Giant online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair are changing the landscape for all retailers and especially for furniture and home goods retailers. Creating a website with no online product catalog is like opening a storefront with no furniture on display. Just as potential customers will not enter an empty store, online shoppers will ignore a website with no online catalog data. Simply linking to a manufacturer’s website or product catalog is not enough. In fact, linking away from your website is a sales killer. You need your own online product catalogs that features your merchandise, your prices, your locations. You also need the ability to manage the database behind the catalog in ways that will generate more business for you. Here is a summary of the reasons why you need products listed on your website.
Online Product Data Attracts Buyers
Today’s furniture shopper doesn’t have to drive across town to view furniture or home goods. They can visit 10-20 websites in less time than it would take them to get in the car and drive to the first store. Therefore, your goal as a retailer in the digital age needs to be engaging a shopper during that feverish online product browsing. This means you MUST provide online shoppers with choices in your online product catalog. In some cases, this also means adding eCommerce. But, wait, why are we talking about eCommerce when you don’t even show products on your website? Step one, and a great way to accomplish reaching the new digital retail shopper, is to adopt a concept called the “endless aisle.”
What is an Endless Aisle?
The endless aisle uses online digital catalogs to allow customers to view and purchase products that are out of stock or not sold in-store. Advantages include:
- Seemingly endless number of SKUs
- Broader customer base
- Reduced inventory and associated carrying costs
- Reduced storage space
- Increased customer satisfaction
With an online product catalog, you can easily broaden your exposure to whole new market segments. Database technology allows shoppers to filter product based on a number of criteria, like style, color, finish, and brand. The more you can offer online that improves how your in-store customer would benefit from also going to your website–and vice versa.
Consumers are embracing online shopping in record numbers. Online marketing giant, Amazon, has revolutionized online shopping to the extent that industry analysts have coined a term called the “Amazon Effect” to describe the impact the company has on traditional retailing. “The Amazon effect is the ongoing evolution and disruption . . . resulting from increased ecommerce.” This phenomenon of online shopping is a core reason why online product catalog is so important. The Amazon effect is driving the recent growth in ecommerce.
Engage Customers and Build Confidence
Because you have no face to face interaction with your online customers, you must build trust at every opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is by offering product visualization tools. Product visualization tools offer retailers the chance to outsell competitors. Let’s break this down.
One article from iPaper suggests ways that an online product catalog data can help you build consumer confidence:
- You demonstrate that you and your company have officially moved into the digital age
- Because customers can now find you anywhere you broaden your market reach with a full suite of products
- Immediate updating of product information captures customers who are fashion conscious
- Customers order directly from your website so shipping time is cut in half
- The catalog-filled website makes it easier for a customer to search for what they need
- Cross-selling opportunities are more apparent
In the furniture industry, custom fabric draping is one of the most useful and creative online product visualization tools that improve your customer experience. The tools empower customers to go online, find a product on a retailer website and select a different fabric to drape over furniture–creating a more personal style to the product. Customers who can personalize furniture are more likely to buy. Here’s a shameless plug. MicroD works with hundreds of retailers and hundreds of manufacturers in the home furnishings industry. We connect manufacturer catalogs to retail websites on our website platform. When it comes to the unique visualization tools, some of our manufacturer product catalogs are drapable. This means your online product catalog has more value to you and your customers.
Your websites product data should include professional high-resolution images, rich descriptions, and full product specifications. As a result, your customers are much more satisfied and knowledgeable about the products they wish to purchase and you have fewer returns.
Tech-savvy shoppers rely on the opinions of their online friends. Recognizing this, many social media platforms are now providing direct links for online sellers. A Facebook user can now read a post from a friend recommending a product and make the purchase directly from the review.
Pinterest offers what they call “Buyable Pins.” The pins are displayed from searches, profiles and related pins. Instagram has partnered with Curalate, a Pennsylvania based business that provides a “link2buy” option. And remember that more and more users are now shopping on the go via their mobile devices. It is how the connected generation communicates, investigates products and ultimately even makes their purchasing decisions. Be sure your website product data is mobile friendly.
eMarketer says that “one-fifth of US digital sales in the furniture, appliances, and equipment category . . . were conducted on mobile devices.”
Linking your online product catalog with Social Commerce provides the following benefits:
- Social Commerce is more social
- Shoppers can communicate their likes and dislikes with friends and family It is a more interactive and user-friendly way to shop
- Generates more revenue with minimal extra effort
- Reach a new generation of shoppers
- Social Commerce is quickly becoming the future of shopping
Augmented Reality + Product Visualization
Using a product visualization tool like “augmented reality,” you can allow your online shoppers to upload an image of their room and then populate it with products from your online product catalog. When customers use online room planners, whether 2D or 3D, they have direct control over the design process. They choose colors, fabrics, and styles that fit with their home and their lifestyle–a lot like the custom draping we discussed earlier. Studies show that customers will stay on a website that features custom draping 2 to 3 times longer than other furniture websites.
Demonstrating that you have your customers’ best interests in mind will lead to a higher level of trust. The consumer confidence you build will lead to increased sales opportunities.
Increase Sales Opportunities
By showing products on your website (rather than linking out to a manufacturer’s website and product catalog) you’re opening the door for more sales opportunities. Again, select a website platform partner who has access to the digital product catalog and images provided by your manufacturers.
Here is a great resource for increasing sales using a product catalog:
- Work with a company that carries your top vendors
- Use a developer who can manage your catalog for you
- Offer deals, discounts, and promotions
- Feature gorgeous photography and consider 3D models
- Integrate interactive online product visualization tools like custom draping and room planning
- Check all pricing and make sure pricing is very visible with a click to buy now option on ecommerce enabled sites
- Feature your trending products on social media
- Provide “related items” images for other products and link to them to create add-on sales opportunities
Simply creating a website is not enough. To attract today’s online shoppers, you must meet them where they are on social media sites. You must provide engaging and interactive capabilities where so they can visualize your products in their environment. Make it easy for them to buy from mobile devices and add the ability to click and collect. Check out the manufacturer online product catalog we could put on your MicroD website.