The home furnishings retail landscape has been one of constant upheaval these past 20 years. From the threat of large chain stores to advances in mobile technology and the rise of e-commerce sites, furniture retailers have forever been adapting to trends and innovations in the name of attracting consumer attention.
That’s certainly true with the internet—just look at consumer behavior. Ninety percent of furniture shoppers research furniture online before buying, while others check prices online before visiting a neighborhood brick-and-mortar store. As for smartphone users, 82 percent research items on their phones before making an in-store purchase. Another 60 percent take the time to research products on their phones while standing in a store.
The statistics don’t lie. In today’s world, having an online presence is a must if you want to strengthen your brand’s relevancy and competitive edge. If you own a brick-and-mortar store and are unsure about whether to jump online, here are four reasons why you should.
1. Cost-effective expansion
Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar expansion, launching an online store is much more budget friendly. Forget about additional rent, employee salaries or renovations; expanding into the digital world of commerce requires minimal overhead costs.
Chances are you already have a website. As for turning it into an e-commerce extension of your store, there’s no need to hire programmers. The right e-commerce platform should provide you with all the services and tools you need to build your website at an affordable price, no matter how much expertise you have.
2. Increase brand awareness and customer reach
Just because you run a small- or medium-sized business doesn’t mean you can’t acquire a large customer base. Taking your business online not only allows you to break down the borders that lie between your physical front door and the rest of the world, it can garner you more local foot-traffic. The key to that is a solid search engine optimization strategy that gets your site to the top of search engine results pages and onto shoppers’ radars. By choosing an e-commerce solution that offers SEO optimization capabilities, you can dramatically boost awareness, your site’s searchability, as well as in-store and online sales.
3. Round-the-clock sales
Retail is now a 24/7 business. Relying solely on your brick-and-mortar store means you’re missing out on the chance to make sales while you sleep. With an e-commerce site, you free yourself from the constraints of standard operating hours and, the best part is, you don’t need to be present at all times or hire extra staff. With the right e-commerce platform and a solid content and sales strategy, your products can pretty much sell themselves.
4. Increase customer engagement and build brand value
An online presence creates additional consumer touch points for your business; the more touch points, the easier it is to engage with your customers and to keep them coming back to your store or website. POS and e-commerce solutions that allow you to capture and share customer data across selling platforms enable you to tailor your messaging to the variety of shoppers. With this customer data at your disposal, you can make better use of e-commerce features such as social media integrations, Live Chat, product suggestions and automated email campaigns to further engage customers with relevant content that is likely to elicit conversions.
Content is king. By adding detailed, SEO-friendly product descriptions, customer reviews, an ongoing blog and other helpful, entertaining content such as videos, not only do you establish brand authority, you build trust. The more consumers trust you, the more likely they are to purchase from you and become loyal customers the next time they need a sofa or bedroom suite.
At the end of the day, shoppers want options. By making products and services available in person and online (while maintaining a consistent brand identity) and by providing options when it comes to payments, shipping and pick-up, consumers can conveniently shop with you on their own terms, whether it’s on their lunchbreak, sitting on the sofa at home or waiting for the meal at a restaurant. You’re giving consumers the choices they’ve come to expect.
Is the brick-and-mortar shopping experience becoming obsolete? Absolutely not. Consumers still need to be able to examine, touch and test drive that recliner in person. However, they’ve also come to expect total and utter flexibility on the part of today’s retailers, who must meet them in whatever channel or medium they’re in, while delivering a consistent, omnichannel experience.
To meet consumer demands, you should think about merging your in-store and online business into one centralized operation. An omnichannel approach allows you to manage all aspects of your business from a single platform, to get a comprehensive view of their inventory, sales and customer data across physical and digital channels.