Prior to the pandemic, the way in which consumers shopped for home and living items had not changed dramatically over the last 50 years. The process for purchasing large home furniture items would more often than not, be as follows; go into a physical store, measure the products to ensure it fits, pay for the product, agree to a home-delivery date for the product and then receive the product in the following weeks. 

However two years ago, Covid-19 caused this shopping approach to be transformed overnight. Consumers initially turned to online shopping in the early days of the COVID-19 due to mandated lockdowns which resulted in physical store closures. It was predicted that lifting of lockdowns would result in the return of the consumer to the physical store, however that has not been the case.

In fact, online retail is expected to keep growing, not revert to pre-COVID levels. According to the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, November 2020 survey by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), one third of survey respondents expect to shop online more than pre-COVID.

In a post-pandemic world, it is now more important than ever for retailers to continue to evolve and modernize the furniture shopping experience to match the purchasing behavior of the consumer, or they risk being left behind. 

So how can retailers modernise the furniture shopping experience?

  1. Become a digital first business 

Furniture retail have traditionally been a physical experience, however the modern day consumer is a digital-first consumer, who operates predominantly in an online environment. Becoming a digital first business is not just having an ecommerce website, it is about building the entire business with technology as the rails / underlying infrastructure that powers how a retailer creates experiences for the digital first consumer.

Brosa invests heavily into technology to enable us to deeply understand customer shopping preferences. For example we have a full API database that houses all our product attributes which can be used for profiling customer preferences based on their style, home, living situation (pets, kids etc). Modern day retailers need to use technology as the foundation for enabling automation and creating greater transparency for customers. For example Brosa’s in-house built supply chain software system gives our customers on demand transparency of where their specific furniture piece is at any point in time.

Delivery is another area where furniture retailers can leverage technology to empower customers in ways that include self serve booking of delivery time slots and ensuring delivery drivers can seamlessly access customer and order information to create an amazing installation experience. The modern furniture customer is looking for an end to end digital first experience that requires technology to be at the heart of every touchpoint, from styling and shopping through to delivery and customer care. 

2. Create and build comprehensive omnichannel strategy

Today’s modern day consumer is looking for a shopping journey that connects online and offline into one seamless experience. Today’s customers don’t consider physical stores and online retail as two separate channels. They see it as a single impression of an entire brand and they engage with different channels to satisfy different needs. 

Legacy furniture retailers focus primarily on physical stores as the primary channel of purchase while Ecommerce retailers avoid stores altogether. Retailers should instead consider stores not as a sales channel but an important interaction point that gives customers the touch and feel for gaining trust and offers brands the surface area to learn more about their customer and deepen the brand experience.

At Brosa’s studios it is just as much about customers seeing pieces, taking home fabric samples and sitting on a sofa as much as it is about having face to face conversation with our qualified stylists to discover their personal style. 

Technology is the key enabler for tying together online and offline furniture retail experiences. Building a clienteling software was one of Brosa’s key initiatives to help our stylists capture customer preferences in the showroom but also allow our customers to return home, speak with their partner and if they needed to contact us again, our phone or chat team are already up to speed on everything they experienced in the studio.

We love to encourage customers to shop the way they feel most comfortable and not forcing them to shop in a showroom or online only. Technology is our enabler to create that experience. 

3. Invest in technology to help personalise each experience 

The value of technology is in its ability to capture information and automate intelligent recommendations on scale. 

Some technology platforms retailers should consider investing in to help create a personalised experience for each customer includes:

  • A customer relationship management system (CRM) as this will allow the business to develop a richer picture of the customer
  • An ecommerce platform that enables digital first purchasing for your customers. 
  • A supply chain and delivery software to help power your deliveries post purchase and enable maximum transparency and communication for customers. 
  • Software to integrate all your different technology systems together and allow them to work effortlessly in unison. The customer doesn’t interact with your business in a silo (e.g speaking only to marketing or customer service or delivery), they interact with your entire business and ensuring consistency of information capture and integration across touchpoints is crucial for success. 

4. Consider showrooms as an experiential touch point not a point of purchase  

Physical spaces should be used to enhance the overall retail experience and not just as a sales channel. Showrooms to host live events and experiences that aren’t as rich online creates an element of exclusivity which customers love, and if done well, can also leave a lasting positive brand impression. Whether it’s hosting VIP nights or even educational evenings in stores, this helps brands create deeper engagement with consumers and provide reasons to engage with your product and service offerings. 

To conclude, furniture retailers who want to modernise the shopping experience for customers must appreciate the value of a digital first approach and turn to technology to create experiences which delight their customers.

Ivan Lim is CEO and co-founder of Brosa