The Comprehensive Technology Guide for Furniture Retail CIOs

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Surpass Customer Expectations With Your Retail Tech Strategy

For decades, retail technology has been an important aspect of home furnishings retailers creating exceptional customer experiences. However, with new technological advances accelerating and influencing customer purchasing behavior in new ways, home furnishings retailers must evolve and expand their technology ecosystems to remain relevant.

Today, technology encompasses every aspect of a business from operations and order fulfillment to the customers’ shopping journey and post-purchase engagements.

The Strategic Planning Guide for Furniture Retail Technology is an advanced technology resource providing CIOs, system administrators, business owners, and executives with a foundational checklist across various functional software areas. It is important to note that not every solution will be right for every retailer, but this guide provides a comprehensive overview as you build your ideal technology ecosystem.

How does a retailer build their ideal technology ecosystem? Due to the expanding nature of new and emerging technologies, having a solid foundation to run your core business processes as well as integration and automation capabilities to seamlessly connect specialized solutions is key. This critical trend is called Extensibility. Learn more about it here.

What are tools modern home furnishings retailers need to provide an exceptional customer experience? Let’s dive in.

Operations

The first area of solutions covers the foundation of operating a retail business from receiving inventory to order fulfillment. These solutions help you meet the primary function of providing goods or services to end consumers.

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Integrated ERP:

A comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system enables retailers to manage their day-to-day business processes through a single database for efficiency and centralization of critical information.

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Order Management:

Order management systems seamlessly manage and track the lifecycle of sales and service orders received across all channels. The goal is to ensure the successful fulfillment of the purchased goods or services to customers.

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Inventory Control:

An inventory control system tracks the flow of products through your supply chain from purchasing and receiving to warehousing and fulfillment. A real-time system tracks a retailer’s inventory across stores, distribution centers, and websites.

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Warehouse Management:

A warehouse management system optimizes the productivity of your distribution centers by monitoring the in and outbound flow of products, directing the movement and storage of inventory, and assigning tasks to your warehouse team.

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Barcoding:

Streamline picking, receiving, transferring, cycle counting, and full physical inventories through a barcoding system. Batch systems update when tethered, while an RF system works in real-time over a WiFi network. Barcoding delivers piece-level inventory precision.

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Delivery Routing:

Routing solutions map routes for your delivery drivers with the most efficient and economical plans. These solutions reduce costs and save time while providing swift customer deliveries.

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Dropshipping:

These solutions help you communicate a dropshipping program with a third-party supplier, often the manufacturer. By outsourcing the storing, handling, and shipping of merchandise sold via eCommerce, retailers can expand product offerings while reducing costs.

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Electronic Data Interchange:

EDI solutions allow retailers to automatically transmit and manage purchase orders directly with vendors. EDI solutions provide digital communications for PO acknowledgments, shipment notices, costs of goods and freight, and status changes.

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Accounting:

With an integrated accounting solution, manage all of your business’ financial and transactional data. Integration eliminates manual error and automates financial reconciliation across payables and receivables.

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Customer Experience & Communications:

This category focuses on the solutions that have the most direct impact on your customers’ interactions with your business. Discover tools to help your team deliver exceptional service and solutions that show customers their value.

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CXM Solutions:

Customer Experience Management solutions allow you to build rich customer profiles to personalize a customer’s journey with your brand. From nurturing new leads to managing specific opportunities, CXM tools ensure you connect with each guest as an individual and generate the most value from every guest.

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Reputation Management:

Reputation Management solutions allow you to set up workflows to ensure you are capturing a consistent stream of customer reviews. These can be used to ensure you have a strong online reputation and also address any customer concerns proactively.

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Appointment Scheduling:

Appointment tools allow retailers to schedule one-to-one appointments where you can provide customers with the attentiveness they desire. Appointments show customers you value their time and increase conversion rates.

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Loyalty/Reward Programs:

Loyalty programs reward customers’ repeat shopping behavior with exclusive perks and benefits. They also re-engage repeat sales cycles through special promotional offerings.

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Customer Service:

Customer Service solutions allow you to manage service or repair inquiries for your customers as well as track warranty or protection plan claims. Ensuring a customer’s service goes smoothly is key to satisfaction.

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Customer Portals:

Online portals for customers to self-service add convenience. Use cases include checking open order statuses and support requests, managing payments, tracking deliveries, and checking rewards.

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Texting Communications:

Communicate quickly and efficiently with your customers via the SMS marketing channel, which they already use daily. Texting as a form of brand communication increases customer engagement and responsiveness.

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Chat Bots:

Transform your customer experience online with chatbots that offer service assistance to your online shoppers at all hours. By answering standard questions swiftly, you increase the likelihood of closing more eCommerce sales.

53% of retailers believe their digital technology tools enable them to provide the experience their customers need (RetailDive)

eCommerce

As the online channel is often the first place your future customers find your business, ensuring you have a strong set of tools to maximize your eCommerce website’s value can’t be overlooked.

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eCommerce Platform:

An eCommerce platform facilitates the components needed to operate and grow your online business including web hosting, inventory management, product search and discovery, secure checkout, payment processing, digital marketing, and more.

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Digital Shopping Cart:

Provide a seamless online shopping experience, enabling your customers to select, reserve, and purchase merchandise from a virtual cart with a simple click of a button.

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Marketplace Connector:

Expand your audience by integrating your product data and stock levels with eCommerce marketplaces, such as Amazon. Plug-ins ensure seamless synchronization across these selling channels.

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Smartphone App:

Seamlessly connect with your customers and attract new ones via a mobile app that offers convenience, improves brand recognition, and caters to the modern, mobile shopper.

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Content Management:

A Content Management System or CMS is the portion of an eCommerce website that allows your team to easily and efficiently manage, edit, create, and publish content without needing to outsource to a web developer.

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Self-Service Kiosk:

With a Kiosk, bring your digital presence into your showroom to bridge the customer’s online research. Repurpose your digital marketing content in dynamic displays and promote endless aisle inventory from this device.

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Automation Solutions

As retail technology enters a digital transformation, automation solutions are critical to extensibility. As you expand your technology usage, ensure each piece speaks with one another without manual effort. Automation allows you to build increasingly sophisticated customer experiences.

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APIs:

Application Programming Interfaces or APIs are the building blocks of software solutions. Enable developers to build directives to push and pull data between systems to create an intricate retail ecosystem.

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Webhooks:

Webhooks build upon the data exchanged via APIs. Webhooks trigger an event to occur based on the exchange of data. Webhooks are used to automate a sequence of events and create compelling customer experiences.

66% of consumers see automation as the key to a better retail experience, making it clear this is an area retailers can benefit from exploring. (Poptin)

Product Visualizations & Merchandising

The next grouping of solutions is imperative due to the prevalence of eCommerce and mobile smartphones in the shopping experience. These solutions allow your product to shine whether physically on your showroom floor or as a digital replica and ensure your product data is consistent everywhere.

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Buying Tools:

Buying tools support your merchandisers in evaluating customer shopping behavior, forecasting demand, allocating appropriate inventory levels, and planning for trends appropriately. These tools allow you to plan lead times with your vendors.

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PIM / Cataloging:

A Product Information Management solution (PIM) allows you to create a catalog of your product imagery, descriptions, dimensions, costs, and prices. As your products are showcased across multiple channels, a PIM ensures brand consistency.

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Product Configurator:

In the home furnishings industry, custom Special Order sales are a staple. Solutions to configure accurate product customizations, appropriately price components, and ensure a seamless transition to purchasing help retailers execute Special Orders successfully.

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3D Imagery:

Empower your customers to make informed purchasing decisions with the ability to interact with a 3D-rendered, graphical representation of the product on your eCommerce site. 3D imagery allows you to showcase more product vignettes at a fraction of the cost.

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Augmented Reality:

Provide an interactive retail experience that enables customers to visualize merchandise in their own space at scale to test the size and match a product’s style. AR is a digital version of “try-before-you-buy” for big-ticket home furnishings purchases.

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Room Planning:

Help your customers plan, layout, and preview a room design with a visual mock-up of the space. This allows you to play with how items fit into a space and how complementary pieces work together. Room planning tools can reduce return rates.

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Digital Price Tags:

Digital Price Tags display real-time pricing and product information in your showrooms, especially important in the dynamic appliance market. Digital Price Tags can be adjusted nimbly to deliver consistent information, price competitively, and maintain margins.

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Payment Solutions:

Transactions are key to retail businesses. The types of payments customers have come to expect at retail establishments keep growing. Here, we highlight today’s most important payment solutions.

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Mobile Point of Sale:

A web-based, mobile POS system is a must-have for retailers to help guests as they shop your showrooms and efficiently check out customers with the convenience they desire.

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Credit Card Processing:

Integrated credit card processing allows retailers to seamlessly connect their point of sale and eCommerce solutions to their payment gateways, payment processors, and merchant acquirers to securely process their customers’ credit and debit card payments.

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Sales Tax Interfaces:

For retailers selling across states or in locations with complex tax jurisdictions, Sales Tax Interfaces easily connect to your point of sale, maintain current tax regulations, and automatically calculate accurate taxes.

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Form Designers:

Processing orders requires sending your customers documentation from quotes and order confirmations to payment receipts. Solutions allow you to autogenerate branded templates and ensure the correct verbiage is added without manual effort.

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Payment Security:

Take the steps needed to protect your retail business and your customers from data breaches and financial losses by investing in solutions that practice end-to-end encryption or tokenization of financial and PII data.

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Fraud Analysis:

Fraud solutions add a layer of protection for your business when processing eCommerce or remote transactions. They verify the identity of the party making the payment to minimize the risk of fraudulent payments.

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Financing Solutions:

If you enable your customers to finance their purchases either through third-party lenders or in-house programs, financing solutions are helpful to streamline the credit application waterfall and manage payment plans.

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Buy Now, Pay Later:

Buy Now, Pay Later solutions make purchases more accessible by breaking up large payments into installments. Popular BNPL solutions are boosting sales, increasing ticket values, and reducing cart abandonment.

66%of customers say shopping technologies and innovations improved their experience. (NRF)

Business Intelligence

New forces impact businesses every day. To stay ahead of change, business intelligence and data analytics add a bit of science to the art of retailing. Here are some must-have facets of BI.

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Reporting:

A staple of BI is to automatically generate reports from your valuable data to gain actionable insights, measure KPIs, and make strategic decisions. Report scheduling can ensure consistent use.

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Visual Dashboards:

Dashboarding tools provide at-a-glance visibility into retail business performance through visuals such as graphs, charts, and tables.

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Data Warehouse:

For enterprise businesses, an SQL-based data warehouse platform retrieves large quantities of data with extreme speed and flexibility in virtual real-time to generate intricate reports for analyzing and scaling as your business grows.

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Door Counters:

Track traffic patterns of your store visitors to gain a better understanding of your business’ conversion rates, evaluate signage and promotional efforts, understand economic and consumer trends, and improve your overall customer experience.

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Digital Marketing Solutions

As a retailer, you put hard work into finding the right products, organizing your logistics, and crafting strong in-store and eCommerce experiences. Now, let’s highlight tools to grow your customer base via marketing.

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Email Marketing:

These solutions allow you to create, schedule, send, and track marketing emails to both current and potential customers. By integrating digital marketing with your customer and transactional data, you can better target relevant messaging.

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Social Media:

With a social media management solution, create dynamic posts and easily optimize them for platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. You can pre-schedule campaigns to reach your target audience at key hours.

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Google Analytics:

Utilize this digital analytics platform to monitor website traffic, engagement, and conversion activities. eCommerce metrics can help you analyze product performance, shopping funnels, and cart abandonment to optimize your website.

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SEO Tools:

Advanced SEO tools provide insights into your competitive landscape, keyword rankings, and technical website health to ensure your site is in the best position to earn organic traffic on search engines from your desired customers.

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Google Ads & Shopping:

Google Ads platform allows you to run text, multi-media, retargeting, and Shopping campaigns via paid online advertising. These ads can increase your product’s visibility, boost qualified traffic to your eCommerce website, improve sales, and drive brand awareness.

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Video Software:

As video content become multi-functional across your website, in-store displays, advertising, and social media, having tools to quickly produce high-quality video media is increasingly important.

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The Latest Retail Technologies to Shape Your Strategy

As the scope of new technology increases, this guide provides a comprehensive place to review the current needs in the market, discover initiative ideas, and develop your business’ technology strategy. This Strategic Planning Guide for Furniture Retail Technology will be updated regularly as new advancements hit the market.

The Strategic Planning Guide for Furniture Retail Technology is provided by STORIS. We are a leading technology solutions provider engineering innovative retail software solutions for the home furnishings industry. We also proudly partner with experts across specialized areas of retail technology, empowering furniture leaders to build their ideal technology ecosystem and extensible architecture.

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