Furniture’s future is omnichannel

May 30, 2019 Eric Kobe

Direct-to-consumer brands have made names for themselves by being the modern, digitally-native version of last century’s home-and-lifestyle businesses. But now they’re adding in-store components to their sales strategies.

Casper, Purple, and Joybird have all either opened or will soon open brick-and-mortar store fronts. In five years, these brands and other online-first businesses will open 850 stores.

The rollout of these new stores indicates that e-commerce alone will only get your business so far. Home brands need to supplement their online business with an in-store experience. According to an HFN's survey, 63% of millennials purchase their interior furnishings in store, and SmarterHQ found that 50% actually prefer to purchase in-store.

To meet this market demand while still keeping costs low, digitally native brands have moved to opening smaller showrooms instead of large warehouses filled with inventory. They are providing the in-store experience while understanding that millennials will still go home and make the final purchase online.

Why the shift to omnichannel makes sense

Here are the three reasons why this sort of omnichannel approach is the way forward for furniture and homewares.

1.      It is expensive.

According to data collected from Affirm transactions, the average order value for furniture and homewares is $742. When we surveyed Affirm customers about their next big purchases, they identified that the timeline for making these larger purchases was between six and 12 months. During this extended period, shoppers will browse online, read reviews, and test out the product in-store before they finally commit to the purchase. They shop in short bursts across multiple channels to ensure they are getting the best quality at the best price.

2.     It is a highly considered purchase.

Beyond just expense, many other factors influence shoppers as they contemplate with a homeware purchase. Furniture, couches, kitchen equipment, and beds become a staple in the buyer's life. He or she will probably be using the item every day, so it becomes integral to the home. Consumers don’t take that decision lightly. They want to know exactly what they are getting, how the product feels, and whether they like it before purchasing.

As part of this consideration process, shoppers want to try a product for themselves, including seeing it in person. TimeTrade’s retail report reveals that 72% of consumers preferred brick-and-mortar stores because of the ability to touch and feel the products before pulling out their wallets. Additionally, this type of purchase usually comes with many questions from the buyer, and 44% of consumers prefer having their questions answered in person.

3.     Furniture is hard to return.

Consumers already hate returning items. According to an NPR/Marist poll, “56% of national online shoppers report they have kept an online purchase they wanted to return,” and 58% said it was because the return process was “too much of a hassle.”

For home products this is even more of an issue. Furniture is bulky, heavy, and hard to move in and out of a home or apartment. Shipping can be immensely expensive, and even if free shipping is offered, it is still a pain. To avoid this hassle, shoppers want to get it right the first time. This confidence can only come from an in-store experience.   

Affirm can help you go in store

To keep up with the digitally native brands we have worked with for years, Affirm is moving in-store, too. We recognize the importance of this channel and also that we need to align our product with how consumers actually shop. After testing in Peloton’s pop-up shops in 2017, we helped the company launch financing across 50 permanent stores nationally in 2018.  This year, we created a custom experience for Walmart in over 4,000 physical locations across the country.  Affirm clients Casper and Joybird both started as online-only. Affirm helped the businesses extend seamless, omnichannel financing options to their customers in the brick-and-mortar locations.

I recently bought a couch and seat from Room & Board. Like many shoppers described above, I started browsing online to see the different options and styles I gravitated toward, but decided to complete the purchase in-store with the help of a sales agent. I wanted to be able to sit down on the furniture and see the fabric and color, so I knew what I was getting before it got delivered.

Affirm understands these multi-layered elements are part of a modern furniture and homewares retail experience. We’re eager to help your business conquer the omnichannel journey ahead.  

Contact us to learn more about our in-store product or Affirm in general.

About the Author

Eric Kobe

Eric is the head of Home & Lifestyle at Affirm. Since 2016, he has been helping e-commerce companies grow by offering better financial choices to customers. Before Affirm, Eric ran the Data & Operations team at Wiser Solutions, an e-commerce competitive intelligence startup, and previously was a management consultant at FTI Consulting. He has a B.S. in Systems Engineering and Economics from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

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