Furniture E-Commerce: Are Retailers Racing into Online Selling?

furniture e-commerce lags behind

Online Furniture Shopping vs. Selling

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Furniture industry lately and the stats are giving me the same message over and over: online furniture sales are hot. For example, did you know that online furnishings sales grew seven times faster than in-store sales in 2016? And that according to Forrester research cited in Furniture Today, furniture purchases made online are growing at an impressive rate of 14% each year?

But with so many numbers floating around and the message “SELL YOUR FURNITURE ONLINE!” essentially illuminated in flashing lights, why isn’t it happening at a higher rate? According to the article from Furniture Today,  as of 2016 88% of furniture stores had a website but only 30% of those were E-commerce enabled. In other words, 74% of furniture retailers do not offer E-commerce. That means this is the equation: huge growth in E-commerce + retailers who want to increase sales = 26% of furniture stores selling online. As you can see, it just doesn’t quite add up.

Why isn’t E-commerce Being Adopted by All?

While each retailer may have some specifics as to why they’ve shunned away from Furniture E-commerce, one major barrier to entry for those in this space is the high level of complexity. Furniture E-commerce has many of its own unique challenges and involves careful coordination with a complex network of structures and processes. Plus, while the point of leaping into E-commerce is to open a new revenue channel, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with some new costs. This can include the initial cost of website creation, plus future data management/updates, hosting, and so on.

The Cost of Staying Offline

However, E-commerce costs look pretty minimal relative to what it may cost a retailer to stay offline these days. Today, customers have a clear expectation for an omnichannel experience. This buzzword isn’t new, but it’s just as relevant as ever. Customers want to shop your products online or in store. They expect promotions to be sent right to their inbox and the opportunity to get to know your brand on social media. Most importantly, they expect the shopping experience to be simple and seamless; they want to make an informed buying decision on their own terms, which often means via the web.

The data conforms to these notions, as 71% of customers expect to be able to view in-store inventory online. Furthermore, over the majority of shoppers will research furniture online before they purchase. That means that your website is very often the first impression a shopper gets of your store. And if you don’t have your products online, this leads to a pretty lackluster impression of what you can offer a customer. It also means a customer has to do more work to learn about what you offer, which really doesn’t bode well in our instant-gratification-obsessed/digital-centric society.

Now What?

If you ask me (you did, right?) the costs of furniture E-commerce are minuscule when you think about how many potential customers you might be losing. Past my own opinion, the data clearly shows us the trend of shopping for furniture online is here and thriving. It might be time for the rest of the Furniture Industry to read the writing on the wall (…or screen.)

Located, in Louisville, KY, RM Innovation provides powerful retail technologies for the Rug & Home Furnishings Industry.