The outbreak has transformed life as we know it. It has forced many manufacturers to pause operations and retailers to close their brick-and-mortar stores and move their businesses online. We witnessed a new reality: companies were adapting their business models, and people were shifting their purchasing habits to cope.
All of a sudden, the global pandemic has catapulted e-commerce into hyper-drive. Consumer demand for online shopping has never been greater, and the companies that were well prepared for e-commerce before the outbreak had a clear advantage.
Despite the assumption that people will restrain from spending money, numbers from Salesforce show that 50% of worldwide shoppers plan to either increase or keep their spend the same this holiday season. It turns out people don’t want to lose “the most wonderful time of the year” feeling due to the pandemic.
Traditional retailers that were focused on in-store sales, neglecting the importance of online sales, are now rushing to create an engaging online presence and e-commerce website. Other retailers that had an online store before the outbreak are embracing different tactics that can help them step up their e-commerce furniture game and set a foundation for future growth.
Now, as the Golden Quarter approaches, the question is, how will holiday shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday look like if we take the crowds and long lines out of the equation?
We talked with 5 industry experts to unwrap the season's most powerful holiday shopping trends for furniture retailers. These insights can help you prepare for the future of ecommerce. Let’s dive deeper.
“The second wave of the virus and unpredictability of government restrictions will conspire to prevent store footfall getting back to anywhere near pre-Covid levels. Online will therefore continue to show impressive YoY growth and this will be across all sectors. Economic uncertainty may hold back growth a little, but many customers have cut back on travel and entertainment so have more appetite and budget for shopping.
The trend towards online shopping is inexorable and has been accelerated by the pandemic. Stores will recover, but not back to previous levels. For retailers that rely on in-store availability and convenience, significant damage has already been done as online has shown itself to be able to satisfy needs quickly and efficiently. For retailers where in-store experience is key, recovery is possible but will be held back as long as protective measures have to remain in place.
Furniture retail has thus far shown itself to be resilient during the lockdown. A big asset for Heal's has been our live chat service that connects online users in real time to experts in our stores. We've also pushed online consultations via video conferencing. Otherwise the basics continue to be the same as ever - inspire through great lifestyle photography, reassure through clear product information and make the buying process as easy as possible.”
- David Kohn, Customer & eCommerce director, Heal's
“ According to our research 60% of consumers plan to shop less in-store this season due to fear of COVID-19 exposure, with 66% anticipating they will increase their online purchases this year.
Covid will be known as the great accelerator of digital adoption including buying online. Previous holdouts were forced to adopt it, and have since embraced it. I believe it moved us towards we would have naturally been a year in the future.
Any and all visualization tools, AR, room planners, facetime video chats with in store sales staff and video in general can help furniture retailers engage customers who are missing the in-store experience this season.”
- Scott Perry, Executive Vice President Digital at Jerome’s
“ Certain audiences will be more hesitant in purchasing "nice to haves" as their situation warrants a concern for their economy. Other audiences will shop the same as they have all along, and some more, as they have more funds available since travelling and going out is limited. For the latter, they will undoubtedly move a significant portion of their shopping to online channels. Hence, those who can present the best online shopping experience will be the winners this season.
The more society shuts down, the more online shopping. It will gravitate closer to pre-Corona once the world gets back to a state similar to pre-Corona, but we will be looking in to a permanent higher degree of online shopping. In other words, the baseline will have shifted. Our customers are showing a similar behaviour already.
How can furniture retailers engage customers who are missing the in-store experience this season? - Make it simple. Make it fast. Make it mobile first. Make it fun.”
- Simon Peschcke-Køedt, CMO at Sofacompany
“ Now more than ever, buyers will turn to online retailers for their holiday shopping needs. When they do, they'll be looking for the best deal possible, so online retailers need to think carefully about their discount/couponing strategy, as well as how they'll control how that strategy gets rolled out given the prevalence of coupon code browser extensions.
In my opinion, there is no going back. COVID has sped up what was already a massive shift in buying behavior favoring online shopping. The difference post-COVID will be that buyers will have a new appreciation for the need to support their favorite retailers to ensure their survival. Online retailers have an opportunity to use this time to build strong relationships with their buyers and drive loyalty ahead of the new year.
From visiting your website, to clicking an ad and completing the checkout process in your shopping cart, every interaction buyers have with your business is a point of digital engagement - and an opportunity to either build or erode your relationship with your buyers, and retain or risk your revenue. A great online buying experience starts with ensuring that your website is secure, and includes creating opportunities for connection, whether that be through the creative use of video, website live chat, or personalization.”
- Kathleen Booth, VP of Marketing at clean.io
“ I expect to see record breaking online sales this holiday season. Reasons:
- Amazon Sales appear to be tracking ahead of plan 3Q-to-date despite the Prime Day shift (it was usually in July).
- Many categories have seen record breaking sales in the months of April and May, and with online retailers adding platform inspired or owned sales events to the Q4 frenzy, brands and advertisers investing heavily aiming to hit annual goals, there will be a lot of attractive deals and reasons for online shopping this Q4.
Shopping behavior will continue to favor online activities even after the pandemic, mainly because more users have adopted it this year and are benefitting from its convenience. In addition to that many big brands are making serious moves towards this - Walmart, Instacart, Target, Kroger.
US households use Instacart for their daily grocery shopping. They rely on Amazon Prime. They rely on Walmart+. These are monthly expenses already added to their budget for the month; and when you have Prime subscription, you use it.
There are many ways to try to replicate the in-store experience. A lot of online retailers rely on video more - aiming to illustrate as many benefits as possible to the short attention span audience. Videos in product listings, advertising campaigns and as supplementary customer service materials can help customers visualize their furniture better and see if it will fit their needs.
Another direction a furniture retailer can take is a strong brand guarantees that the customers needs will be met.
Active customer support, Free returns, Color scale match, assistance with assembly are some of the actions furniture brands can take to reassure potential customers that their online choice is just as good as one made in store.”
- Stefan Jordev, Advertising Director at Bobsled Marketing
The actions you prioritize today can help you set the foundation for growth and future-proof your business.
If you want to find 10 actionable tactics that will help you prepare for the future of furniture ecommerce, as well as examples from leading furniture businesses such as Room & Board, Living Spaces, Wayfair make sure to check The Ultimate Holiday Sales Guide for Furniture Retailers.