The furniture industry has been one of the strongest adopters of online selling models in both commercial and residential sectors worldwide. The estimates from Statista show that the share of eCommerce in total wholesale furniture and home furnishings sales in the United States has already surpassed 20%. eMarketer projects that the retail eCommerce sales share for furniture and home furnishings will grow further and reach as much as 32.3% by 2023 in the US.
At the same time, a Global Market Insights report on the global furniture industry for 2018 indicates strong projections for its overall growth from 2018 to 2024, with CAGR at about 5.5%. Such numbers should give furniture sellers and manufacturers enough confidence to invest in modern technologies, including B2B eCommerce and mobile solutions, to capture their share of online sales.
However, there’s still a large room for growth in the furniture eCommerce market. Studies show that a majority of retailers are still lacking eCommerce capabilities on their websites, even though there’s a growing inclination to buy online among B2C and B2B customers alike. As opportunities abound, the cost of wasting them away may be way too high.
Opportunities in Selling Furniture Online
As the Global Market Insights report indicates, the upswing of the furniture market is grounded on increasing residential and commercial infrastructure investment and booming construction markets globally. Rising prosperity and levels of disposable income in developed nations will lead to an increasing number of restaurants, resorts, hotels, and shopping malls. New technology, design, and materials encourage faster innovation cycles among manufacturers, with extra gains for smart furniture and luxury furniture sellers.
All this growing demand is propelling the furniture eCommerce market. With up to 90% of shoppers researching furniture online before purchase, your eCommerce website may have the largest impact on your business development in the upcoming years.
Major Trends Shaping the Furniture eCommerce Market
Let us take a closer at 8 major trends that are shaping the furniture market now and will continue to exert significant influence in the coming years.
Starting in 2014, there began a significant shift in customer behavior driven by the entrance of the millennial buyer. Millennials represent 37% of the consumer furniture and bedding market and are known to represent an astounding 46% share of all the B2B buyers. And while Baby Boomers continue to represent the largest percentage of dollars spent in the furniture market, millennials make up the largest percentage of buyers in the market. Millennials are also technology-savvy buyers. They rely heavily on web searches for alternatives to the items they see in physical stores. Before making a purchase, they use the web to find product reviews and make brand comparisons.
Ready-to-Assemble (RTA) furniture has been around since the mid-1800s but has recently become a popular alternative to assembled furniture. As quality increases and global brands like Ikea gain recognition, buyers are flocking to RTA furniture. That’s good news for furniture manufacturers. The production process cost less, is simplified, and shipping is easier. Retailers require less warehouse space to store the same amount of inventory. RTA furniture can be a great opportunity to start your furniture eCommerce business or, in the case with manufacturers, sell direct to consumers online.
Office furniture and luxury furnishings
Versatile home office furniture and high-end furnishings are other segments that demonstrate steadily increasing consumer demand. For example, global home office furniture purchases had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 6% between 2014 and 2019. The luxury vertical is expected to grow at a CAGR of about 4% in the coming years. Furniture companies that are considering product expansion should explore these lines.
Ergonomic design and eco-friendly materials
Reusable, eco-friendly furniture is in high demand from dedicated environmentalists and conventional buyers alike. By taking a ‘green’ approach to furniture manufacturing and using recyclable materials, furniture makers fill the consumer need for sustainable living. Businesses are looking to acquire ergonomic pieces too, as ‘green’ trend is often used to make their employer brand more appealing.
Mobile-friendly eCommerce experience
Nowadays a majority of buyers search for products from their mobile phone, they expect a mobile-friendly user experience online, and so it’s typical for them to buy using their device. Whether you’re developing your custom eCommerce website or use a vendor’s platform, make sure it has all it takes to enable smooth mCommerce journey for your B2C as well as B2B customers.
B2B eCommerce for commercial and wholesale buyers
Commercial deals account for about 30% of the overall sales in the furniture sector. B2B buyers buy in bulk, negotiate prices, have a different decision-making process, and require a rather different eCommerce webstore than their B2C counterparts. B2B eCommerce is also essential for furniture manufacturers, who typically sell to wholesale distributors and large organizations. Addressing B2B customers’ needs is a strong success point for entering this booming eCommerce segment and targeting big buyers right away.
Try before you buy and AR
Try before you buy and AR are set to revolutionize the furniture industry. By using advanced AR-enabled mobile apps, buyers can see how a piece of furniture looks in their space. For less demanding investment, some furniture webstores already provide some online configuration features that allow buyers to change color, try out different room backgrounds, and compare different product models.
Moving furniture business online
Furniture has been traditionally sold from physical stores with expansive showrooms. That’s not necessarily the model for the future. Millennial buyers prefer to buy from a retailer that allows them to shop online from the comfort of home. Some furniture stores were early adopters but didn’t fully understand the model. Just a few years ago 88% of furniture stores had a website, but only 30% were actually selling online. These days, an effective online presence must fully digitize commerce, not just act as an online display. Furniture businesses should consider an eCommerce or B2B marketplace solution in order to be not left behind the competition.
Furniture Industry eCommerce Transformation: Putting the Pieces Together
To be successful in eCommerce, you must not only give modern buyers the products they want, but you must also first offer the shopping experience they want. A website that simply represents your brand and displays product catalogs won’t do. Customers need to be able to search and view your product range online and place orders without leaving the discomfort of the couch they are replacing. If they are business buyers, they also need personalized pricing, quote management, and recommendations based on their historical data.
At the same time, considering your business backend, you need an eCommerce solution that integrates well with your ERP and other third-party applications for everything to operate in sync.
That’s why it is important to consider your eCommerce transformation as a combination of several factors.
Digitizing for sales
eCommerce websites are perfect for viewing, configuring, and buying furniture products. It is so much more cost-effective than maintaining physical stores and buyers get the self-serve experience they are already accustomed to on the Internet. A digital store offers the buying experience that today’s consumers demand.
But to be truly effective, this online sales channel should also deploy technologies that facilitate and streamline the selling processes while gathering insightful, aggregated customer data. Whether you are a B2B or a B2C seller, an eCommerce platform integrated with a CRM is your game-changing tool if you want to be an industry trend-sensitive company. Integrating both business applications allows you to start selling quickly for fast ROI while having a clear insight into your buyer’s behaviors.
Digitizing for operations
Furniture manufacturing and supply can be complex. Not only must you maintain customer relationships, but to take care of vendor relationships, too. To streamline operations, the integration between your ERP and eCommerce systems is essential. It allows planning furniture production with minimum delays, control manufacturing floor, and back-office operations, as well as manage inventory and logistics.
Picking a partner
An eCommerce solution becomes a major sales enabler for every business, especially in the furniture industry. It is an investment in growing your business. So, selecting an eCommerce platform should be done diligently. Important factors to consider are the ability to support B2B e-Commerce for wholesalers and commercial buyers, the total cost of ownership the partner’s solution, available support, the partner’s technology ecosystem, flexibility, and scalability. It’s not a decision to be made lightly. Here at OroCommerce, we are proud to have been named a #1 B2B eCommerce platform in capabilities by Frost & Sullivan as we strive to offer our customers the most comprehensive stack of features and extensions to choose from for their eCommerce website.