Furniture retailers of all shapes and sizes are prioritising boosting their online presence. As more consumers discover their new favourite brands on the web, it’s becoming a necessity to ensure you have an easily accessible, informative website.
You may already have a ‘shop window’ website that doesn’t yet have an ecommerce function. Potential customers are landing on your site day in, day out. Yet they need to figure out a different way to buy from you, usually by visiting in-store.
Why add an extra step in the customer’s purchasing journey when you could convert them while they’re actively engaged with your brand?
In this article, we’re explaining the benefits of turning a basic website into an e-commerce platform.
Debunking e-commerce myths
Setting up an e-commerce website is undoubtedly a big investment – both in terms of time and money. However, you may find the potential return on investment makes the initial outlay well worth it.
Here are some of the most common reasons furniture retailers are hesitant to invest in an e-commerce site.
Customers don't buy my product online
You might be surprised. These days, consumers buy all sorts of goods and services online. And, if they can’t buy your products the way they want to, they’ll likely turn to one of your competitors.
Traditional ‘in-store’ markets such as furniture are increasingly seeing online sales boom. In fact, the UK Furniture & Appliances eCommerce market accounts for 11.6% of the total eCommerce market. Furthermore, 1 in 3 customers state they actually prefer purchasing furniture online.
Investing in e-commerce isn’t an all or nothing situation – your online store can coexist with your brick-and-mortar shop, giving your customers greater choice during the purchasing process.
E-commerce websites are just for big brands
Many small and medium-sized businesses have thriving online stores. In fact, upgrading your shop front website into a fully fledged e-commerce site is likely to help you take your business to the next level.
It’s true that there are lots of established retail giants trading online, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be one of them.
It's too expensive or too difficult to set up and maintain
E-commerce sites can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds a year depending on the size and complexity of your requirements, which may not be prohibitive depending on how much profit you expect to make from online sales.
Plenty of e-commerce hosting platforms such as Shopify or WooCommerce allow you to launch a store without needing to invest too heavily in design and technical skills. Depending on the functionality and features you want, you may not even need any coding knowledge to get your e-commerce site off the ground.
Remember, you don’t have to dive in feet first and develop an all-singing, all-dancing site straightaway. Start off with basic functionality and go from there.
E-commcerce isn't secure
Online security isn’t optional or a nice to have – it’s absolutely essential. That’s why e-commerce platforms prioritise security, implementing measures such as SSL certificates, encryption, and secure payment gateways to protect both businesses and customers.
Ensure you train any team members dealing with your e-commerce platforms to follow best practices in cybersecurity, too, to keep your website as secure as possible.
My business will become impersonal
For sectors such as furniture retailing, developing a personal connection with customers is a key part of that in-store experience. So it’s understandable you may be concerned that an online store might prevent you from making a truly valuable connection with customers.
In fact, an e-commerce site could actually help you to diversify your customer support. For example, personalised (yet automated) product recommendations, live chat support and valuable online content can help you to build relationships with customers in the digital space.
Top ten tips for converting furniture customers online
Whether you’re just starting to develop an e-commerce site for your furniture brand or you’re looking to improve an established site, here are just some of the ways you can harness the power of digital to boost your sales.
1. Make your website easy to navigate
This is perhaps the golden rule of e-commerce. Your website should look good, but it needs to be functional. Customers need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, so prioritise the user experience online just as you would in-store.
Your products should be categorised effectively too, with easy filtering functionality available to help customers find what they’re looking for according to price, material, colour and other key features.
Don’t forget to optimise your e-commerce site for mobile, too, ensuring the information on your site is still clearly displayed and easy to navigate when a user’s looking at your website on their phone or tablet.
2. Include product specifications
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the availability of information. Upload detailed product specifications for each product, from dimensions and materials to any assembly instructions. This will help customers to make a more informed choice, giving them confidence to make a purchase.
It’s also a good idea to create FAQs – not only about your products, but about all aspects of your business from how to pay to what delivery options are available. Customers are hungry for content and expect to see the information they’re looking for. Creating online content is one of the best ways to share information with customers, making sure key details about your product and your brand are visible online.
3. Upload videos and professional photography
When a customer visits you in-store, they can get an instant feel for your products. Give them the same digital experience by showcasing a range of photographs of each product. Consider how it will look from various different angles and contexts, providing a real 360 overview of the product.
You’re likely to reap the rewards of video, too. A lifestyle shoot that shows your product as it would look in your customer’s home, alongside a voiceover detailing its unique features, really helps to sell the products you’re offering.
4. Share personalised recommendations
You can use a customer’s past purchasing or browsing behaviour to recommend products and offers. If you don’t have this data available, why not showcase products from a similar collection or matching items that could persuade customers to increase their transaction value?
This boosts the chances of a customer adding extra items to their basket, as they’ll be instantly inspired by products that are likely to suit them.
5. Consider Augmented Reality (AR) furniture placement
Customers often buy a piece of furniture without truly knowing how it will suit their room, whether they’re buying in-store or online. You can give your e-commerce store a competitive edge by implementing AR. Allowing customers to virtually place furnishings such as a sofa into their space gives them a clearer idea of how the piece will suit their home.
6. Implement visual search navigation
When it comes to furniture, customers don’t always know what they’re looking for or how to describe it accurately. ‘Brown sofa’ or ‘oak wardrobe’ may return too many broad results whereas a more specific search term might not return any results at all.
Visual search navigation allows customers to upload a photograph to find similar items, helping to speed up the time it takes for a customer to spot exactly what they’re looking for.
7. Showcase social proof
Shoppers like to hear real experiences from past customers before making a decision, so why not encourage your existing customers to share their views?
When a customer makes an online purchase, follow this up with an opportunity to leave a review or share their experiences on social media. Once you have a selection of reviews ready to share, you can feature them on your website or share to your own social channels.
Our guide on how consumer psychology can help drive sales goes into further detail on the power of social proof.
8. Offer flexible e-commerce retail finance
Online stores allow you to get in front of a new audience – but you need to be at the top of your game, or else customers will swiftly move on to the competition.
Make sure you stay one step ahead by offering a range of payment options, including an opportunity to spread the cost using finance. This helps to boost consumer confidence at the checkout because, instead of paying for goods or services upfront, the customer can make more manageable monthly repayments.
Partnering with a retail finance expert such as Novuna Consumer Finance makes offering finance straightforward. We’ll undertake the credit and affordability checks and collect payments, but you’ll maintain cash flow. This gives you a great way to increase the accessibility of your products and services, with minimal risk to your business.
9. Invest in live chat
Chatbots give customers 24/7 support, answering key FAQs or helping customers to find the products they’re looking for. AI chatbots allow you to automate your customer support so there won’t be much extra workload for your customer service team.
An effective online chatbot helps customer access the information they need quickly, which can help to increase conversion rates.
10. Optimise your checkout process
There’s little as frustrating as an abandoned basket. If you’ve worked so hard on your e-commerce site, make sure you don’t fall at the last hurdle. A smooth checkout process, complete with key features such as the option to checkout as a guest and transparent (preferably free) delivery costs, will keep your customers engaged.
A clunky checkout process that requires endless form-filling will eventually result in customers clicking off your site. Don’t let that happen.
Embrace e-commerce today
There’s never a better time than right now to start thinking about improving your sales and reaching new customers. With a fully functional e-commerce site, you can do just that.
If you’re one of our existing in-store retail partners, we can help you to offer flexible ePOS finance too, so you can hit the ground running when you launch your e-commerce site.