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Expert Roundup: Understanding The Modern Furniture Shopper

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Expert Roundup: Understanding The Modern Furniture Shopper

If furniture retail was ever a simple, straightforward business, those days are long gone.

Today, galvanized and fragmented by the advent of online shopping, the sector is fiercely competitive, and every business, from the smallest independent shop to the biggest webstore, must take advantage of every tool at their disposal if they are to survive.

The good news is that there’s still space in the industry for experimentation, invention, and the personal touch, and given the huge variation in approaches that prosper today, the sector could look very different in 50 years’ time.

People will always need furniture, and they will always seek to make their homes more comfortable and attractive – but there remains a great many unknowns when it comes to their tastes, motivations, and prejudices around furniture shopping.

What are customers buying, and where? What drives and guides their shopping journey? What should retailers – both in-store and online – be doing better? And, crucially, how is consumer demand evolving? To help you find the answers to these questions we partnered with Furniture News for a representative survey of UK consumers in order to learn more about today’s furniture buyers.

In this article, we share the highlights from the report and retailers’ perspectives on the evolving furniture space.

 

Read the full report: The profile of a modern furniture shopper

 

The furniture shopper's path to purchase has changed

Most traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ furniture retailers have come to accept that they must embrace online selling to some degree, whether through building a simple website and social media presence, or bringing advanced technology in-store to catalyze sales. 

At the same time, many ‘pure play’ online retailers are coming to appreciate the benefits that come from having a physical shop presence alongside their e-commerce channels. The challenge facing such retailers is making sure they can deliver the best of both worlds, without sacrificing any existing strengths.

Shoppers, like businesses, come in countless shapes and sizes, but there are patterns and trends to be found in their behavior, and the retailer who better understands these will be better placed to succeed than the one who does not.

 

Where are people planning to shop?

Results from the survey show that 58% of consumers prefer buying furniture in-store, compared to 42% who prefer online channels. Nearly two-thirds of men (61%) prefer to buy from a brick-and-mortar location, compared to 56% of women. Conversely, a greater proportion of women favor online transactions, with 45% opting for e-commerce channels in the first place, compared to 39% of men.

Where do people prefer to shop for furniture - Furniture News - Chaos Cylindo

People like to shop both offline and online, often choosing to use a combination of both before deciding on their purchase.

People like to shop furniture both offline and online - Furniture News - Chaos Cylindo

What parts of their homes are consumers planning to invest in next? Results show that the focus in the upcoming year will be on furnishing the living room (40%), bedroom (39%) and garden (39%), followed by the bathroom (30%), kitchen (29%), dining room (24%), children’s bedroom (20%), guest bedroom (20%), and home office (20%).

Over the next three years, shoppers are prioritizing purchases for the bedroom (67%), living room (66%), garden (57%), and kitchen (56%).

Next furniture purchase - Furniture News - Chaos Cylindo

 

Comparing the in-store and online furniture shopping experiences

When it comes to online furniture shopping, customers value convenience, the ability to compare products and prices, and access to more product options. Having the ability to compare products and prices with other sellers is a factor for nearly half (47%) of those aged 18-24. 

Across all age groups, having the ability to compare products and prices is more important to women (44%) than men (36%). Results show that 44% of women choose online shopping because they want more choice than what’s available in stores, compared to 35% of men.

Which features of online shopping are most likely to influence people’s choice - Furniture News - Chaos Cylindo

 

High-quality imagery is the backbone of online furniture shopping

Results from the survey confirm that high-quality imagery is important to consumers when shopping for furniture online.

More than a quarter (26%) said that better, more interactive product visuals would encourage them to spend; 16% said they would be encouraged to spend more; and 19% said they would be encouraged to make a repeat purchase. Nearly a third (30%) of those aged 25-34 said better visuals would prompt them to spend more than they might have otherwise.

The ability to rotate products to see them from every angle is especially important to consumers aged 25-34 (7.9/10) and 34-44 (7.7/10). Consumers younger than 55 rate lifestyle imagery higher than 7.0/10 and this number goes up to 7.5/10 for consumers aged 25-34.

Visualizing furniture with augmented reality (AR) is especially interesting for consumers aged 25-34 (7.2/10) and 35-44 (7.0/10).

Features that enhance the online furniture shopping experience - Furniture News - Chaos Cylindo

 

How can technology transform the in-store experience?

New technology offers brick-and-mortar retailers with new ways to meet demand. Results from the survey show that 72% of respondents would like the ability to browse a wider product catalog than what’s in-store.

At least two-thirds of those younger than 55 said they would like to visualize their chosen color/finish on an interactive screen. The desire to pay through a mobile app is most marked among 18-24-year-olds (71%).

What do shoppers want to be able to do in-store - Furniture News - Chaos Cylindo

 

Modern furniture buyer journey: The experts weigh in

Furniture News asked furniture industry experts to share their thoughts on the findings from the report The profile of a modern furniture shopper. Here are their main takeaways from the report. 

 

Offering a diverse selection of products enriches the shopping experience

Mike Murray, Land of Beds

“Customers today are indeed well informed, often researching extensively online before visiting our stores. They report valuing the opportunity to physically interact with products before making a purchase decision. 

We have noticed that some shoppers visit us first to experience the products in person, and then go online to compare prices elsewhere – but customers report that by offering a diverse selection of products, and showcasing them in a variety of colors, we enrich their overall shopping experience.”

- Mike Murray, Land of Beds

 

 

Online is at the heart of all furniture decisions

Neil Barker, Barkers Furniture

“Online is at the heart of all furniture decisions. It's pivotal to the furniture-buying decision – why would any furniture business in the country not want their website to reflect their store? The content you don't put on your website won't help you. I don't buy any medium/large purchase without researching online. I rule stores out with poor websites straight away. 

Of the customers that responded ‘I like to browse products in-store then buy in-store’ (31%), I would expect the majority did browse online as well. I expect most of them decided which stores to go in by visiting websites first.”

- Neil Barker, Barkers Furniture

 

 

People want to be able to see how their choices will look in a 3D visualization

James Dunne, Prestige Beds

“The desire to see more technology and innovation in-store, with a blend of online and in-store shopping, aligns with our vision, as we believe this is essential in order to compete and succeed in the industry in the years ahead. I believe that product visualization tools, and having access to a wider catalog than what you’re displaying in-store, will before long be the industry standard, and we see this amongst our priorities to improve our in-store experience. We feel this, combined with the product knowledge and expertise our sales team possess and the services we offer, will provide our customers with complete peace of mind in their bed-buying experience. 

With the amount of variables to choose from now – so many different fabrics, headboard styles, storage options, types of legs and castors – coupled with the significant cost of a new bed, it’s no wonder that so many people want to be able to see how their choices will look in a 3D visualization (and furthermore in a room setting) before making a decision to buy.”

- James Dunne, Prestige Beds

 

 

New website developments and content strategy

Martin Seeley, MattressNextDay

“The findings from the report have played a significant role in our internal prioritization of new website developments and content strategy, guiding us in determining which enhancements we should focus on as a team. 

As an ecommerce-first business, particularly noteworthy for us was the section on why shoppers choose to buy furniture online. While we regularly gather insights from our own data and small-scale customer surveys, receiving this comprehensive data from a reputable third-party source with a substantial sample size has helped to reassure us that the online features we’re improving and developing align with customer needs and preferences.”

- Martin Seeley, MattressNextDay

 

 

‘Clicks-and-mortar’ hybrid retail strategy

Steve Adams, Mattress Online

“I’m not surprised that price is a leading factor in motivation. Our own data at Mattress Online indicates that the mid- to low-price points are very price sensitive in the current climate. But I’m really pleased to see comfort as a key motivator. We put a lot of effort into our products to ensure our customers are happy with all aspects of their mattress, but in particular, we want them to be comfy.

I was really surprised that so few shoppers found new furniture via influencers (9%). It's super interesting to note the drop-off after the age of 34.

The insights into ‘what do shoppers want to be able to do in-store’ really resonated. Our ‘clicks-and-mortar’ hybrid retail strategy, and our first purpose-built site in Doncaster, tick a lot of those boxes. All our in-store products are available online, supported by the additional information online shoppers have come to expect.”

- Steve Adams, Mattress Online

 

 

Retailers have to address the desire for visualization, virtual rooms, and wider catalogs

Peter Harding, Fairway Furniture

“The 68% of consumers who state the importance of online research proves the value of retailer websites as digital shop windows, as much as digital stores. I was not in the least surprised that the two most popular rooms to furnish in next 12 months are the living room (40) and bedroom (39%). This is a trend we had seen start before the pandemic but that accelerated throughout the 2020-22 period, as consumers became more focused on spending their money on comfortable living rooms and bedrooms that would be an ‘oasis of calm’, and where they would get most benefit.

Few other areas have close to these demand levels, and there has been what I think is likely to be a permanent structural shift in where people choose to shop for those rooms, and the others that get less use or are seen as less important.

It’s clear that physical retailers have to move with consumers by providing almost a pseudo-online approach, but in-store, and this will require a generational shift in attitude, particularly among independent retailers. The desire for visualization, virtual rooms, wider catalogs, and to be able to pay online via an app are all challenges that have to be addressed – but how these can be funded and delivered at a level that ensures consumers have comparable experiences to those they get in a multiple retailer will be crucial.

The responses around online shopping frustrations illustrate very clearly, in particular, the challenges facing smaller, independent retailers. Image quantity and quality, alongside lack of color visualizations for product, are areas where multiple retailers hold significant commercial advantage. Online is no respecter of size at all, and this will continue to remain a key factor for any smaller retailers wanting to grow.”

- Peter Harding, Fairway Furniture

 

 

The furniture buyer journey has changed — act now

Consumers like to shop in many different ways. They may seek out the expertise of a local high street independent, or browse the big brands’ offer on their local retail park. They may prefer to trawl charity shops and online marketplaces for a pre-loved bargain, or have Google point them in the direction of the website that best suits their needs.

We can never know for sure what the next challenge will look like, but we can better understand what shoppers want, and how they want to buy it.

The most dangerous phrase in business is, ‘Why change it? We’ve always done it this way’ – well, no more excuses. Based on the findings in this survey you’ll be able to prioritize your future technology investments, allocate your marketing spend, and refine your offer.

Hopefully, some of these insights will give you the confidence to make (the right) changes in your business and cater to furniture shoppers’ needs — today and tomorrow. Download the full report

A comprehensive report on the profile of a modern furniture shopper
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About Author

Biljana Vidojevic
Biljana Vidojevic

Content creator. The person behind the Cylindo blog. Excited about the future of technology and retail.

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