In the past few years, the furniture industry has faced digital transformation challenges, which emerged as a result of changing consumer behaviors, new technologies, and industry trends.
At the beginning of 2020, and the start of a new decade, we are looking at the furniture e-commerce trends that will set the pace for the upcoming year, but that will also help companies set a solid foundation for future growth.
What’s on the horizon?
It’s no surprise that technology will continue to change the rules of the e-commerce game. The digital natives consider technology as an integral part of their lives, and they expect a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.
Last decade, 3D commerce was in its incubation period. By the end of this decade, 3D commerce will be completely mainstream and play an integral part in e-commerce success for the vast majority of retailers and manufacturers. So it’s no wonder that many of the e-commerce trends like web-native augmented reality, content repurposing, visual search, and context are tightly related to 3D product visualization.
Constant and direct communication with customers becomes more important than ever, so social commerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) business models are on the furniture businesses’ radar.
What are the changing consumer behaviors, new technologies, and industry trends that are set to disrupt furniture e-commerce in 2020? Let’s take a deeper dive into the 7 Trends for Furniture E-Commerce Success in 2020, and find out.
1| Tailored experiences with product customization
Imagine you are buying a sofa, and the moment you open a retailer’s product page, you see a sofa in one color, and then hundreds of colors and fabrics listed on the side without being able to see how the sofa looks in the color you like. Not the best user experience, right?
Today, technology makes it easier to enable product customization and to offer a personalized experience to your customers straight from your product pages. Choosing the right furniture for a home can be a daunting task – even the slightest details matter. Giving consumers the ability to combine colors, fabrics, finishes, and other details in a few clicks with a simple product configurator can enhance their experience and increase your conversions.
Besides this, leveraging the technology in-store can help you create an endless aisle. By using this strategy, you can bring the online experience in-store and empower sales representatives to sell more.
2| Augmented reality is set to disrupt furniture shopping
Furniture is an incredibly visual industry, and customers welcome every effort to bridge the gap between the online and in-store shopping experience.
This is one of the main reasons why augmented reality has significant potential to disrupt the way people shop for furniture. AR can help consumers make informed decisions by giving them the opportunity to virtually “try-out” furniture, not worrying about bad decisions, and removing a huge weight from their shoulders before the big purchase.
According to Google, two in three people say they are interested in harnessing AR to help them when shopping. Soon, AR will become an inevitable part of a buyer's path to purchase, especially in the furniture industry. How soon? Well, according to TechCrunch, by 2021, two dollars of each $10 spent in e-commerce sales (not including in-app purchases) will be thanks to using AR.
Today, we are finally seeing the new generation of AR experiences – web-native, meaningful, relevant, with frictionless and delightful user experience – the last stepping stone toward the mass adoption of augmented reality in furniture.
App-less AR has proven to provide adoption rates that are 33 times higher than traditional Augmented Reality mobile apps, thanks to the reduced friction. On top of this, customers that engage with AR are 8 times more likely to convert. In the future, as we see increased usage of AR in everyday life, the ability to access AR instantly without the need to install an app will become vital.
3| Content repurposing will extend the life of visual assets
In today's world, where customers are exposed to so much information, and you need multiple touchpoints across the journey to convince customers to buy your product, producing high-quality content is essential. However, it’s common sense that creating new content all the time takes too much time, money, and energy. It’s much more cost-effective if you repurpose your content, thus maximally utilizing what you already have.
When producing content, make sure to invest in versatile visuals that you can use across channels and platforms. To paint a picture, if you need visuals for your product page and you decide to go with a high-quality 3D product visualization, you can repurpose those assets for a 360-spin on your product page, product feed, “add to cart” thumbnail, visuals for your order/abandonment cart email, product recommendation visuals, social media, augmented reality, and much more. Investing in high-poly assets at the beginning can save you a lot of headaches.
According to Curata, 29% of leading marketers systematically reuse and repurpose content. Instead of letting your visual assets collect digital dust, make sure to invest in future-proof assets that you can repurpose and thus extend their life.
4| The rise of DTC (Direct To Consumer)
Over the past few years, brands have increasingly embraced the direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model alongside traditional retail. Three major factors paved the way for widespread adoption of the DTC model:
- Technology. Today, reaching consumers directly is easier and cheaper than ever before, thanks to technology
- The rise of digital-native brands. The success of digital-native brands such as Burrow, Article, and Joybird has shown that the DTC business model has great potential in the furniture industry.
- The shift in consumer expectations. Consumers have high expectations from brands. According to Salesforce:
- 73% of consumers expect to be able to buy directly from a brand as well as from a retailer;
- 76% of consumers expect the same level of engagement when buying from a brand as when buying from a retailer;
- Nearly half of consumers buy at least one product directly from a brand on a regular basis, and 44% expect to buy more products directly from brands in the future.
The rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands has changed the way people look at companies. DTC brands sell their products directly to buyers without relying on traditional stores or other middlemen. This allows them to reduce costs and gives them the flexibility to experiment with distribution models—from shipping directly to consumers to partnerships with physical retailers, to opening pop-up shops.
Traditional retailers are competing for market share with DTC brands and e-commerce marketplaces. Consumers have more choices than ever, and that raises their expectations around the shopping experience.
5| Social commerce will fuel online shopping
Today, there are around 3.5 billion active social media users, and they spend an average of two hours and 23 minutes per day on social media. That’s a huge untapped potential that retailers have finally decided to exploit. Even though social media was meant to connect people, today, companies see a huge opportunity that they are ready to use. Data shows that 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram.
More than half of U.S. social network users today are mobile-only. It’s no surprise they don’t want to be redirected to another website. Being able to complete a purchase easily has always been a top priority for customers. In today’s social media world, that’s a dealbreaker. If you don’t create a seamless experience, your customers won’t bother buying from you.
Social commerce enables a frictionless shopping experience and a smooth transition between discovering and purchasing. Social commerce is most relevant to lifestyle retail categories, such as apparel, luxury goods, beauty, and home decor.
More proof that social shopping will be one of the hottest trends in the upcoming years is the fact that 54% of social browsers use social media to research products and 30% of online shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase from a social media network like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.
6| Visual search changes the way people shop for furniture
In parallel with the advancement of visual technology, we’re witnessing an increasing number of companies getting ready for visual search.
While visual search isn’t expected to replace text-based search entirely any time soon, it will inevitably disrupt the way people search for products in the upcoming years. This will be additionally fueled by the adoption of 5G networks, which will enable the movement of larger amounts of data and visual information.
Last year, after Facebook acquired GrokStyle, the AI startup that powers the visual search for IKEA, people started talking about visual search more than ever. The move is a clear sign that Facebook has serious e-commerce plans for the future. It’s obvious that social networks and e-commerce giants are betting that visual search will soon become an integral part of the way people search for products, and they are getting ready for the shift.
Gartner predicts that by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.
Visual search has been around for years, specifically on the search engines of Google Images, Amazon, Wayfair, and Pinterest, to name a few. This is one more tool that marketplaces use to pitch furniture retailers to list their products on their marketplace. However, it is only recently that visual search has grown tremendously in terms of technological power that guarantees wider user adoption.
7| Context is crucial in furniture sales
Have you ever noticed the difference when looking at a product photo and a room scene? The power of context is huge and makes products more appealing right away, especially in the furniture business.
Combining elements to create an in-context photo will help you convey quality, tone, or mood that will influence the viewer’s perception of your product, ultimately leading to a higher conversion rate. Research from Google shows that 64% of female smartphone users agree that seeing images of products in context positively influences their purchase decision.
Complicated content creation is a thing from the past. A lot of companies have already replaced traditional product photography with 3D visuals. Nowadays, some furniture companies use more than 75% CGI in their furniture catalogs, and the level of quality is so high that you can’t recognize the difference between a rendering and an actual photograph.
Thаnks to advanced technology, furniture retailers don’t have to produce different product variations just to create appealing room scenes. Using 3D rendering, you can create stunning in-context images and present your products in the best possible light.
Not only do room scenes help explain the features of the product (color, fabric, and size), but they also help customers visualize how the product looks in a real-life setting. This is one of the top three most widely adopted e-commerce merchandising features among the Top 100 furniture retailers.
Besides our research, we did an expert roundup about the future of e-commerce. Here are some thoughts and recommendations to help you master your e-commerce game in 2020:
1| What are the most important factors for achieving E-commerce success in 2020?
Focus on customer loyalty, use data wisely and build something that is more than just a store. - Matt Thorpe, Ecommerce Consultant
Clarity of brand proposition is the key. Know what benefit you bring to your customers and do whatever you can to deliver it consistently. If you're genuinely delivering something that customers want the rest is straightforward. - David Kohn, Customer & eCommerce Director, Heal's
Understanding customer data and providing customers with the right products at the right place at the right time. The more you understand customer behavior and shopping preferences, the better you will be able to provide them with the products they need.- Jeff Sauer, Digital Marketing Speaker, Professor & Google Analytics Consultant
2| What are some of the E-commerce and marketing trends companies can’t ignore in 2020 if they want to stay relevant?
Easier mobile payment methods, social selling, greater personalization of product & experience - Matt Thorpe, Ecommerce Consultant
In eCommerce generally, I expect 2020 to be a year in which sustainability and concern for the environment start to gather real momentum. There will be real opportunities for companies who avoid disposable product, excess packaging and unnecessary transport and returns. In UX the best companies will work out how best to help users make purchase decisions. The proliferation of choice and fear of getting it wrong can paralyze, so providing reassurance and advice will be ever more important. Understanding your customer's buying psychology is key. In digital marketing, it's becoming more and more expensive to attract new customers. Most eCommerce retailers have focused for years on performance marketing, but they now need to invest more heavily in brand marketing and genuinely creative content to reach new audiences.- David Kohn, Customer & eCommerce Director, Heal's
Personalization of emails and website experiences.- Jeff Sauer, Digital Marketing Speaker, Professor & Google Analytics Consultant
Personalization: Mass-marketing and one-size-fits-all just doesn't stand out anymore. You need to make each customer feel like they're special and unique.- Kaleigh Moore, Freelance Writer for SaaS & eCommerce
3| Could you share some of the tactics and technologies that companies need to employ in the upcoming year to deliver improved customer experiences?
Bonjoro - An awesome onboarding tool, Klaviyo - Perfect for email automation tool for onboarding email series, Facebook Retargeting for website views, purchasers and purchaser look-a-likes - Matt Thorpe, Ecommerce Consultant
At Heal's we've invested in technology that allows online users to talk directly to our teams on the shop floor. This truly personal service enables us to give great advice and product recommendation alongside the reassurance that the customer wants. In 2020 we intend to continue investing in product visualization. With Heal's product 'the camera is mightier than the pen', so we will do what we can to help customers to see our products in all their glory and to visualize what they might look like in their homes. Finally (and it's hardly news) but mobile is still growing in terms of importance. Having a responsive site is not enough - all retailers must spend more time looking at user behaviors and motivations by device type and tailoring their experience accordingly. - David Kohn, Customer & eCommerce Director, Heal's
Collect better data on customers for enhanced remarketing and better reporting of results. Consider building campaigns for each state of awareness for a customer and tailor messaging to match their state of awareness. Video ads perform better than text or image ads, so make the product come to life by investing in video.- Jeff Sauer, Digital Marketing Speaker, Professor & Google Analytics Consultant
User-generated content/reviews: This form of social proof is essential for eliminating obstacles to purchase--and it reduces return rates, too. Yotpo is a great tool for this, and you can easily integrate it into your e-commerce product pages. - Kaleigh Moore, Freelance Writer for SaaS & eCommerce
4| What is one thing that has made a significant change in online furniture shopping in the last decade?
In many ways, furniture was well prepared for online retailing as it's always been an order and delivery business. What online retailers missed out on was the showroom aspect of being able to see and feel the product in the flesh. Improved product visualization techniques have closed the gap between the website and the showroom. The more these techniques can develop and become even more sensory - e.g. 'feel' the fabric, test the comfort - the easier it will be for online furniture retailers to flourish. - David Kohn, Customer & eCommerce Director, Heal's
Ease of delivery and better shipping estimates.- Jeff Sauer, Digital Marketing Speaker, Professor & Google Analytics Consultant
If you're wondering how you can prepare to excel in 2020 and offer a world-class furniture shopping experience, we have the answer! Download our e-book "7 Trends for Furniture E-Commerce Success in 2020" and get ready for new challenges. Let’s kick start the decade with a fresh new take on furniture e-commerce.