Furniture sales are changing radically. In Germany 14 per cent of consumers already buy their furniture online – and that figure is growing. This was one of the findings from a representative survey recently commissioned by the Association of the German Furniture Industry (VDM) from the market research institute Kantar TNS. Single households and the under-30s predominate among online buyers. “Even as young people get older, they won’t want to stop buying furniture online. There is clearly great potential for the furniture industry here,” says Jan Kurth, Chief Executive of the VDM.
People instead of computers
Sales advice in the interior design industry will increasingly shift online in the near future. When shopping online, even young consumers can feel overwhelmed by the almost endless and confusing range of products. Intelligent software and chatbots are already taking over part of sales advice for retailers. But many furniture shoppers would like to receive expert, personalised interior design advice with a human touch when making online purchases. This could take the form of trained staff who advise and convince customers via chat, in video conferences or on the telephone. To be able to do so, they need the latest training in their specialist field and in media technologies.
Portals are an additional orientation tool for customers. They preselect products from different styles, from classic to on-trend. Experience has shown that the digital age calls for creative ideas from home design specialists and interior architects. Some companies and start-ups provide their customers with highly personalised furniture suggestions based on a needs analysis.
Inspiration, advice and purchase
Young companies like Westwing are responding successfully to the need for personal contact and an individual product selection. Westwing is more than just an online retailer in the home & living sector. The Munich company has based its business model on interactive apps and building strong customer loyalty. The start-up sees itself as a shopping club and offers products from a constantly updated selection hand-picked by international trend scouts exclusively to its members. Every morning it sends a newsletter with special offers on particular brands or selected lifestyle themes. The featured products are only available to buy for a few days in flash sales. An online magazine with home stories, trend reports, interior ideas and do-it-yourself tips motivates its members to spend. The right mix of inspiration, advice and purchase motivation is the key to its success.
Skilled advisers will be needed for online furniture sales as e-commerce’s market share keeps on growing. If retailers want to succeed and stay ahead of the competition, they need to rethink their strategies. Training skilled specialist advisers and experienced staff pays off. Bricks-and-mortar stores can also strengthen their market position with a service-oriented online presence and skilled employees.