How to Give the Furniture Showroom Experience Online
To attract more visitors to your furniture showroom, it’s ideal to offer shoppers an online experience that emulates an in-store showroom experience. Even more ideal is an online showroom experience that’s vastly better than a typical in-store experience.
As the owner of a furniture store, you shop for the best furniture to provide the best options to customers, but your website looks no different to shoppers than the next furniture retailer. To change consumer perceptions and entice them to visit your store, it’s time to set up a virtual furniture showroom.
“If your website isn’t user-friendly, then I’m probably not going to visit [your furniture showroom],” says homeowner Luke Fishero. He bought a dining room set from Ashley Furniture this summer, after shopping around online for about a month.
Fishero says when he purchased a recliner earlier this year, he didn’t do much online research and ended up visiting 15 different furniture showrooms to determine the right color, size, style, price and availability. “We were paraded around every showroom,” he says. “It’s not how I like to shop, so I did much more online ahead of time for the dining room table.”
Since so many shoppers prefer to look online and gather as much information as possible before visiting a store, how do you make your furniture retail website stand out and compel consumers to step through your doors? Here’s how:
Offer the Furniture Showroom Basics
One reason so many consumers enjoy shopping on sites like Amazon and Wayfair is because they get full transparency right from the comfort of their homes. “Customers demand to know the basics — how much is it and when can they get it?” says Seth Weisblatt, owner of four Sam’s Furniture & Appliances locations in Texas. “We ensure that the availability and pricing is posted for every product on our website.”
When a customer walks around a furniture showroom, they can easily see the price of each piece. Weisblatt and other industry experts we interviewed say furniture retailers mistakenly think an online catalog of inventory will suffice and that posting inventory prices gives their competition an edge. It’s an old strategy that no longer holds up in this new age of technology and e-commerce.
Ed Tashjian, principal of Tashjian Marketing, points to pricing as the first way furniture retailers can make sure their online furniture showroom trumps the competition’s. “Retailers have to conform to the way people shop on the web,” says Tashjian, who worked at several furniture companies before starting his home furnishings consulting firm.
“Without pricing, it’s window shopping and nothing can happen.”
There are other effective ways to make sure your online furniture showroom matches the in-store experience. When a consumer steps into a furniture store, a sales representative greets them and helps them narrow down their choices.
The same should go for your furniture retailer website. Make consumers feel welcomed with a personalized message and help them do their research in a way that’s convenient and feels personal. If you can track that consumer from a website visit to their actual showroom visit, you’re ahead of the game.
Go Beyond the Basics in Your Virtual Furniture Showroom
Tashjian suggests furniture retailers use their website to offer services not available in-store, such as interactive tools and engaging content that help online shoppers narrow their choices and move them closer to an in-store purchase.
“I don’t think retailers can mimic the physical showroom experience, which is much more of a tactile experience. It’s sitting on the furniture. It’s seeing the scale and touching the finish,” Tashjian says. “On the web, it’s a much different task, more informational and educational.”
He suggests furniture stores implement virtual tools that add unique value to the online furniture showroom and research process. For example: technology that allows consumers to visualize various furniture colors and fabrics, as well as connected tools that track online visitors to serve up custom suggestions and calls-to-action based on their shopping preferences.
Weisblatt says the vision for his website is to enhance the online shopping experience. “Nothing will replace being able to see, touch and feel the products,” he says. “Customers are pre-shopping on the web, and then come into the store to confirm their purchase. Our goal is to be the one or two stores a customer will visit. If we can accomplish this, then our business will succeed.”