The Time is Now for Furniture to Embrace Innovation—Insights from the Furniture Today Leadership Conference

December 16, 2014

If there’s one thing every retailer knows it’s that in today’s world the consumer is king. Innovations in retail have given the consumer the ability to dictate the experience, product assortment and sometimes even price. At this year’s Furniture Today Leadership Conference in Naples, Florida, this attention on the consumer became abundantly clear as furniture retailers gathered together to discuss the theme of “innovation.” What we learned is how important it is to use the unique aspects the furniture industry can bring to innovation in the online, offline and mobile conversation.

Furniture Today Leadership Conference 2014

We’ve seen a lot of change in how consumers have impacted the furniture industry. In his talk on Using Innovation to Harness Change, Google’s Matt McAuliffe noted one in every two searches for furniture online is now done on a mobile device, calling the smartphone the “single most powerful handheld device since the revolver.”

Watching Niraj Shah of Wayfair receive the innovative award was a seminal moment for those who have been watching technology in the furniture industry. Wayfair has made tremendous strides for manufacturers and consumers alike. For manufacturers, Wayfair has been a godsend for distribution. For consumers, Wayfair has emerged as the online destination for everything home-related, curating a massive assortment to appeal to a variety of shoppers.

Despite the successes and innovations in this industry, there is still a clear discrepancy between the potential for furniture online and the reality. This became evident when Keith Koenig of City Furniture asked a panel of e-tailers how much “real” furniture is actually sold online. This number is one we’ve investigated deeply with some of the top analysts in technology. The answer is currently 4.5%. Severely underpenetrated for a $78 billion category.

Why so low?

Stores will always be an integral part of the shopping process for real furniture – sofas, sectionals, mattresses, etc. With stores, customers have the ability to touch and feel the product, get fast delivery, and someone is nearby should they have a question or need consulting. Which is why brick-and-mortar retailers have a tremendous advantage in this space. All they need is the technology and digital tactics to create a cohesive, and seamless shopping experience for the 90% of customers who research online before making a purchase.

The brilliant and charismatic Jim McIngvale of Gallery Furniture was quoted in Furniture|Today saying, “You should never be afraid to fail. If something doesn’t work out, so what? Try again. I’ve made countless mistakes in my life and we’re still here. We’re going to keep swinging and promoting and delighting our customers.” Gallery Furniture would not be where it is today if it weren’t for its tenacity and fearlessness, constantly innovating to create a better customer experience.

The greatest risk furniture incumbents face today is allowing fear of the unknown to handicap their ability to change. Retailers can no longer rely solely on their in-store experience to continue to serve a new generation of shoppers. Shoppers who trained by the pure plays have incredibly high expectations for retailers online.

At Blueport Commerce, we enable furniture retailers to tap into their opportunity to sell furniture online. We’re ready to take your brand to the next level, providing you the tools, service and technology to delight your customers through every interaction with your brand.