The fight between brick and mortar vs online shopping is very bitter. What’s worse, furniture stores are caught right in the middle!
So, which of these is actually the future of retail? Keep reading to discover the answer!
Brick and Mortar vs Online Shopping and an Anatomy of Today’s Furniture Shopper
The most essential thing to know about today’s furniture shopper is that they have access to more information than ever before. With the click of a button, they can browse countless different pieces of furniture, read customer reviews, compare prices, and so on.
This can be a double-edged sword for your furniture business. On one hand, it is easier than ever for your store to be discovered by customers. On the other hand, it’s easier for your competition to be discovered, too, which means you have to really step your game up in terms of online marketing.
However, this is a great opportunity for you to turn obstacles into opportunities. By fully embracing modern eCommerce methods, you’ll be able to grow your customer base and leave your competition in the dust. And this is a win/win, as you can make the entire shopping experience more compelling for both online shoppers and those who come inside your store.
What You Need to Know about eCommerce
The relative concept of eCommerce is pretty simple: it’s all about the marketing and sales of goods online to customers all over the world. And while eCommerce has been around for a long time, it’s actually Amazon that elevated it to an art form.
It’s impossible to overstate how much Amazon has changed the eCommerce industry. They’ve shown how to use tools like predictive algorithms to influence shopping habits. Yet, they’ve also done something more fundamental. They have changed how customers think about shopping!
Those in the industry like to call this “the Amazon effect.” The idea is that the use and convenience of Amazon has changed how customers view the whole idea of shopping: with Amazon, they see an item they like, read all about it, and then just click a button to buy it. Pretty soon (often within two days), that item shows up on their doorstep!
Because of this, more and more brick and mortar stores have struggled to find success. And the ones that have succeeded usually embrace a two-part approach. The first part is beefing up their own eCommerce offerings. This attempt channels that Amazon-style convenience that customers love so much. The second is enhancing their in-sto
re experiences for customers. This includes event-based sales, in-store pickups, and other interactivity. These make brick and mortar feel simultaneously convenient and unique to consumers.
Using Social Media to Sell Shoppers
While it doesn’t fully even the playing field, social media has become one of the best ways that businesses try to lure in new business. There are multiple reasons for this: first of all, social media is a relatively cheap form of marketing. It’s easy for a business to create accounts on multiple different platforms and then just put one person (or maybe a small team) in charge of managing the accounts.
And social media is an easy way to always be where the customers are. Smartphones are more popular and pervasive than ever before. And consumers love to use apps such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Providing useful (and sometimes funny) content on means consumers will willingly “follow” you. Instead of the retailer simply hoping they pay attention to a traditional advertisement.
And while social media is important for many demographics, it is supremely important for Millennials. This is because they want to feel like a brand is authentic and that they have an actual relationship with the brand. Social media allows the brand to “speak their language” and also offers an easy way for Millennials to message the company (which is itself another way of offering authenticity and connectivity).
Are Millennials to Blame for New Consumer Shopping Habits?
Every time a business suffers, there is a popular media trend to blame Millennials. Newspapers and magazines race to run headlines such as “Millennials have killed X,” where “X” equals whatever modern business or industry is suffering at the moment.
But can Millennials be blamed for these new consumer shopping habits such as “the Amazon effect?” The answer to this is both “yes” and “no.” Some habits are unique to Millennials themselves, and they have since influenced the industry. Other habits are more universal, and Millennials were influenced by them just like everyone else was.
Like we mentioned, the trend towards social media is driven largely by Millennials. This is because they expect a relationship with a business while also demanding easy connectivity and relevant content. Packaging it all in the apps they are already using is basically the cherry on top for this group.
However, Amazon has been gathering steam since its inception 1994. While the “Millennial” measurement is rather ambiguous, many Millennials were not even born when Amazon first came out. Instead, it has been their parents and even grandparents that brought the platform its early success. And like we said earlier, “the Amazon Effect” has affected basically every demographic under the sun: it would be shortsighted to say that only Millennials made this happen!
What’s Next for Furniture Retailers?
So, how will furniture stores specifically respond to brick and mortar vs online shopping and consumer demands? One way is to encourage in-store customers to advertise online: more retailers are asking customers to use hashtags, share pictures of themselves on furniture, and so on. And some stores might even offer discounts for helping spread word about them online.
Some stores strike a balance between online and offline. Allowing customers to browse and order online and then pick up furniture in the store. Finally, one unique way retailers can react is to make their store more than a store. If you have space, consider adding things like a children’s play area or a place to sit and drink coffee. In this way, the retail space also becomes a social space, making consumers feel more welcome.
So, is brick and mortar dead or dying? Not by a long shot! However, it is evolving…and stores that fail to evolve are the first to die while more innovating stores succeed. Online shopping will always be convenient. But when looking at brick and mortar vs online shopping, if brick and mortar stores can offer the conveniences of online shopping with the conveniences and charm of in-store interactions, they can enjoy the best of both worlds. The future of retail is in the hands of those who embrace an omnichannel approach towards the marketing and sales of their furniture!