How often have you heard leaders in the retail industry say the key to long-term success is to create an ecommerce website? A majority of shoppers are doing research online before making a decision. When we review the demographics of the American shopper, we have the potentially largest generation of technology-dependent shoppers–the millennials. Millennials, born 1981 – 1996 according to some studies. In fact, 91% of Millennials own a smartphone. Many retailers believe that, while Millennials may be the ideal audience for an ecommerce website, the reality is much different. Especially retailers in the home furnishings industry, they believe that their demographic is a much older furniture shopper who doesn’t understand ecommerce.
The data says otherwise.
Besides healthcare, traveling the world, and the 21% who buy groceries digitally, Boomers are spending more and more on home improvement. And why not? Boomers represent 1/4 of the population and control about 70% of all disposable income in the US. They’re also doing research online before making a buying decision. Generation X is already an internet power user and frequently goes online for shopping and banking, among other activities.
This is the reality of today’s furniture retailer. Many, if not most, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have moved to online shopping. And if your store isn’t represented online with product catalog data and an ecommerce cart for faster buying decisions, you’re missing more than your share of the industry profits. The internet is increasingly the go-to place for browsing and buying home furnishings. Therefore, ecommerce is necessary for continued growth in revenues and profits in the furniture industry.
Shifting Consumer Trends for Online Shopping
Let’s move in-depth about the consumer trends just mentioned earlier. What happened to make online shopping the standard, not the exception, to shopping behaviors? The simple answer is: Amazon. We’ve talked ad nauseum about the Amazon Effect. The ecommerce giant changed the way consumers look at products online. Representing 49% of the ecommerce market, Amazon spawned a new type of retail experience for consumers.
It seems like it happened overnight. Consumers started to go online and make product purchases. They started demanding a better standard for online product presentation. They pushed the envelope and now value more information, more product images, more personalization, product reviews from other customers, and easy payment options. The traditional brick-and-mortar retailers weren’t ready for this shift.
Thanks to Amazon and Google, the retail industry did start to play catchup. Traditional retailers started to build an online brand presence. With manufacturers in tow, retailers began talking about their products online. They added interactive tools like room planners to the website for a better customer experience. They started to put stock into this new trend–but always with some skepticism about full ecommerce.
While big vendors such as Amazon and Wayfair seem to be the go-to retailers for many consumers, they are not the beginning and end of ecommerce. There are many areas that the big retailers are weak when it comes to consumer satisfaction online. For example, in the home furnishings industry, retailers with access to exclusive collections that sell in the store can leverage their exclusivity with the manufacturers to show product online and sell online. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: your manufacturer product catalog feeds are critical to your success online. This is your great leverage against the Amazons and Wayfairs of the world.
Selling online is the next big profit center for your retail store as the consumer trends keep shifting more towards online purchase. Now is the time to catch up and start your new business plan. Step one: create an ecommerce website.
Better Data Insights on Consumer Behavior
Aside from the obvious benefit of increased sales, ecommerce has an increasingly valuable asset for retailers. Consumer behavior trends. When you create an ecommerce website, you now have better insight into your prospects and buyers. While RMS and your traditional analytics can give you valuable data points, it doesn’t really give you all the insights on trends shifting inside your store. An ecommerce website offers the opportunity to gather more data on actual customer behavior. You can track what customers are searching for, how they find your site, what they look at, what they add to cart but never buy, and what they ultimately purchase. You can use this data to identify shopper behaviors, and test those behaviors with your marketing campaigns. The number of data points that you can look at is quite expansive. And it doesn’t cost much to study the metrics.
The better you understand how certain brands, collections, or products perform online versus instore, the better you can make buying decisions for your inventory and your marketing dollars. Identifying the best sellers versus the products you perceive are the best sellers can help you rank products online. Why is ranking important? For retailers on our Omnivue website platform, ranking puts the best products in front of the customer at the early stages in the buyer’s journey. It’s an easy way to shorten the buying cycle from research to purchase. But what if you’re not ranking the products customers really want to buy? Ecommerce helps you connect the dots in your data so that all of your online and offline business decisions increase revenue.
Competing with Amazon and Wayfair
As mentioned earlier, big online retailers such as Amazon and Wayfair will always be out there as ecommerce competition. However, you don’t need to be a pure etailer with warehouses of inventory to compete with these companies when you create an ecommerce website. You can study the big players and see where they are not providing the best solution for consumers. We heard a great speaker once say that you can’t compete with your competition. You’ll lose every time. Why? Because competing with anyone but yourself is a lose-lose. Your competitors may not be serving the best product to the customer in the best ways. When you compete with yourself to win your customer, you make decisions to serve the customer–not just serving a copycat rendition of your competitor.
In the home furnishings industry, there are lots of gaps that you can use to compete for the customer. Some of them include the following:
- Niche markets
- Local markets
- Personalized touch
- Knowledge of your market
- Knowledge of your product
- Responsiveness to queries
- Quick local delivery
- Ability to pair or match products
- Better merchandising
Manufacturers and Logistics Want Retailers Adopting Ecommerce
Have you been getting pressure from your manufacturers and logistics vendors regarding adoption of ecommerce? It is not surprising that they realize that the future of sales is online. While some customers will still want to come in person to see your showroom, many of them are choosing to spend more time with family. Rather than spending weekends going from store to store, they can do their research at home from their computer by browsing catalogs online.
Manufacturers provide online catalog data feeds for retailers to embed when they create an ecommerce website so that customers can search and shop for furniture on your ecommerce site. These data feeds give shoppers an up-to-date catalog with endless opportunities for the retailer. Retailers can provide customers with more personalization, better service and the hottest trends. By using RMS and other ERP logistics systems and third parties to fulfill orders, your customer satisfaction increases as you provide a more fluid and faster order fulfillment process. Ecommerce can improve your product flow from vendors, and you can automate the process even more with EDI. Adding efficiency to the ordering system allows you to focus on projects that drive revenue instead of hours doing paperwork and handling logistics. Your vendors can also better plan for future product development and manufacturing with more data from your ecommerce platform. They can learn about customer behaviors from your metrics. As they come to know your customers better, they can plan for the future using data instead of assumptions and guesswork. Better planning means better profitability.
Another benefit is using customer data on actual purchases, searches and what is not bought (left in the cart) to manage product catalog creation more efficiently. From the manufacturer perspective, this efficiency saves money on inventory, product development and catalog costs, especially for print catalogs. You can see why having data from actual customers is more beneficial than from focus groups or marketing surveys. Using actual behaviors is more effective than supposed behavior. There are many places in your business operations that can benefit from creating an ecommerce website. What are you waiting for?
The Best Reason to Create an Ecommerce Website
The best part about choosing to create ecommerce websites is that it works when you don’t have to. Ecommerce is open 24 hours a day. Customers who want to browse for a new leather sectional can spend time on your website at 11 pm on a Sunday night and make a purchase. We like to say in marketing that there is a right message for the right person at the right time. But being omnipresent with a retail store is impossible and not practical. Your ecommerce website is that extra salesperson on your team who is available 24/7 and always gives the right customer the right message at the right time. That’s why ecommerce is such an obvious choice for expanding your business.
Read our blog to learn how to build your ecommerce website.