Our 2017 Industry Trend Report provides education and insight on what market experts define as the future of retailing, Unified Commerce. This report focuses on how Unified Commerce impacts the home furnishings industry and provides a strategy for retailers to thrive.
So what defines Unified Commerce?
“Unified Commerce puts the customer experience first, breaks down the walls between internal channel silos and leverages a single commerce platform. A single, centralized, real-time platform for all customer engagement points is fundamental to Unified Commerce.” Boston Retail Partners
The Stats Behind Unified Commerce
By The Numbers
- Revenue for the furniture industry increased to $104.8 billion in 2016; though this was a slower growth rate than 2015 at+2.7%. (Furniture Today)
- Of digital home furnishings purchases, about 1/5 take place on a mobile device, as consumers are more comfortable buying even high-priced items via mobile. (eMarketer)
- eCommerce revenue is a significant portion of the furniture industry’s revenue at around 29% with projections placing 2016 eCommerce sales at ~$30 billion. (Statista)
- The good news is digital revenue is a competitive game with 49% of online furniture purchases following a non-branded search query. (ThoughtShift)
- The ratio of overall retail purchases made online is now the majority at 51% in total and 54% for millennials. In fact, 63% of millennials are using their smartphones to shop. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Yet competition is fierce. The best performing home furnishings retailers collectively grew their eCommerce sales at a rate that is nearly 4x overall growth. (InternetRetailer)
- Unified Commerce is the way customers expect their shopping experience to occur today, yet only 18% of retailers indicate their technology can meet this need. (BRP)
- In fact, the consumer thinks unified already with 85% of consumers starting a purchase on one device and finishing on another. (Google)
- Adopting Unified Commerce ahead of the curve is a competitive advantage. Over the next few years, 70% of retailers are looking to refresh and rethink their point of sale strategy. (Computer Weekly)
- Retailers need to be accessible on all devices because mobile and desktop users are the same consumer. The average household has 7.4 connected devices. (Smart Insights)
- It is important for retailers to take note because today’s multi-channel consumers shop more often and spend 3x more than their single-channel counterparts. (Smart Insights)
- And it all comes back to experience. 89% of executives believe that customer experience will be their primary mode of competition by the end of 2016. (Euro IT Group)
So What’s The Story With … Unified Commerce?
Every interaction your customer has with your brand through their personal use of technology or through the technology they engage within your showrooms must be seamlessly integrated, provide a pleasant experience, and convey your brand message.
A customer lounging on their sofa decides it’s time for an upgrade! They begin their search for options online, as does 90% of the market. After finding a local retailer that has great options in their price range, the customer decides to take a trip in store to see the selection. Upon entering the store, the customer is drawn to a kiosk where she can filter options and add some of her favorites to a wish list. A sales associate is alerted of the customer’s activity on their tablet and goes to further engage the customer and deliver personalized service. The customer has a favorite choice but wants to confirm with her family. The sales associate creates a shopping cart so she can easily complete the order at home. The customer goes home and shows her family her selection. They love her decision, so she completes the order seamlessly through the retailer’s website. When the purchase arrives, the customer is so thrilled with her decision, that she reviews the product on her phone and shares it on her social network.
Is your business ready to tell the story of Unified Commerce?
Top Trends in Unified Commerce
Every customer is valuable to the retailer, no matter what method of commerce they are using to shop with your brand. That is the purpose of Unified Commerce; to create a unified customer experience across all platforms that delivers a competitive advantage for your brand. After all, 86% of customers stated that they will pay more for a great experience. With Unified Commerce, this means setting up your technology infrastructure to build a personalized relationship. This includes clienteling in stores and online, creating a center for interactions and personalizing communications.
How to Successfully Unify Customer Experience
- First, you must create a way to uniquely identify each customer across your technology infrastructure. Email is recommended because it is also necessary for communicating.
- Incentivize the customer to register for your site even before they make a purchase. Access to exclusive discounts, loyalty programs, first looks, or enriching content work well for this goal. Initial pop-ups providing a promotion code have proven to work well for retailers.
- Once the customer has a log-in to your website, have a dashboard where they can save shopping carts, store payment methods, check orders, view history and more, all from one centralized location.
- When a customer walks into your store and already has an established profile, your salesperson is one step ahead of the game. Clienteling is the act of building long-term relationships. This allows your team to tailor purchases to the customer’s style and price points, making them feel welcomed.
- Customer history data can also be used to personalize what the customer sees on your website. This includes purchase suggestions or content features such as style guides.
- Build workflows that send personalized communications to customers based on their actions to soften marketing. Send them new products curated from their history, invite them to local events, or thank them for visiting your store with an incentive to complete a purchase online.
What technology means to retail is expanding rapidly. It is important that you have a solid foundation through your Enterprise Resource Planning System that can be integrated or complemented by experience-driven tech. These features must deliver a function that generates an ROI for your business and creates memorable experiences for your customers.
Experience-Driven Tech To Generate An ROI
- Did you know consumers reach for their smartphones 150-200x a day? Mobile searches now exceed desktop, though mobile revenue hasn’t followed the same trend. Retailers who design their eCommerce experience for mobile can capitalize on that surge in traffic
- Today mobile responsive design has become the standard. The next step is to create mobile shopping apps that eliminate frustrations customers sometimes feel when trying to complete a transaction on a smartphone.
- Location, location, location! That’s the case with beacons. Retailers are investing in tech that trigger alerts to their customers’ smartphones based on their geographic location. Tactics include sending incentives to drive customers into a store when they are nearby or helping close a sale based on their location in your store.
- The use of digital Space Planners allows customers to build architectural renderings of their rooms that are to scale. They can then configure products from a retailer’s website to see how to best complete the space. Features such as social sharing make this technology fun and interactive.
- Taking this a step further is Augmented Reality, which continues to be an area of development. This allows customers to place merchandise into a 3D version of their home helping them to visualize their space before they make a purchase.
- Shop the Look is a popular way to combine technology with curated content. Merchandise is presented in a more editorial fashion and customers can click to the product directly from the image. Google is currently rolling out a new advertising method using this model.
One of the advantages of having a physical store is that human interaction that occurs. If you have a great team, it is straightforward to deliver warm service one on one. Warming up the experience online can be tougher, but it is possible! It is important to add the details that show the customer your brand has a human side even when the interaction is not face to face. There are some aspects to online service that are critical to hitting a home-run on.
Deliver Quality Service On Your Digital Channels
- Just as you would greet a customer as soon as they enter your store, you should deliver the same attentiveness on your website. Econsultancy found that 83% of customers want live chat available on sites they shop.
- Customers expect to have their questions answered almost immediately just as they would in-stores. In fact, 57% of customers will abandon their cart if they do not get an answer quickly according to Forrester research.
- Many brands create a regular email newsletter to be able to share important updates, product additions, special sales or events, community outreach and more. This makes the customer feel like a part of the brand community. More frequent updates through social media also help build that relationship.
- Free Shipping has infiltrated the furniture industry thanks to eTailers, but that doesn’t mean you should count your business out of the game. There are a few golden rules around your shipping and delivery policies that consumers dictate.
- Be upfront if the customer is incurring a cost. The customer wants to know the all-in price of their merchandise early in the purchasing process. Whether you boldly advertise a flat delivery fee or calculate the itemized delivery for each product, make sure the customer is not surprised late in the game.
- Set realistic delivery date expectations and stand behind them. Your unified commerce platform should calculate the estimated delivery right on your website as this is important to the decision making process.
- If the customer is registered on your website, auto-populate the ship-to fields with their information, but give them the option to ship elsewhere too. Any fields requiring the same information should not require duplicate entry.
- Luckily for retailers, free returns haven’t hit the furniture industry quite yet. However, how you handle returns is critical. According to All Business, 91% of customers say a store’s return policy is an important factor in whether or not they purchase. Here’s what Entrepreneur states to ensure your return policies don’t hinder a sale.
- Make your return policy easy to find on your website, with clearly defined regulations. If a product falls outside of your standard policy, make that apparent to the consumer on the product page.
- Make the return process as painless as the shopping experience. If it’s a smaller item, provide a return label. If delivery needs to be scheduled, make it easy for the customer to make that request and schedule promptly.
- If you are charging the consumer a return fee, make the process as affordable as possible. This means working with your delivery providers to secure competitive rates.
- Offer a reasonable time frame. Give your customer time to feel confident in their decision. It will go a long way.
Today it is not enough to just have a website. Customers have many options to choose from, so having an eCommerce platform that wows them is imperative. Execute a site that delivers a modern shopping experience to capture both new and repeat business. While how the site looks is important, it’s the behind the scenes functions that the customer doesn’t even realize are there that can set your site apart.
Features Needed For eCommerce Success
- To integrate your website into a Unified Commerce strategy, product availability must update in real-time. It is frustrating to the customer to order something online, only to find out it wasn’t actually in-stock. Additionally, the information presented online must be consistent with your showroom. Your customer should walk in to find the same information and prices in-store and online.
- A goal of eCommerce is to make it as simple as possible for your customer to find what they are looking for. Direct navigation should easily guide them into the site. In-site search should produce accurate results. Finally, filtering within categories should be intuitive and help the customer in the decision-making process.
- Once the customer has made their decision, the check out process should be painless. A returning customer should have their non-sensitive information auto-populate into check-out fields. You should also try to eliminate any steps that aren’t necessary for a successful sale to reduce drop-off rates. In addition, if your customer is coming back to purchase items left in their cart, ensure that the cart is saved for their next visit.
- Your site must also be secure and provide the consumer with confidence when entering sensitive data. An SSL certificate is a minimal investment that goes a long way to providing consumer trust on your website. You want to ensure that integrations to third-party credit card and finance providers are secure and use encryption for sensitive data.
- The visual of your site is imperative. The customer should immediately feel as though they entered your flagship store when they enter your website. Add graphic elements that are unique to your brand. Also, the imagery should deliver a consistent story, matching the feel of the site to the type of product you sell.
- Furniture is one of the more challenging products to sell online, but there are ways to overcome this. High-quality photography should be true to color and display texture as best as possible. Featuring stills, close-ups, and product vignettes will help the customer visualize the product in their home. Optimize high-resolution images to maintain fast site speed.
- Offering detailed descriptions, accurate dimensions, and sealing the deal with strong product reviews can help close a sale. Provide the information that motivates your customer to complete the checkout process.