Choosing the Right Platform for Furniture Ecommerce – Why the Cloud Is the Right Choice for Furniture Retailers

July 23, 2015

For furniture retailers, the question is no longer whether or not to offer ecommerce. It’s how to do so quickly, efficiently, and most effectively. The ecommerce technology landscape has evolved significantly over the last decade and there are now a variety of platform options retailers can choose from.

Types of Ecommerce Platforms Available to Furniture Retailers

ecommerce platforms

In this post, we’ll take a look at why the latest of these technologies – cloud solutions – is the platform best suited to empower furniture retailers to keep up with a rapidly evolving ecommerce landscape, provide shoppers with a consistently great experience, and drive maximum business results.

 Cloud Technology

Cloud-Based Platforms Are Today’s Choice for Leading Brands

In the 1990s, building an ecommerce platform from scratch (DIY) was the go-to solution for retailers seeking to sell online for the first time. Today, this solution has fallen out of favor for all except a handful of retailers who have invested heavily in DIY solutions and have the resources and expertise to keep up with ever-changing technology.

Over time, many retailers moved to on-premise platforms, which they found more efficient than building and maintaining a homegrown platform. But this solution still required significant upkeep and came with the cost and operational challenges of hosting, scalability, security and keeping the website current.

Today more and more retailers are adopting cloud platforms for their lower costs, greater agility and the ability to remain current as the digital landscape evolves. This trend extends beyond ecommerce – the cloud is revolutionizing all aspects of retail business, from marketing and customer relationships to business applications like email, word processing and spreadsheets, to product information management and even point of sale systems.

For ecommerce, the move to cloud platforms has accelerated in the last five years. The graph below, based on an analysis of platform choices from 82 top brands by L2 Digital Index, shows the decline of DIY solutions, the relatively flat adoption of on-premise solutions, and the explosive adoption of cloud ecommerce platforms by top brands.

graph_1-1Source: L2 Digital Index, Intelligence Report: Ecommerce Agility

Cloud Platforms Help Leading Brands Stay Ahead of the Curve

While some retailers believe that on-premise or DIY platforms allow them to maintain more control of their online presence, this control comes with a cost. Retailers must dedicate resources to building and updating the technology rather than focusing their efforts on running the business and driving revenue through this channel. Managing, owning and updating your own software can prove cumbersome when trying to keep up with the features and security standards that make a best-in-class website.

On-premise platforms often boast an impressive-sounding array of features. However, these features are typically generic solutions designed to cover the broadest possible range of retail markets. For specialty retail sectors, like furniture, the implementation of generic features often requires so much customization that it complicates the ongoing upgrade path of the on-premise platform. Moreover, the retailer is responsible for the development cost required for this customization. The net result is that, even with a long list of available features, on-premise platforms don’t provide either the head start or the ongoing development agility that one might think they should.

Retailers selling big-ticket items in particular have traditionally found it difficult to keep pace with upgrades as their needs differ from typical UPS-able ecommerce. More often than not, the feature updates that on-premise platforms provide are geared toward smaller-ticket items and simply do not translate for large purchases like furniture and appliances.

Cloud solutions, because of the centralized nature of their development, allow for more rapid feature development and adoption. The cloud provider can easily “push” new features out to all the retailers on the cloud platform. And because retailers don’t bear the brunt of technology innovation, they can focus their resources on optimizing the merchandising, marketing, and user experience efforts that really drive results.

The impact of cloud solutions in helping retailers “keep up” can be seen in the graph below. Over the last several years, websites running on cloud platforms have led the pack, with an average of 81% of best-in class-features, compared to 68% for on-premise and 76% for DIY. Quite simply, cloud solutions help retailers consistently offer their shoppers the best online experience—a notable achievement in an industry where the definition of “best in class” changes constantly.

graph_2

table

Source: L2 Digital Index, Intelligence Report: Ecommerce Agility

 

Retailers on Cloud Platforms See Greater Financial Growth

The agility of cloud solutions has real financial impact on overall business growth. Because cloud solutions allow for more efficient platform development, retailers using cloud platforms are able to implement a larger number of revenue-generating features and, in turn, have seen greater financial growth.

This can be seen in the graph below, where retailers using cloud solutions are seeing an average of 10% sales growth online and in stores, compared to 8% for retailers using on-premise solutions, and 5% for retailers running DIY websites.

graph_3Source: L2 Digital Index, Intelligence Report: Ecommerce Agility

With the rise of cross-channel shopping, efficient technology development has never been more important. Omnichannel shopping technology is a relatively new trend and a massive opportunity. And with rapid innovation occurring in this area, technological agility will continue to differentiate winners from losers in the retail space.

The Unique Complexities of Furniture Retail

While the statistics above represent retailers across all categories, the benefits of a cloud solution are perhaps even more significant for furniture retailers. As any furniture retailer knows, there are unique complexities to selling furniture that are difficult to adapt online.

Unlike most online purchases, furniture typically entails a lengthy shopping process with both online and in-store research. Further, selling furniture online entails coordination with a complicated network of systems and processes involving merchants, salespeople, stores, warehouses and delivery teams. All of these elements can be extremely difficult to translate to a platform not specifically designed for furniture.

At the same time, the furniture shopper has been trained by other categories to expect an exceptional, seamless experience that allows them to research and buy furniture through any channels they choose.

Fortunately, traditional furniture retailers have significant advantages over pure-play ecommerce retailers, such as physical showrooms, brand awareness and local delivery – all of which should enable them to deliver a better furniture shopping experience than pure-plays.

Choosing the right platform to support these omnichannel efforts is critical to a retailer’s survival as the furniture sector’s digital transformation accelerates. Furniture retailers need a solution that will allow them to quickly get up to speed, and provide the furniture-focused enhancements and tactics to enable an aggressive ecommerce agenda.

In short, furniture retailers need a cloud solution designed for furniture.

Blueport: The Agility of Cloud + Furniture Focus and Expertise = Top-Tier Ecommerce Site on Day One and Every Day Thereafter

Leading furniture retailers choose Blueport Commerce, the only enterprise-class cloud solution designed specifically for furniture. We’ve replaced IBM WebSphere and Oracle ATG solutions for some of the largest furniture retailers in North America.

  • A Best in Class Website on Day One: We understand the complexities of furniture and designed our platform to integrate with your systems. You bypass the inefficiencies of explaining furniture to a consultant, building a site from scratch, or trying to shoehorn your furniture site into an on-premise framework that was built to sell a broad array of simpler items.
  • Relevant and Ongoing Furniture Updates: Blueport has all of the agile benefits of being hosted on the cloud solution, providing updates to all of our retailers on a two-week cycle. Plus, our focus on furniture ensures site enhancements proven to generate furniture ecommerce revenue. Features like localized merchandise and pricing to match stores, warranties, financing, and our patented omnichannel solution Store-Sync are provided to Blueport clients on day one.
  • On-Demand Resources to Make the Most of your Opportunity: Not only are we providing the technology, we also have the on-demand resources in digital marketing, merchandising, and customer care to provide expertise on running a furniture ecommerce store. You’ll never miss opportunities due to lack of capacity or missing a trend. We’ll keep your business tactics as current and scalable as your website.

The result? You get to focus on new ways to differentiate your brand and drive revenue, rather than figuring out how to replicate furniture features and tactics we’ve already built.