Can i take a furniture business online?
The world around you is changing, your furniture should too! Below is an excerpt of a business plan written for one of our clients that wanted to take a furniture business online. The key concerns were online marketing, SEO and the great question "amount should I spend for an online ad campaign"?
Technology has been shaping the furniture industry as any other, to incredible lengths. At the turn of the century almost any and every piece of household furniture was bought by visiting a brick and mortar store that housed a load of furniture under one roof.
The conventional days for browsing rather than searching for furniture are coming to an abrupt end. Many online stores have created enormous disruptions within the industry that was heavily reliant on interpersonal selling. What was never deemed a transactional product is slowly turning out to become one.
Data from a recent survey conducted by Euromonitor shows how the US market (which is often considered a leader in online dynamics) has and is expected to change in the not so distant future.
The US home market in 2017 alone as grown by an approximate 15% creating great opportunity for various online stores to flourish within the space. Many of the larger online stores have reported up to 33% returning customers within their online portals. Consider furniture is not a highly liquid item and is changed cyclically these numbers tell a positively skewed story.
The global furniture market in 2017 was estimated to be USD 600 Billion and is expected to follow a similar growth pattern of around 6%. This is in line with the upward trajectory that the US has been showing.
Asia pacific as well as the middle east are expected to show an outperformance of this growth in the furniture industry due to the rise in the hospitality and housing sectors within these markets.
The store in consideration is an online solution for that makes coveted furniture brands and designs alike accessible to the middle eastern and Asian markets. Both these markets are not only expanding in terms of furniture however are also seeing a regime shift in the way they have used technology. Many businesses have now begun to show an online presence and are changing the way people think about any online transactions.
The home industry however still poses a few challenges to online businesses:
· Confidence to Buy online: In the absence of being able to touch and feel a product, customers typically require greater comfort and advice on the item they are buying.
· Visualising Products: Understanding how a sofa or dining room table will look in a shopper’s home is central to the purchase decision.
· Inspiration and Product Discovery: Home furniture is still often browsed and not searched, as it is difficult for consumers to describe what they are looking for and brands are not known. Additionally, home shoppers desire uniqueness.
· Customer Service and Delivery: Home is characterised by heavy, bulky, and damage-prone items. Delivery speed can be slow and customers have limited visibility on order timing. Third parties typically play a large part in the transportation and delivery process, resulting in a customer experience that can be poor relative to other categories.
An online furniture store should be working towards having purpose-built solutions in order to address all of the above concerns and transform how customers shop for their home, from their home.
What will remain an automated/transactional sale, the business should have a level of dedicated communication amongst their customers and wider community to build trust within an adolescent market. Ideal markets are certain niche’s as well as demographic segments within the Middle East and Asian markets that are prime targets for both the price and quality.
Typical sales channels are through different search engines, social media, direct and indirect marketing towards leads that have been accumulated over the years.
As an online furniture supplier the aim should be to provide an untapped market with greater and newer prospects to obtain a strong foothold within the rising tide of online as well as furniture markets within these regions.
~$600B total addressable market rapidly moving from brick and mortar to online
· Utilizing in-house software development capability to build and leverage proprietary technology as key enabler
· Partnering with fragmented and largely unbranded supplier base of over 10,000 suppliers
· Solving unique challenges of the category by building a business customized for home
· Highly recognized brand with increasing engagement from repeat customers
· Investing in logistics, international markets, and new teams to continue outsized share-taking
· Attractive financial profile with robust growth at scale, proven unit economics, and inventory-light business model
· Co-founders are largest shareholders, with focus on sustainable long-term growth, operational discipline, and customer-first orientation