As we step into 2019, we are looking forward to the trends and challenges that furniture e-commerce will bring. All over the world, online shopping has become part of daily life.
According to Statista, in 2017, e-commerce sales accounted for 10.2% of all retail sales worldwide. This figure is expected to reach 17.5% in 2021. In 2017, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 2.3 trillion USD, and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 4.88 trillion USD in 2021. Online furniture sales are growing rapidly as well. It’s predicted that e-commerce will account for $294B in furniture sales by 2022.
Customers nowadays expect more. Ignoring big trends can threaten to take you out of the picture. When we say trends, we mean important changes that will make the lives of customers easier. The companies who adopt technology just for the sake of being cutting edge will eventually cause themselves more harm than good.
In our e-book 6 Trends for Furniture E-commerce success in 2019, we dive even deeper into the 6 furniture e-commerce trends and forecast what we expect to see in the year ahead.
However, here is a quick overview of the trends to help you start the year off on the right foot.
1. Capturing the Value of Rich Content
Superior product visualization will continue to be a driving factor for e-commerce success in 2019. The biggest challenge of bridging the gap between online and offline shopping is the possibility to visualize products. Customers want to know exactly what they are going to get.
Retailers recognize that the first impression a customer gets from a website can have a strong impact on conversions. Digital merchandising improvements, therefore, continue to be a key area of investment and focus for retailers. However, creating authentic and compelling visualizations that will drive engagement is now more challenging than ever.
Some of the hottest trends in furniture visualization for 2019 include 3D visuals with 360-spin, interactive room scenes, augmented reality and video.
Using technology to bridge the online-offline gap can help you introduce customization, versatility and engaging shopping experiences.
In online furniture retail, a key area of development is likely to be in advanced imaging and visualization tools. 360˚rendering is now a minimum requirement. In 2019, we can expect to see augmented reality (AR) become more widespread, allowing customers to visualize furniture in their own setting. I also expect to see retailers offering more and more sophisticated product configuration options, for example, build-your-own sofa or modular combinations. - David Kohn, Customer and E-commerce Director, Heal’s
2. Set Up a Mobile Strategy to Create Connections with Customers on the Go
As shoppers spend more time and money on mobile, they will expect better experiences on those devices. We are witnessing the steady growth of mobile shopping, and while it has not yet entirely replaced the desktop, it has become a natural part of consumer shopping behavior. According to Google, 50% of all web traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets.
The primary question companies have when it comes to mobile is whether a mobile app or a mobile website is the right way to go - or perhaps both?
With a mobile website, you can get a wider audience reach and better SEO rankings (due to the mobile-first index from Google). On the other hand with a mobile app, you can offer a more immersive mobile experience to the users with features like push notifications, alerts, personalization, custom recommendations, etc. However, we are witnessing that users tend to spend their time on these top 5 apps, and delete apps they don’t use frequently. If we consider that furniture is not a frequently bought item, it becomes clear that there is a large chance that customers won't bother downloading the app. With these pros and cons in mind, it’s up to you to decide what the best choice for you will be. You must take the purpose, needed features, target audiences, and available budget into consideration.
3. Omnichannel - Customers' Path To Purchase
The emergence of omnichannel shopping has brought new rules to retail. Customers want to be able to shop anywhere, anytime and on any device with a consistent experience. It’s not a bricks-vs.-clicks world or one device vs. another. As consumers have become channel-agnostic, they just want a seamless shopping journey, bouncing between online and offline interactions along their path to purchase.
Some of the top furniture brands and retailers are experimenting with new forms of engagement online and in-store to deliver more immersive and compelling customer experiences. They are aware of the importance of the first impression, which in most cases happens online. However, 2018 was also proof that retail is not dead, as we’ve seen digital pure plays open their first physical stores.
Some of the biggest retailers experimented with pop-up stores, especially during the holidays, thus proving once more that having a store, even a small, gallery-like one can make a huge difference.
Omnichannel is not limited to bricks-vs.-clicks, it’s much more than that. More often than not, online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish it on another. So, creating an experience that lets customers pick up where they left off becomes imperative.
Having data to follow customers through channels and optimize your approach for the best results is the gold mine of omnichannel that you don’t want to miss.
Lifecycle marketing is important, based on the user type and product first purchased. This moves marketing from simple campaigns to user behavior flows and aligns it with product lifecycles. E.g., You bought a fridge freezer, and the predictive data models show that you’ll have a propensity to also purchase smaller devices like toasters and kettles. After 12 months, we can suggest the extended warranty, after 18 months, replacement parts and after 2 years, a full service. - James Gurd, an experienced e-commerce strategy and replatforming consultant, Digital Juggler
4. Personalization Matters
Today’s proliferation of choices makes it hard for customers to make a decision, and even harder for retailers to cut through the noise. That’s why retailers must experiment with different forms of personalization to grab customer attention.
We’re already in the era of Me-commerce. Embracing Me-commerce means meeting a customer’s ever-changing and increasingly demanding shopping expectations and habits.
Despite privacy concerns, customers are willing to share personal information, but only to get relevant and personalized experiences.
A report from Salesforce shows that customers who clicked on recommendations spent an average of 12.9 minutes on the site, as opposed to 2.9 minutes for those who didn’t. Make sure to use product recommendations like “You might also like,” “Visitors who viewed this product also viewed,” “Recently viewed,” etc.
Some other tools like contextual messaging, geo-location targeting, or simply asking customers what they want in the form of a quiz can help you offer personalized experiences.
One of the most effective tactics for increased conversions is providing easier to understand product information. This is becoming increasingly visual and video-based. Finding effective ways and technologies to add more personalization is going to have a significant impact on the online furniture retail space. - Pete Franco, Director of E-commerce at Living Spaces
5. Conversational Commerce Is on the Cusp of Revolutionizing Commerce
The brand-customer relationship is evolving. Customers are in the driver’s seat of a digital transformation. In response to their changing behavior, companies must offer the best customer service and meet their expectations at every touchpoint. In the digital age of always-connected customers, contextual conversations across multiple channels are essential for retaining customers and building loyalty. You have to be there for them, on their terms.
Conversational commerce is a combination of customer service, marketing, and sales, blended with AI. We can define it as e-commerce through voice and text-based conversation, including website live chat, voice assistants, chatbots in messaging apps, and much more. According to AtlasRTX, nearly 60% of Millennials report that they interact with a chatbot daily, 86% of Millennials think brands should use chatbots and 67% of customers would purchase from a chatbot. Voice assistants are also on the rise, and they are also revolutionizing commerce. Research from Capgemini shows that customers will be increasingly willing to use voice assistants, complementing the digital transformation.
Three years from now, 31% of customers will prefer using a voice assistant, instead of visiting physical stores. However, when it comes to customer service, there is no either/or. It’s about finding the right balance between artificial intelligence and human touch. Chatbots should not handle complex tasks, and customer service agents shouldn’t have all of their time taken up with simple tasks.
The integration of machine learning – or AI as the world knows it – is dramatically improving some brands’ ability to deliver precision offers and marketing to their customers. The brands that implement AI technologies into their CRMs will create deeper insights into their customer base. They will develop a competitive advantage. - Geoff Livingston, Marketing Strategist
6. Prevent Cart Abandonment with a Seamless Checkout
New technologies are leading to increased openness in payments. Customers are demanding real-time, agile and personalized payment services. Online shopping cart abandonment rates vary between 60% and 80%. According to Statista, the abandonment rate in retail for the second quarter of 2018 was 74.2%.
Research from Baymard shows that requesting profile creation (37%), and long, complicated checkout processes (28%) are among the main reasons for drop out, right after high extra costs (shipping, taxes, fees).
If you want to optimize your checkout process, make sure to clean the clutter, make your UX clean, simple and self-explanatory. Also, offering customers a guest checkout can help you increase conversions. According to NRF, when asked what features are most important for increased conversions, more than 48% of the respondents answered that the ease of guest checkout positively influences their buying decision.
Some other tweaks that can help you optimize your checkout process are showing a thumbnail image of the items customers are buying, thus optimizing your mobile checkout, as well as ensuring user security by adding reviews, security certificates, logos from different payment options you offer, as well as offering customer support throughout the entire process.
The biggest mistakes companies make in their UX process is trusting the default options from their software providers and vendor partners. Instead of focusing on what’s best for users, a lot of shop owners will only use the default options on their shopping cart software. Remember, these defaults are usually what is convenient for developers, not what’s best for users. A little extra effort to consider the needs of users will make a tremendous impact on conversion rates, user satisfaction, and overall sales for any e-commerce shop. - Jeff Sauer, Founder of Data Driven
We are finishing this overview with an expert roundup about the future of e-commerce. Here are some thoughts and recommendations to help you master your e-commerce game in 2019:
1. What are the most important factors for achieving e-commerce growth and success in 2019?
As we look ahead into 2019, it's critical for companies to keep automation top of mind for their e-commerce growth and success. The human touch will always play a factor, but modern technology allows for companies to be more efficient and benefit from stronger success thanks to automation and technology in general. Don't overlook this critical factor across all touch points of your e-commerce operations. - Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder of Retail Minded
A clear strategy with a well-defined measurement framework that aligns KPIs with business goals and objectives. You can’t be successful if you don’t know how to measure success and don’t have benchmarks against which to assess progress. E-commerce changes so quickly that you’ve got to be on top of the data to make smart decisions. So put the time and effort into getting your analytics and BI tools set-up to provide the breadth of reporting that’s needed to drive analysis. You can’t analyze if you don’t have accurate data. - James Gurd Owner, Digital Juggler
The key driver of retail success is and always has been the strength of a business’s underlying value proposition and their ability to deliver it consistently. In e-commerce, a focus on the basics will never go out of fashion, but for 2019 I expect to see brands working harder to communicate their value proposition through all marketing and experience channels. At Heal’s, for example, we connect online customers to our store experts to exemplify our value proposition in advice and inspiration. - David Kohn, Director of E-commerce and Customer Experience at Heal’s
Creating trust with customers. As data breaches continue and our methods of reaching out to customers become increasingly intrusive, brands need to forge trust with their customers if they want to achieve anything more than impulse purpose-driven purchases. Customers want brands to respect their privacy. - Geoff Livingston, Digital Marketing Pioneer
2. What are the biggest mistakes you see companies making in their UX process?
Most online retailers do a decent job of delivering a good user experience. One thing, though, that I think is often missing is tapping into the emotion of customers and how they actually make decisions. E-commerce professionals and web developers tend to be logical and functional types, so they tend to focus on ‘System 2.’ A little more focus on the instinctive, intuitive, more ‘emotional’ side of the brain would pay dividends, particularly when there is so much choice available. - David Kohn, Director of E-commerce and Customer Experience at Heal’s
Often, companies rank design as the #1 priority during their UX process but the design needs to be supported by function, as well. This includes how the design will be both understood and appreciated by the end users and the overall efficiency of the design. Additionally, while budget is undoubtedly a factor to consider, companies need to recognize that paying less or even paying too much is not always the best approach. Consider multiple options in design and budget before making any decisions, while keeping a core focus on end-user experience to truly optimize your UX process and investment. - Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder of Retail Minded
Not investing the right effort in understanding users. Optimizing content or features for browsers and devices is the end point of the UX process – first, you’ve got to know who the target audience is, how they interact with the assets, what pain points they might have, what influences their decisions, etc. It doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive either. There are tools like Hotjar that provide session replays and heat/scroll maps to learn from your current users, tools like Whatusersdo for remote video testing, tools like Treejack for tree testing, card sorting, etc. - James Gurd Owner, Digital Juggler
Over-relying on Facebook and Google as paths to the customer. These are important media platforms, but the more independent a company can be from these two brands, the stronger its position in the market. The murky regulation environment facing Facebook and Google, and their ability to force feed web and marketing best practices represent a significant risk in my mind. - Geoff Livingston, Digital Marketing Pioneer
3. What is your most effective tactic for improved product page conversions?
(Sadly) price promotions continue to be the most effective way to drive website conversion, but they do impact margin. But rather than run blanket promotions, we’re finding ways to apply incentives more selectively, for example, if a user has made several visits without purchasing or if we see a first-time user who’s come via a particular channel. We also find that if we can get customers into our expert Live Chat, their conversion rockets to on average 10 times that of a normal site visitor. - David Kohn, Director of E-commerce and Customer Experience at Heal’s
Being clear in your message, concise in your communication and correct in the information you share are among the best ways to help increase conversions. With tech available to help manage and track this, the core of conversions comes down to audience interest and engagement. Be sure to make your value proposition - whether you're selling a service, product, or simply trying to get attention from one page to another - clear, concise, correct and courteous along the way. - Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder of Retail Minded
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