Conventional wisdom says people won’t make big purchases, such as a couch or mattress, without seeing and touching it in person. Yet the facts tell a very different story. In 2018, ecommerce revenue from furniture and home furnishing sales topped $65 billion, and is expected reach $100 billion by 2022. That’s about 12.9 percent of total retail ecommerce sales in the United States.
Bedding in particular is experiencing an ecommerce renaissance, driven by America’s obsession with sleep hygiene. Concerned about the role sleep plays in their health Inc. Magazine reports that, “People are realizing that investing in their own wellbeing is money well spent. And that means there’s been an increased demand for premium mattresses and bedding textiles–and an increase in the number of consumers who are willing to pay for them.” The upshot? In 2016, half of the six fastest growing e-retailers in the Top 500 were mattress startups.
These stats don’t come as a surprise to us at Something Digital. Recently we’ve helped eight online retailers launch their Home & Bedding sites, and that’s in addition to the dozen or so sites prior to this recent spate. Home & Bedding is our largest category of clients, and the products they sell cover everything from furniture and bedding, to home accessories and textiles. This post shares some of what we’ve learned in helping a range of Home & Bedding e-tailers succeed.
Home & Bedding sales rely on the consumer experiencing what it feels like to be in a room or space with a particular product, which is why retailers like Ikea and Crate & Barrel create whole rooms, complete with accessories and textiles, for people to walk through. Consumers can touch the fabric to assess its quality, determine if a sofa or easy chair is too high or too low for their tastes, or figure out if a dresser or wardrobe offers enough storage for their belongings.
Given the visceral nature of Home & Bedding products, one would assume that few people are willing to risk of buying online but as we’ve seen from the stats above, that’s just not the case. Sometimes buying in store is a drag. Selecting pieces and designing a room in Ikea is a blast, getting the loot to your car and securing it to your roof is not. And even if you see a couch you want to buy in store, chances are they don’t have all 30 color options available, which means ordering it online.
And therein lies the opportunity and challenge: online sales blunt the burden of finding a retail location and figuring out how to get the stuff to your house. The challenge is designing a website experience that recreates the feeling of immersion.
When Something Digital designs a website in the Home & Bedding space, total immersion is our goal. I liken it to watching a movie. When you relive that movie in your mind, you don’t remember the details of the set, you remember the plot and the character’s reaction to the events that occurred. In other words, you remember the experience.
We have a variety of techniques to create that immersive experience, such as full bleed, edge-to-edge graphic designs that emphasize the color and texture of products so customers will get a sense of how it will feel in their homes. Sometimes our designers will highlight a product’s bold color by placing it in an empty space. We have a lot of tricks up our sleeves to help website visitors experience a product.
Another trick is to create “shop this room” experiences like those Crate & Barrel retail outlets, a technique we deployed for our client, Kravet.
Kravet’s curated rooms feature fully designed spaces that allow visitors to shop the entire room, from furniture to rugs and wallpaper. It’s a matter of creating an experience that is as interactive, approachable, touchable as it is real life, but in a computer screen.
The second challenge Home & Bedding online retailers must address is the end-to-end experience of the sale. Riley, a Something Digital client that sells affordable luxury bedding, wants every part of the customer interaction to be joyful. They want customers to feel as if they’re about to have the best nap or bath of their lives. They accomplish this by allowing consumers to personalize and endless variety of bath towels, bathrobes, pillows, and so on.
But it doesn’t stop there; Riley has taken tremendous care with its customer facing post-sale interactions, and leveraging them as an opportunity to further the joyful experience. There’s nothing better than the anticipation of waiting for a much-desired product to arrive, which is why Riley’s order received, order shipped and tracking notifications build on that excitement. The company eschews the anemic templated notifications that are standard in online sales in favor of updates that reflect their brand joyful voice.
And, as the customer’s anticipation builds, so do the dividends the retailer reaps. We’ve found that user-generated content on Instagram is direct result of these types of post-sale engagements. Ditto for post-product engagement, recommendations to friends, and product reviews. Some retailers incentivize post-sales engagements, offering, say, $10 off the next purchase for posting a photo of the product on Instagram. It’s a great way to spread the word and get repeat sales.
Infusing the end-to-end customer interaction with the brand voice is a skill our extensive experience in this space has allowed us to hone. It’s also one we find most rewarding.
Shipping and Logistics Matter
The last challenge is shipping and logistics. Furniture is notoriously difficult to deliver. Many products are multi-part pieces (e.g. futon frame + futon mattress + futon cover), which means multiple shipments are required. This is where shipping gets interesting, because real-time rate calculation and timing aren’t always so, well, real time. And yet these data points can have a huge impact on the consumer’s decision to convert. So this is a tough challenge, one in which finding the right partners is essential.
Assembly at the home is another obstacle, one that Ikea — with its minimum language directions and heavy reliance on disposable allen wrenches — is known for. It’s no surprise that the world rejoiced when researchers at Nanyang Technological University announced they had designed a robot that can assemble an Ikea chair in 20 minutes.
Help with furniture assembly is a great way to upsell orders and ensure customer delight. We help online retailers plug in services like Handy and TaskRabbit — helpful middlemen allow retailers to take advantage of flat-pack shipments while eliminating the burden on the customer.
The final piece of the logistics is customer care. Successful retailers understand that any hiccup in assembling or using a product can instantly lead to buyer’s remorse. In these instances, it’s hugely important to ensure all customer interactions are joyful and to make it a positive brand experience. Fortunately, our understanding of creative expression of brands in this space has been quite helpful.
These are just some of the trends, challenges and solutions we’ve perfected through our work with Home & Bedding online retailers. Need help in optimizing yours? We’d love to help!