Jan 03 2019

Dealers are particularly digital-affine

Most companies are open to digitisation. According to a recent Bitkom survey, it is a particularly important topic for retailers. The German furniture trade is also becoming increasingly digitalised - albeit more slowly than desired.

In Germany, the share of online shopping is only 14 percent. This is the result of a representative survey commissioned by the Association of the German Furniture Industry. According to experts, however, it is only a matter of time before the Internet business has outstripped the stationary furniture store. Currently, half of all respondents use the Internet as a source of information and inspiration for furniture. In the younger target group it is even almost 80 percent.

Furniture trade still reticent

But while, according to Bitkom, every tenth company in Germany (ten percent) is very open-minded and 64 percent is rather open-minded when it comes to digitization, the furnishing industry has so far been rather cautious. This is a missed opportunity, because buying furniture and furnishings online offers great potential for retailers and manufacturers.

After all, according to a PwC analysis, the signs in the German furniture industry are pointing to growth. The market research company predicts that furniture production will see a stable increase in sales by 2020 - by an average of two percent per year.

"The desire of consumers to touch a product and try it out, as well as the difficulty of exchanging furniture online, are currently still slowing sales of furniture on the Internet," explains Patrick Ziechmann, partner and expert for retail and consumer goods at PwC in Germany. However, this will change in the medium term.

Overcoming resistance in online business

PwC experts expect online sales in the furniture trade to increase by 13 percent per year by 2020. The online furniture business could be driven by trends such as augmented reality and virtual reality, which offer consumers the opportunity to bring virtual products into their own four walls and thus overcome the hurdle of imagination.

Retailers could also overcome existing resistance with Omnichannel concepts that rely on stationary showrooms in conjunction with online sales channels and technological innovations as well as uncomplicated and consumer-friendly exchange processes for online purchases. "It's worth it, because online sales have great growth potential for the German furniture market," continues Patrick Ziechmann.

The online retailer OTTO.de also took a look at the furniture industry in the the year and, in its "OTTO Home Study 2018", stated that the sale of furniture and household goods via online channels is becoming increasingly important. According to its own research, the company has been able to increase online purchases in this segment by 15 per cent over the past three years (from 22 to 37 per cent).

Cross-channel business models for furniture retailers

Although digitisation is a major challenge for the furniture industry, it also offers great opportunities. Furniture companies should therefore offer their customers the best possible shopping experience - across all touchpoints, offline and online across all channels.

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