“Shopping and buying on smartphones is becoming the new norm and can be attributed to continued optimizations in the retail experience …,” says Mickey Mericle, vice president, Marketing and Customer Insights at Adobe, which collected the Cyber Monday data and declared this holiday’s online shopping season record-breaking. “Consumers are also becoming more savvy and efficient online shoppers.”
As a technology marketing company, it’s our job at PERQ to stay ahead of digital trends for furniture retailers. We know the majority of consumers turn to a tablet or phone to research every aspect of a furniture purchase to save time inside the store when they’re ready to buy.
To succeed online, retailers must deliver value in the form of personalized, interactive information that’s relevant to the shopper’s search in that moment. We’ve witnessed dramatic results time and time again when this mindset is at the forefront of a store’s website strategy.
“This is all about personalizing the path to purchase in real time,” says Eric Sears, PERQ account executive. “We have to improve the online experience in the research phase. If furniture retailers can cater to people who are researching, rather than to only those ready to buy, they’ll be in a better position to capture more of those consumers and attract them to the showroom.”
Make a resolution this year to test at least one of these digital trends to transform your furniture website into a sales and marketing tool that drives showroom sales.
Furniture Retailers Add a Virtual Showroom
If a furniture shopper walks into a showroom, a salesperson greets them and offers to answer any questions as they walk around and decide whether to buy. Why should your furniture retail website be any different?
“Right now, furniture retailer websites tend to be just an online catalog,” Sears says. “If I had a showroom and all shoppers saw were products and prices, with no sales team to answer questions or guide me along, I’d probably have trouble selling furniture.”
Treat your website like a second showroom by giving online customers a preview of the in-store experience that can guide them along to relevant information on your site.
Furniture retailers can also use websites to deliver personalized services not available in the store, such as interactive research tools and assessments that help online shoppers narrow down their choices.
Optimize Website for Mobile Shopping
As the 2017 Cyber Monday figures prove, the vast majority of shopping now begins on a mobile device. Furniture retailers without a mobile-friendly website are not only losing out on potential customers who find their sites wonky and hard to search, Google now penalizes websites that don’t have a mobile version, making it harder to increase rank on search engine results.
PERQ software features a responsive website design that adjusts to the size of the shopper’s screen without losing any functionality or content — the same mobile approach we suggest for any basic business website.
“I think that many websites need to be improved for ease of searching from a phone,” says consumer Luke Fishero, who recently bought a dining room set and recliner at a retailer showroom after hours of online research. “If you are looking for a piece of furniture, you already have something in mind. You need to be able to easily navigate the online section of the store.”
Tracking Website Analytics for Furniture Retailers
It’s not just enough to have a well-designed website anymore. To use it as a lead generator and gauge your target audience’s behavior, employ software that allows your furniture store to track detailed statistics about your website’s performance and, in the process, collect data on potential customers.
For our clients, we track everything from time on page and lead-to-sale conversions to ROI for our software. Furniture retailers also get detailed contact information and shopping preferences from individual customers who voluntarily provide information in exchange for helpful research tools and customized promotions.
“Talking to retailers, they haven’t had a comprehensive tool to track those analytics,” Sears says. “Our software allows them to dive a little deeper and draw information about consumers and they’re habits.
They can then tailor the website experience to match that process. It’s huge to have a tool that can help do that, and it can really help conversions and sales.”
Technology Trends for Furniture Retailers
Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and other smart technologies are creating major buzz at all of the furniture retailer and digital marketing conferences.
Many retailers are incorporating AR in the form of 3-D visualization software that allows customers to see how furniture will look in their own home or browse virtual furniture collections that display custom variations of the fabric, styles, colors and sizes available.
This kind of personalized experience is in high demand, according to a 2017 International Council of Shopping Centers consumer survey that found 55 percent of shoppers want to be able to virtually preview home furnishings in their own house before buying.
Technology is also making searches on websites more intuitive using artificial intelligence software, allowing customers to find similar items from a store’s showroom based on previous searches, liked items or even images a customer uploads from home.
“Take advantage of tools available on the web, and deliver technology that isn’t available in your showroom,” says Ed Tashjian, principal of Tashjian Marketing. “Use cognitive computing to optimize the search engines on the site, to show not only inventory that’s in the store but also other products available from a manufacturer, and automatically get a shipping date for those items … It’s instantaneous.”
While Seth Weisblatt, owner of Sam’s Furniture & Appliances in Texas, agrees “AR is a great tool,” he says nothing will replace being able to see, touch and feel the products in a physical showroom. “My vision for the website is that it should enhance the online shopping experience.”