Consumers expect inspiring buying experiences and expert advice from furniture retailers. Cleverly linked multichannel concepts are the key to long-term success: they will ensure that the industry is prepared for the future.
Bricks-and-mortar interior design stores should make their sales areas more attractive and improve the standard of their sales advice if they do not want to lose customers to better-equipped competitors or online channels. Consumers want buying from a furniture showroom to be an inspiring and relaxing experience. These are some of the findings from the recent study “Furnished for the Future” (Auf Zukunft eingerichtet), which examined furniture purchase experiences. The study was conducted by the auditors KPMG in collaboration with IFH Köln (Institute for Retail Research).
According to the survey, one in four furniture showroom visitors believe that these businesses are often outdated and need to change (24 per cent). This figure rises to as high as 40 per cent among intensive smartphone users. Around one-third of consumers are dissatisfied with shopping in physical outlets because waits are too long, the quality of the products is lacking and not enough staff are available.
From the customer’s perspective, both online and offline channels have their advantages, so buyers are looking for the best of both worlds: a good half of consumers (58 per cent) prefer a bricks-and-mortar furniture retailer with an online store to a purely physical outlet. Multichannel concepts that generate targeted added value with selected services are becoming increasingly popular. Consumers not only find them more up-to-date; they also see them as more inspiring, appealing and customer-focused.
But the positive effects of a multichannel concept can only be achieved if online and offline strategies are intelligently linked – and that goes for mobile, too. In order to leverage the benefits of both channels, manufacturers and retailers need to optimise their online presences and their showrooms. Sales staff and store design are seen as the most important factors in bricks-and-mortar outlets. Store managers should invest in specialist and customer service training courses for their staff so that they can provide expert sales advice. But digital skills also need developing: digitalisation now means so much more than simply operating an online store. Bricks-and-mortar furniture stores can expand their success by integrating other touchpoints. These could be online videos demonstrating how to assemble furniture, 3D room planning tools and social media services. But equally they can provide information on what products are currently available in store.
Being able to book an appointment in a furniture showroom online would avoid long waits, which are frequently criticised in physical outlets. More than one-third of consumers (35 per cent) would like to see this service offered, and that percentage rises to a considerable 43 per cent among smart consumers.
Identifying customer needs and wants and responding to them should be the industry’s priority. Bricks-and-mortar furniture retailers can successfully hold their own against their (online) rivals by improving the standard of their sales advice. Another useful tool for raising the profile of a physical business is the design of the sales area. The majority of consumers would like buying furniture from a showroom to be a relaxing experience.
Two-thirds of respondents (64 per cent) say that they would like to see seating and drinks offered in stores. But going beyond this, furniture retailers can win over customers with emotionally designed sales areas. Attractive furniture collages with the increasingly important home accessories offer a wide range of opportunities to enhance the appearance of showrooms. Homes and interiors has been one of the most important markets for consumer products in Germany for years. To make sure things stay that way, the furniture trade needs to identify its customers’ needs and wants precisely and meet them. Intelligently linked multichannel concepts have the potential to drive the industry’s long-term success.