The ultimate goal of a furniture retail business is to convert a guest into a loyal customer of your brand. But furniture shopping journeys aren’t always straightforward. They loop organically across your brand’s touchpoints. Whether a customer buys online, in-store, or from both channels at different times, what matters at the end of the day is that they ultimately become a happy customer.
How can your home furnishings website help you get there?
Technology to Connect: Digital Shopping Carts
The furniture retail technology that makes any multi-channel customer journey seamless is the digital shopping cart. This tool empowers your customers to move through their sales cycle from various devices, both their own personal and those belonging to the retailer. Furniture retail shopping cart changes made in-store, online, or via mobile should update seamlessly for smooth transitions between channels.
“Customers want access to a single cart to shop across channels and be able to reach their cart via phone, computer, or in store. They want to start anywhere and finish anywhere.” Cambridge Retail Advisors
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Research Home Furnishings Online, Buy Offline
The most prevalent consumer shopping behavior is to research online before ultimately purchasing in a showroom. This is especially true for significant big-ticket purchases including home furnishings, bedding, and appliances. Therefore a primary goal of your website is to drive educated shoppers into your home furnishings store. For customers who prefer to make their final purchase in-store, it’s vital to optimize your website as a key digital marketing tool to drive traffic.
“88% of consumers research products online before buying in store.” eCommerce Foundation
Grow “Research Online, Buy Offline” with the support of these eCommerce features and functionalities.
- Eye-Catching Imagery: Stores offer sensory experiences that your website needs to work hard to replicate. Furniture product imagery should be enticing and high-quality, yet optimized for site speed. Giving customers product detail shots with zoom capabilities and vignettes for scale provide the visual clues needed to narrow down their selections.
- Consistent Pricing: Customers value transparency from the home furnishings retailers they engage with. In fact, lack of price clarity is a top reason for shopping cart abandonment. Customers want to conduct their research using accurate pricing information and find consistency when they come into your furniture retail store.
- Detailed Product Knowledge: It is best to have continuity for all furniture product knowledge. Provide clear product data in searchable and filterable formats to empower your customer. Furniture retailers that make it easy for customers to conduct their research will be valued. Include specs, measurements, color alternates, materials, and construction details on product pages.
- Inventory Availability: A key feature for promoting cross-channel consistency is the accurate display of inventory availability. This can include current stock status, the ability to view a floor sample in a local showroom, and the anticipated time frame for the merchandise to be delivered. This further provides accurate information customers need to conduct their research for new furnishings.
- Attractive Delivery Options: A reason many customers choose to transact in a physical store vs. online is to avoid shipping costs. While this is not always possible for large furniture deliveries, having attractive offers for customers that are looking to save on this particular expense can combat an objection. This can include a basic delivery option or free curbside pickup.
- Store Locators: Clearly promote location information. Allow customers to customize their experience by their zip code. Provide store location pages with maps and current business hours. Make it easy for customers to shop with you. Personalize pages by showing the faces behind your in-store team and local community involvement to stand out from the competition.
Browse Home Furnishings In-Store, Buy Online
The goal in retail will always be to convert a sale with the path of least resistance. If the opportunity is in front of you, go for the close. Yet, the numbers don’t lie. “Browse In-Store, Buy Online” is a common shopping pattern. Customers may visit your showroom to experience the sensory elements of a product, but may ultimately want to purchase online. Particularly with high-ticket items such as furniture, appliances, or mattresses, it is reasonable that a customer may want to sleep on their decision or consult with family members.
Home furnishings retailers must be strategic and ensure their cross-channel technology is set up to accommodate this scenario. To avoid showrooming, where the customer ultimately purchases from a competitor, you want to make it convenient for the customer to purchase from your brand with a frictionless eCommerce experience.
“Over 55% of consumers visit stores before buying online, emphasizing the idea that physical and seamless multi-channel experiences are critical for modern retailing.” Retail Dive
Here are key features to support “Browse In-Store, Buy Online Conversions.”
- Excellent Customer Service: Before we dive into technology, there is no replacement for great customer service. An exceptional technology infrastructure is complementary to the exceptional people that are a part of your business. The technology supports their ability to deliver a great customer experience and lays the foundation for a lasting brand relationship.
- Sales Person Recognition: To encourage your website as a channel to close business, your sales professionals need to be on board. If they fear losing their commissions to your website, it will become a competitor vs. an asset. By enabling optional Sales Person Recognition at checkout, your sales staff will be confident in using your website as a resource to close more business.
- Account Sign Up: When a guest enters your store, you want to capture their contact information and sign them up for an account. Sales associates can motivate hesitant guests through incentives and convenience. This includes tracking their product interests as you shop with them and adding relevant recommendations to their cart.
- Consistent Merchandising: For customers to be able to complete their orders online, the merchandise represented in your store needs to be consistent with your website. Operating your in-store and online systems on the same database with real-time inventory is fundamental to a seamless online checkout.
- Emailed Shopping Carts: It can be difficult to let a customer walk out the door without buying. When this does happen, it is best to provide them with an easy way to complete their order online. By emailing the customer their shopping cart with their final home furnishings selections, and possibly relevant upsells, there is minimal effort to convert online.
- Streamlined Checkout: The best way to foster conversions is with a simplified workflow to complete an order. Using a single-page, minimal-step checkout on your home furnishings website streamlines the process and is proven to increase conversion rates. Clear instructions, transparent pricing, and available fulfillment options aid the customer in the self-service checkout process.
Modern Multi-Channel Consumers
To successfully serve today’s home furnishings customers, your retail experience needs to be unified across all touchpoints. This includes guests who are browsing, first-time customers, and brand loyalists. Chances are most furniture shopping experiences won’t be linear, especially when it comes to repeat engagement. That means the experiences you provide in-store and on your eCommerce website need to promote convenience and strong branding at all times. Here we highlight some tried and true features of your home furnishings website that will be valued by customers, no matter where they are in their path to purchase.
Only 20-30% of customers purchase on the 1st visit, therefore your website needs to be designed for all points in the customer lifecycle and foster repeat engagement.
Here are standout features to win over the dynamic multi-channel customer.
- Product Reviews: Customers value social proof. An in-depth body of reviews can be an incredible asset for your brand and deliver the motivation a customer needs to avoid buyer’s remorse. Reviews are also an effective way to add original content to your website. Ensure your website is a tool to validate decision-making.
- Payment Security: Once a customer is set to make a purchase, it is important that they feel secure in doing so. Instill confidence by using a PCI-PA-DSS Compliant website platform and clearly display these credentials in your checkout process. This can reduce a common reason for shopping cart abandonment.
- Chat and Click to Calls Options: Good, old-fashioned communication goes a long way. Sometimes a customer doesn’t need to make a trip to your showroom but does require minimal assistance to continue self-service on your website. By enabling chat and making your phone numbers click-to-call, furniture shoppers can easily access human assistance via your website.
- Digital Marketing: Providing customers with softer engagement points to learn about your brand is another important aspect of a website. Offering blog posts, product care resources, visual exploration features, social media connections, and video content can add value to the overall appeal of your retail business.
- Account Management: It is important to provide customers with visibility into their interactions with your business through an online Account Management portal. A centralized area where customers can check order statuses, make financing payments, and schedule deliveries, offers ease of use.
- Unified Customer Profiles: To truly have a unified commerce experience, the interactions your customer has online and in-store should be recorded in your brand’s technology as one holistic customer profile. This empowers your team to develop personalized relationships and curate services, which leads to long-term loyalty and increased lifetime value.
66% of customers in store and 80% online said retail technologies improved their experiences. National Retail Federation