniture retailer can afford to offer a substandard online furniture shopping experience.
Christina Wade starts with Amazon because of the easy shipping. “I always look on Amazon because I travel too much for work,” she says. “I like that I can get things delivered in two days. That said, I ended up making my most recent purchase from Wayfair because they had a great price on a couch style I wanted. I only looked online.”
While not every retailer can compete with free two-day shipping, they can bring other value like good deals and specialized inventory to motivate customers to shop with them. To compete with these big names, furniture retailers must offer the same type of personalized website experience, remembering customers and their shopping preferences.
It may sound difficult to compete, but it’s as simple as using interactive calls to action on your website that engage visitors through quizzes and assessments that help them narrow their options and leads a consumer down the furniture buying path.
To compete with these big names, furniture retailers must offer the same type of personalized website experience, remembering customers and their shopping preferences.
Brad King offers a different perspective. “I recently moved to a new city, so I looked both at online retailers who could deliver, and also at local stores. That included big box retailers like IKEA and local stores.
I generally like to support locally-owned places if I can find something that delivers what I want.” That priority for local is common among today’s customers. The easier retailers can make online furniture shopping, the more they can entice those local visitors in-store.
Online Furniture Shopping Must Be Informative
It is not enough to show pictures of inventory to convert today’s furniture shopper. Customers want to know exactly what’s available to them before they step foot into a store, if they do at all. That means websites must give users any information they want without having to speak to a sales associate.
“The website is where I was making most of my decisions,” King says. “I needed to have a good experience not only searching for furniture, but also finding information about delivery times and cost. If I had to make a call or go into the store to get that information, I didn’t really have the time to do that.”
“The website is where I was making most of my decisions.”
Wade also adds that powerful search options are one of her favorite aspects of the bigger online stores: “I like an easy sort option that allows me to put in the kind of furniture I want and gives me options that match my criteria.”
Customer reviews are another easily overlooked source of information that many customers like during the online furniture shopping experience. Consumers we talked to say they want clear input from other customers so they can have a better understanding of each piece’s strengths and weaknesses.
Consumers Want to Shop Online — and in Person
Today’s furniture buyers expect to shop their way, and that means navigating from the website into the store (or to the checkout window) seamlessly.
Some customers are on the hunt for the best deals, some want to see inventory with their own eyes, and some just want to know exactly what they’re getting before they commit, whether that’s in person or online.
Breanne Swim narrows her options first, doing online research up front. “I usually looked at styles online, but when it came time to purchase, I went to three stores in person,” she says. While modern shoppers like to browse online, some also have FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to seeing local inventory in person.
Furniture retailers can entice online visitors to come to their store by getting them to commit to an in-store consultation online.
Finally, King reiterates how important it was to him that a website truly reflect everything there is to know before he moves forward with a purchase. “I need information on cost, availability and assembly charges,” he says. “There are few sites that provide that level of information.” For shoppers like King, those sites that best inform are the ones that will win his business.
A winning strategy for any furniture retailer must include a website that allows users to craft their own personal experience and get compelling, relevant information about the furniture they might purchase. Retailers must understand that different customers have different points of view, so it’s important to give plenty of accurate information.
Interactive website experiences that help the user talk about themselves and their needs will allow for a more customized experience, which has proved to be the key to drive online traffic to in-store sales.