As a greater percentage of furniture sales happen online, retail technology is moving faster than ever and several retail technology trends already stand out as the way forward for the industry. We saw new technology for retailers during the latest High Point Market. Retailers and brands alike are looking for innovation from suppliers, vendors, and the industry at-large to make the customer experience more exciting and revenue generating. So what kinds of retail technology are you implementing today to make this kind of impact on your home furnishing store? Let’s take a look at some retail technology trends that retailers and manufacturers are implementing today to achieve these goals.
1. Online Room Planning Tool
It just seems so simple. But it can generate a huge boost in sales. Online room planning tools allow a customer to design a room using digital representations of items in your store. From furniture to accessories, the end-user experience is interactive. We wrote about making an interactive shopping journey for retail shoppers. And while room planning technology isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination, the applications are changing and advancing.
Many retailers see a room planning design tool as a designer-driven tool in stores for consultations. The power of room planners is the ability to give customers control. Adding your room planner to the online shopping journey improves the customer engagement rate. When you invest in a tool that works online and in-store, you can make changes to the shopping journey based on how a customer interacts with the tool.
How Room Planning Tools Improve Sales & Customer Satisfaction
These tools serve several functions:
- Customers get invested. It’s human nature. When you spend some time working on something, you want to see it through. You don’t start a great movie and then not finish it. You feel compelled to complete it. If someone just spent 15-20 minutes or more designing a room, human nature urges them to turn that room into a reality.
- You have an atomic fireball hot lead. Because a person feels invested, they’ll be thinking about that room. For the next several days or even weeks, they’re looking at their budget. They’re seeing how old and worn out their sofa looks. During this time, the slightest push could get them to take that leap. No high-pressure sales tactics required!
Interactive Customers Are Brand Influencers
Because retail technology trends like this were born in the age of social media, they will be shared. Getting input from friends and family reinforces the desire to bring this room to life. And it may even get another person to try out that tool. This gift keeps on giving to your customers.
And engaged customers buy more furniture and home furnishings. Maybe they could get some cheaper, lower-quality throw pillows or lamps at Walmart. But the ones they selected with the designer are the perfect match and better quality. The convenience of buying everything in one place and the quality factor suddenly outweigh spending a fraction more.
Creating a plan on a room level is great. But each piece of furniture can be a work of art. That’s why giving customers the ability to further customize their room at the SKU level is so important. You can do this with a custom furniture design tool. We heard from so many retailers at High Point Market asking about online room planners. Which makes it first on our list of retail technology trends. But it isn’t the last.
2. Custom Furniture Design Tool
You can tell a customer all day that an accent chair comes in this upholstery, this finish, and this trim. But unless they can actually see in that perfect color it’s hard for them to feel excited about bringing that chair home. Especially when they’re reviewing the product on your website catalog. You need to evoke this kind of emotional to connect with customers.
A huge trend that more retailers are using today is the custom furniture design tool.
Your Brands Give More Options
eCommerce has opened up a world of possibilities in this realm. But your brands are doing a great job offering more options for your customers–which means more options for you. Many retailers are concerned with the time it takes to deliver on the custom furniture pieces. But when you use online custom furniture design tools, you’re enabling the options that you can deliver. No more worries about not meeting customer expectations. In fact, consumer confidence in the product purchase increases when they have control over the look and design elements.
Plus, customer online design tools give you room for growth. In your flagship store, you don’t have space for 10 different colors/patterns for one chair. Your budget says the same thing. While you leave swatch books laying available for customers to drape 3 inches of fabric to imagine the new look of the furniture, other retailers are doing better. In fact, with retail technology trends like this one, the sky really is the limit. And it doesn’t have to be a nightmare to manage.
3. 3D Product Viewer
Coming in at number three, and surprising for many, is 3D product viewers. Many may ask, “Why isn’t 3D the biggest retail technology trend?” And to that we say, the concept of 3D as a whole technology is probably the single greatest of the retail technology trends. But the 3D product viewer specifically carries weight with both retailers and brands alike. 2D visualization doesn’t offer many functions or staying power on your website. It’s not easy to look at a flat image of a dining room set and imagine your family sitting there for dinner. But when you make that image 3D, you completely open that image up.
A person can rotate and interact with the image at all angles to better understand how the piece is made and what it will actually look like in their home. Again, you’re keeping customers on your site longer and getting them invested in your products.
We’ve looked at some specific tools. Now, let’s take a look at the whole customer experience with a personalized shopping tool.
4. Website Personalization Tools
Some surveys have shown that as many as 99% of people say they’re happy to share data with you if you personalize their experience. While this number fluctuates in industries, we can tell you that today’s consumer is in love with personalization. And most people know that the more data you collect, the more effectively you can customize that experience.
How it Improves Sales
A personalized shopping tool offers genuine help and guidance for shoppers during the online journey. It literally turns your website into a digital version of your showroom. When a person enters your website, you’re not going to throw everything at them at once. Just like your showroom, you’re going to ask what they’re interested in today. You’re going to take them to the living room section if they ask about living room furniture. You’re not going to start talking about the bedroom sale you’re having this weekend when they’ve shown interest in living room furniture. Online shopping tools like MicroD’s platform will offer that same, behavior-based personalized experience on your website. It increases sales on 2 levels:
- Fine-tune product offerings. Based on collected data, your website transforms into the most relevant and helpful site for this specific customer. Yes, with automated tools like a personalized shopping tool this is possible.
- Show them the right promotions. What’s the point of showing someone this offer: “Buy a Bed, Get an Armoire 50% off” when they’re shopping for sofas. Wouldn’t they like this offer better? “Buy a sofa, get an accent chair 50% off”. Show each visitor the promotion that they’ll find most relevant.
How it Increases Customer Satisfaction
Doesn’t overwhelm people with ads. If you’re not personalizing you may have to show 5 different ads and just hope that the customer sees the right one at the right moment. Instead, they see one or two promotions that make the most sense to them.
Targeting. The more data the customer shares, the more personalized the site becomes. Use personalization to segment your customers by things like age, purchases, history or region so that you can send the right message at the right time. And here’s a message you want to be certain you send…
Abandoned cart notifications. 46% of abandoned cart emails get opened. 13% of people who open them will click back to your site. This demonstrates that most often people abandon carts because they got distracted. Customers are happy that you reminded them. And you just recaptured a sale you would have lost.
While this trend may not be new, it’s definitely evolving as are customer expectations. Let’s take a look at what modern online shopping looks like.
5. Shopping Cart
eCommerce sites today are built to make sales independently of a physical salesperson. They’re built for speed and a seamless customer experience. This not only increases customer satisfaction. But also improves the chances of clients spending more.
So if you’re conversion rates aren’t meeting expectations, know that building a more dynamic site that optimizes the shopping experience makes all the difference.
Your website can become your 24/7 sales associate always ready to make the next sale. This in no way diminishes the importance of sales associate. But it does allow you to maximize the number of sales you can make per salesperson because eCommerce helps your sales team work more efficiently. Instead of spending their time with every little sale, they work on an “exception” basis. That means that they work with customers, usually through online chat, only when they need extra assistance.
If the customer can do it on their own, shopping carts today facilitate that while employing that personalization we discussed to increase order value and customer lifetime value. But what exactly do today’s customers expect from an eCommerce site? Let’s take a look.
What Customers Expect
Customers today expect a wide selection and a seamless checkout experience. Features that enable this experience win big with customers. Some of these key features include:
- Automated Inventory Updating. Manually updating online inventory can be a full-time job for more than one person. But this process can and should be automated. MicroD can set up a product catalog system that allows manufacturers to automatically update their brand’s product pages on your website. All you do it keep on selling.
- Coupon creator. This eCommerce tool allows you to quickly generate coupon codes that customers apply automatically to their order during checkout. No more codes that don’t work, unclear expiration dates or having to hunt online for codes. You can send codes to select customers through email.
- Stunning and functional product and checkout pages. Design is everything on a furniture website. People today expect a site to look fresh and alive with great imagery. The more beautiful and functional these pages are, the more customers love your site and the better it performs. Customers can instantly spot a site that hasn’t had an overhaul in the past 5-10 years and they tend to avoid it.
- Automated tax collection. If you have an eComm store, you may sell out of state. Depending on state law you may have to collect sales taxes for that state. This can be completely automated so that you charge the right sales tax for local customers as well as those across state lines.
Honorable Mention: Chatbots
With chat, a sale never has to be abandoned because a person hits a roadblock. A sales team member is always there to help. If it doesn’t make sense to have a salesperson available 24/7, you can allow customers to leave a message for outreach during hours.
Retail Technology Trends You Can Incorporate Now
A “fad” quickly fades. But a trend has staying power. The retail technology trends we’ve discussed aren’t going anywhere. They represent broader and very consistent shifts in how customers buy online. They’re therefore very worth the investment. If you’re looking for how to implement one of these retail technology trends into your furniture store to delight customers and improve sales, schedule a consultation.