When you look at some of the biggest furniture and household goods retailers in the world, things appear to have taken a turn for the better during the last few years. This uptick could largely be attributed to the pandemic, which saw many people spending more time in their homes than ever - and with limited funds being spent on travel, entertainment, or fashion, decided to invest in the place they were literally confined to.
- Wayfair posted its first year of profitability in 2020, but a year later, also saw its first-ever decline in sales. The growth between 2019 and 2021 revenue was a 50.5% bump however; a lift from the ~40% YOY growth Wayfair was experiencing prior to the pandemic.
- IKEA’s online channels welcomed 5 billion visitors in 2021, boosting online sales by 73% despite supply chain issues. Today ecommerce accounts for over a quarter of IKEA’s total revenue.
- RH’s annual revenue has been on a steady uptick; including a 19.49% YOY increase from the 12 months ending April 30, 2022 to 2021.
The question lurking around these positive numbers is whether furniture and housewares will see a downtrend now that pandemic restrictions have largely been lifted in many global markets.
The good news is that consumers who may have never considered housewares purchases online prior to the pandemic have learned to adapt. But what they may have been willing to settle for in a pinch may not carry over from here.
Instead, savvy furniture and household goods ecommerce leads need to think of ways to bring the experiential magic of browsing a store to the virtual world; one that enables customers to still shop online at their convenience without having to visit a store if they’re unable to, or simply want to save time.
Live video co-shopping is perfectly suited to the furniture and housewares sector for several key reasons:
- Investing in home furnishings is a high consideration purchase; even for items that are low in cost (like a vase or lamp) - shoppers want to ensure it’ll ‘go’ with their decor.
- Many household goods have a customization factor, like sofa configuration, color, or upholstery material. A live shopping associate can walk through a custom purchase conversation just like they would in store.
- For the first time ever, live video shopping enables the customer to bring the store to them. The live shopping associate can see a shopper’s home and recommend the right products that will match their wall color, flooring, or other decor consideration.
But those are just a few of the ways investing in a live shopping platform benefits furniture and household product retailers. Let’s dive into some others.
Assess color to match home decor
Color varies widely from device to device - and even between two similar devices with different settings. This can make it a challenge to assess the actual color of a piece of furniture or item. With color being a key element to any home decor plan, finding the right shade of jade green versus hunter green is any design maverick’s aim when shopping online. Live shopping helps customers see products in different lighting, in real time, to get a better sense of whether it's the shade they were expecting to find.
Shop with someone that has specific design or aesthetic expertise
Shoppers flock to design influencers that are masters of specific looks - from minimalism to French country to coastal. For brands that cater to multiple design aesthetics, having live shopping associates on hand that specialize in specific looks can be a great way to give customers confidence in shopping for pieces that will complement their desired aesthetic. Think of it like an interior designer on demand - one that can upsell multiple products to create a complete look.
Find products that complement something a customer is interested in
Sometimes a customer might fall in love with an item, but hesitate because they can't picture what it 'goes with'. For example, they might wonder whether an abstract painting will suit their formal dining room, or what accessories would look nice on a set of open kitchen shelves. Live shopping associates can look at the item a customer is interested in and suggest additional items that would pair with it - organically driving up order values to boot.
Invite a live shopping associate into a space
One of the best use cases for live shopping and the home decor category is the fact brands can enter a customer’s home - an experience that literally can’t be replicated in an in-store environment. Live shopping associates will get a chance to see the customer’s living space, viewing everything from wall color to window size to how much room they have available. This insight gives the associate the ability to better visualize how a product might work in a space and provide the best recommendations.
Review fabric or material details
Bedding, towels, window coverings, upholstery, cushions and more are just a few ways that textiles come into play when making a household goods buying decision. A live shopping associate can talk through fabric and care with any shopper, answering questions on whether a fabric is suitable for a home with pets, or how to clean a textile that’s meant for outdoor use.
Get a taste of the in-store experience of a store from anywhere
Very few furniture and houseware brands have a massive brick and mortar footprint. Many more are actually strictly digital to save on the massive square footage a retail store typically requires for most furniture companies. Those that do, however, can leverage their retail space for online customers, bringing customers into a physical store environment without leaving their homes. For brands that have a single flagship or regional presence, this is a great way to bring the theater of the store to customers nationwide (or even international).
Co-shop with a virtual shopper from a retail location
Sticking with brick and mortar retail for a moment - most live shopping calls involve a shopper being at home or out and about, connecting with a virtual shopping assistant. But there is also the option to offer virtual shopping expertise within a retail store. For example, a furniture retailer could have QR codes by their appliances. Scanning a QR code could direct that customer's call to each individual appliance manufacturer, or an expert about a particular appliance category, to answer questions, or to order an appliance that’s not available for pickup on that day.
Compare multiple products
Most of the time if a customer is torn between two products, they’ll buy them both and keep the one that works for them. This is especially true in home decor - unlike a shopper buying two dresses, it’s quite unlikely that a shopper buying two mirrors will end up keeping them both. Comparing products side by side on a call, and getting guided shopping advice to boot, should help shoppers zero in on the right product for their homes and drop return rates.
Analyze a product’s size from multiple dimensions
Pictures can be deceiving, to the point where negative reviews may be submitted when a product is much larger, or much smaller than a shopper anticipated. Even when a brand makes an effort to provide dimension or show a product in context, there's still the risk of customers returning a product because it wasn't quite how they envisioned it. Many furniture and household good brands have taken to using augmented reality and 3d modeling tools, but sometimes just seeing the product in a video call can fill in the missing visual gaps a customer needs - that mirror’s frame is too deep for a narrow hallway. That throw cushion won’t feel dwarfed on an oversized couch.
See a specific element of the product that's not clear in photos
The best brands know that top notch photography is essential to selling more goods. But still, there are ways furniture and housewares photography can fall short. Customers can easily send back a product because they didn't realize the drawers on a trundle bed were fake or that the backside of a couch is a different texture than the front. Replicate the ability to walk around an item from any angle in store by offering video calls where a sales associate can do the exact same thing.
Convert more customers with promotional incentives
Many home furnishing stores emphasize customer service by encouraging shoppers to team up with a sales associate early in their browsing. That same associate will often convert browsers into buyers and even transact on the sale directly. The same experience can happen with live video shopping. Your sales associates can provide 1:1 service that goes all the way to checkout - including offering special promotions and incentives they can’t get anywhere else to convert a hesitant customer on the spot. An unmanned digital experience simply can’t do the same thing, leading to higher online browse abandonment rates.
Shop more efficiently from anywhere
Live 1:1 shopping is a handy shortcut for any busy shopper to track down what they want. Instead of a leisurely browsing session, they can simply connect with a store associate, explain what they're looking for, and get the item they want in short order. Brands with BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) services can leverage this even further, by letting customers order a product while en route to a store, complete the transaction, and simply walk in and pick it up.
Many housewares purchases are intended to be kept for a long time. Regardless of cost, shoppers want to feel confident that the vendor they’re buying from is producing quality goods that’ll go the distance. Live shopping gives shoppers the chance to see products in real life, get their key questions answered, and provide reassurance about the legitimacy and caring attitude of the business and its employees.
Get truly personalized product recommendations
AI-driven algorithms can be a handy self-serve way to surface products that often go together, but to call those recommendations personalized is debatable. A live video personal shopper can show customers how a product is paired with others in store, or spotlight similar items that work well as a set, tailored to a customer's specifications. For example, on a furniture retailer's website, couch might be frequently bought together with a coffee table. The customer could note they want something cozier, like a tufted ottoman, and the associate can find something that's more specific to their tastes.
Shop with a notable design expert
Live 1:1 shopping makes it possible to shop with a celebrity designer or creator no matter where the customer is. In fact, one of the best ways to launch a live shopping service is to offer a special promotion where customers may be randomly connected to a famous co-shopper, from HGTV stars to highly regarded creators or influencers a brand may already have partnerships with.
Get technical specs
Virtually every industry is subject to letting creative copywriting and marketing get in the way of a customer trying to decide if a product will work for a specific need. Often, a customer is simply looking for a yes/no answer to a question. Does this home appliance have an air fry setting? Is there a third rack with this dishwasher? Can you use this Dutch oven under the broiler? Can you buy this sofa without the reclining option? Instead of working through a support chat gauntlet, a video check-in with a furniture or housewares consultant can give shoppers the exact answers they need to hit checkout.
Track down a gift or registry
Shoppers on the hunt for a gift might need a helping hand from a design or decor expert to ensure they’re headed in the right direction. Whether trying to find something that’ll suit a loved ones’ aesthetic or simply looking for guidance from the get go, a personal shopping experience can make it easy for them to track down an item someone else will love.
Assist low-tech customers
We’ll bet that if you looked at the demographic of who is buying furniture or housewares online, it’s skewing young. Older generations are simply accustomed to shopping in stores for household goods. But live video shopping can be a helpful bridge, especially for shoppers who can’t easily make it into a retail location (if your brand even has one). The co-shopping host can showcase products a customer might be interested in and help them convert through the order process in real time.
Describe a specific use case in real time instead of back and forth customer support
Some shoppers aren’t seeking a product, but a solution. They might have information about who they're shopping for, the space they're furnishing, or other factors, but they mostly need someone to point them in the right direction. Instead of back and forth emails or chat, a video chat can be a shortcut to answering technical queries. For example, a shopper might say they need a solution to make their baby's room darker, and a home furnishings expert could walk them through the choice between curtains or blinds, assess if their window is a standard size or would require a custom order, explain fabric / material choices, talk through different levels of blackout window treatments, and complete an order all within a call.
How to offer live video shopping for furniture stores
Whether you have a brick and mortar presence or strictly operate online, there are plenty of ways to set up a live video shopping experience. The calls themselves can be conducted from a retail location, or hosted in a studio environment. They can even take place from a customer call center. The trick is to find people to staff your experience that are knowledgeable and passionate about what you sell, to guide customers to the right purchase.
Not every shopper is going to need live video shopping support, but for the ones that do, not having it available is a major miss that can lead to abandoned carts and lost sales.
Looking for more guidance on kickstarting your live shopping? Check out our handy get started guide, or book a demo with our team.