The furniture industry continues to grow despite the effects of COVID-19. In 2021, revenues from online furniture sales in the US added up to $132.7 billion and are estimated to cross $208.2 billion by 2025.
The pandemic forced retailers to get creative. Interactive online shopping experiences, quicker delivery times, and convenient “Buy Now Pay Later” options helped them drive online sales. And these trends continue to make waves even today.
Besides having a strong affinity for online shopping, consumers' interest in redecorating and interior design are steadily growing — thanks to popular lifestyle blogs, social media influencers, and sites like Pinterest and Instagram. So, people are replacing their furniture a lot more frequently today.
As consumers are flooded with options, retailers need to leverage the latest industry trends to boost customer loyalty. They need to come up with creative marketing strategies to meet customer expectations and experience long-term growth.
In this post, we go over some of the top trends in furniture eCommerce and some lessons you can learn from successful brands for your own business.
Let’s dive in.
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The top trends in furniture eCommerce
Here are some of the biggest trends you need to watch this year.
Augmented reality & virtual reality
A big problem for furniture shoppers used to be that they couldn't visualize how an item would look in their house or how it would fit in with the existing decor. Online shopping only made matters worse since customers couldn’t even see the products in person.
With AR technology, customers can place a true-to-scale 3D model of their favorite products in their space to understand how they might look — without having to leave their homes. This gives them a great way to “try” furniture before buying.
A great example is the IKEA Place iOS app that allows users to “virtually” place furniture in their homes to make sure it's the right fit. Other retail giants like Amazon and Target have also introduced similar apps.
Studies show that 66% of consumers are keen to use AR as a part of their online shopping experience. And its adoption by online furniture retailers has only been growing since the pandemic.
Customers who engage with augmented reality are 8X more likely to convert than those that don’t - Julie Shulman, Director of Product Management at Interior Define
Product customization transforms the customer experience
52% of customers expect personalized engagement from brands. But for eCommerce retailers, personalization goes well beyond addressing customers by their names in emails.
Online shoppers expect products that can be customized to suit their tastes and preferences. That's why many online furniture stores today offer product customization options for customers.
Most offer a wide variety of color options for a single product. Some of them even allow customers to choose from different finishes and materials, while some go so far as to offer custom fillings for pillows.
LampsPlus, one of the biggest online retailers of home lighting, offers customers to design custom lamp shades with their favorite family photos. Now that's personalization!
Buy now pay later helps shoppers in hard times
43% of millennials and 32% of Gen Zers are extremely concerned about their financial debt. As such, they are a lot less likely to pull out their credit cards and make large purchases. They are much more comfortable with making payments on a larger expense.
Alternative payment options like "Buy Now Pay Later" or BNPL are quickly gaining favor among online shoppers. It’s a type of short-term financing that splits the total cost of a product into multiple installments. Customers need to make a small down payment upfront and pay the rest in a series of fixed installments that are typically interest-free.
Unlike credit cards, BNPL gets approved faster and doesn’t rack up debt. So customers can make frequent purchases a lot more confidently. With 50% of businesses reporting an increase in online sales since implementing BNPL, several furniture stores have started using it as well.
Besides BNPL, many furniture eCommerce sites offer online financing options with a promotional 0% interest rate for a fixed term (e.g., 6, 12, 18 months, etc.). This is a great option for customers who can pay off their loans before this period is up. But if they fail to do so, they will be slammed with the interest.
Furniture on loan is a new design for recurring revenue
Some companies even offer subscription plans. Customers pay a fraction of the retail price to use a particular product without the burden of loans or interest. They can even choose to return it, swap it for a different item, or decide to own it whenever they want.
Modular furniture offers greater flexibility
With homes doubling up as offices since the pandemic, the demand for modular furniture has increased substantially. Between 2016 and 2021, this industry has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 15%.
The main reasons for its popularity are:
- These pre-made units of furniture can be combined in various ways to fit small and/or oddly-shaped spaces.
- Customers can personalize them to fit their design aesthetic, and mix and match pieces to create any type of space that they want.
- Often produced from recycled materials using a less wasteful manufacturing process, modular furniture is typically more eco-friendly than other types.
- Because of its functionality, modular furniture saves money in the long run.
So, many retailers offer furniture as modules or blocks that go together and allow customers the flexibility to design their own pieces. For example, USM offers an online configurator with which shoppers can design their own furniture online.
Modular furniture also simplifies inventory and supply chain management for retailers. They can offer diverse choices without having to invest in multiple designs. They could expand to manufacturing different types of furniture - from outdoor furniture to dining room furniture Inventory - as they standardize it all.
Production costs go down as furniture selection goes up. For customers, this means they can buy customized furniture online, get it delivered fully assembled, or even assemble it themselves.
5. Increased focus on happiness
The eCommerce furniture industry is focusing a lot on improving customer satisfaction. Retailers are waking up to the fact that customers care deeply about their shopping experiences. They’re buying something that requires a large investment of both time and money.
Thus, online furniture stores are keen to offer the best customer experience that they possibly can. Many retailers provide the help of expert consultants and designers during shopping. They also offer a vast selection of customization and payment options for the modern shopper.
It's a very competitive market and customer retention is absolutely vital to the future growth of any home decor business. A modern furniture retailer can't rely on Facebook ads because of the skyrocketing customer acquisition costs.
That's why brands are focused on being more available and responsive using SMS marketing, personalizing their email marketing, using big data to predict shopping behavior, and focusing more on customer happiness and loyalty.
Brands focus on their own sites to stop competing on price
Top online furniture brands are moving away from large online marketplaces and focusing on their own eCommerce sites. Large eCommerce platforms like Shopify or Bigcommerce have a lot of built-in tools to help with conversion rate optimization, design optimization, and lead generation.
Selling furniture on sites like Amazon has become a survival of the fittest. Brands often compete on the lowest price and have to dump thousands of dollars into advertising campaigns every month. A family business would have to hire a dedicated team for each marketplace to really see results from it.
It's an exciting time for eCommerce marketers because they can do so much A/B testing and optimization on these platforms, and execute marketing tactics they wouldn't be able to try on large marketplaces.
Top home decor brands to follow
Let's take a look at some brands that are delivering superb online shopping experiences for customers.
MADE works with independent designers to deliver well-designed, high-quality, and affordable sustainable furniture. Their website looks elegant and clutter-free which allows shoppers to view products with zero distractions.
Shoppers can customize most products while choosing from a variety of materials, sizes, and finishes. For example, this armchair is available in five different colors and seven different materials — which can be viewed from different angles in real-time before a customer makes a purchase.
MADE also offers some great interior design ideas as well as a free virtual designer tool to help you design your dream space. You first select the look of the space.
And then you can play around with and purchase specific pieces of furniture.
Ballard Designs specializes in classic European designs reinterpreted in a contemporary way. On their website, you'll find seasonal Lookbooks that showcase trendy design ideas for your most lived-in spaces.
To increase customer engagement and loyalty, they also host a podcast called “How to Decorate” featuring popular interior designers. Customers can send in their questions about decorating, and designers answer them while sharing some great home decor ideas and tips.
Serena & Lily is known for its breezy casual and coastal styles. Like many other online furniture retailers, they allow customers to consult with design advisors via email, phone, video chat, or in-person appointments.
They also have an inspiration section that showcases a plethora of different looks for bedrooms, living rooms, outdoor, etc. Each has a “SHOP THIS LOOK” button that allows you to easily buy each furniture item featured in the design.
If you spend some time on the Ashley Furniture website, you'll see what a terrific job they've done at elevating the shopping experience. Right off the bat, they allow you to connect with an online sales assistant via chat or schedule an appointment in-store. They also advertise discounts and offers on the home page that quickly grabs people's attention.
Their 3D Room Design tool allows you to design floor plans from scratch, modify existing templates, or get design ideas. Shoppers can easily drag and drop different products, view them from different angles, and see how they fit together before making a purchase.
5. Ligne Roset
Ligne Roset is synonymous with contemporary furniture and home decor as well as its commitment to sustainability. They offer a high degree of customization for customers. For example, this sofa/armchair is available in more than 30 different fabrics, finishes, and colors.
The website also features interactive virtual tours of their New York and Chicago stores. Customers can move through them and inspect products with simple click-and-drag actions — from the comfort of their homes.
IKEA is a household name for modular DIY furniture in simple and minimalistic designs. One of their most prominent features is the wide variety of refinement filters they offer. Customers can filter by product sizes, colors, materials, costs, shapes, features, and much more.
You can also compare two or more products based on their features, customer reviews, measurements, materials, etc. And if that’s too much, just click on the “Show only differences” button to make your life easier.
7. Room & Board
Room & Board’s product pages are exemplary and they offer a high degree of customization on sizes and materials.
You can even order samples or free photos of the materials before you buy. Plus, they provide detailed instructions on how to measure your space to make sure your products fit well.
There are lots of useful resources on the website including videos, digital catalogs, planning guides, etc. to help you design your dream home.
American Signature Furniture does a great job of highlighting offers and discounts on the website as well as their financing options. In the "Designer Looks" section, they showcase designer furniture at affordable prices.
You can shop by looks, colors, fabrics, sizes, styles (e.g., glam, traditional, modern, farmhouse, industrial, etc.) and even customize products according to your taste.
They also provide multiple shopping options, including virtual tours of their showrooms, one-on-one in-store consultations, or live video assistance from their product specialists.
Lulu & Georgia allows you to view and shop furniture by categories as well as themes and collections. They provide a lot of high-quality images (taken from many different angles) that you can zoom into and get a closer look at a product. They also include detailed descriptions, specs, and care instructions on their product pages.
They have a great blog that covers the latest interior design trends, tips, advice, home tours, expert interviews, and more.
To build a successful furniture eCommerce business, you must focus on providing a great experience to shoppers — one that inspires. The key is to engage them creatively in the selection and buying process. Offer live support, expert guidance, and interactive tools to help them design their dream spaces. Remember that you’re selling an experience, not just products.