Ron’s Thoughts: Is This the Year You Start Selling Online?
Since the beginning of selling furniture online, there's been a there's a large group of people saying you can't sell furniture online. In fact, when eCommerce first started, I would get comments from retailers, saying “I hope this will go away.”
“What will go away?”
“This whole internet thing.”
Not only did it not go away, but it kept growing. And then in 2020, it exploded even more, and now retailers are asking, is it time to get into eCommerce? And the answer is, yes—but to do it right, you need to be prepared.
The first thing a furniture retailer needs to do is look at their business and their needs. They need to choose an eCommerce solution that's right for them. That means researching and interviewing vendors to find the one who has the right features and capabilities.
Part of choosing the right eCommerce platform is also building the strategy behind it. A lot of people say, “I have a website.” But what they’ve actually done is given someone five grand and said go build a website and they come back with something that doesn’t work. And the retailer gives up.
Instead, you have to establish your ecommerce site as if you're opening another location.
When you open a new store, you spend a lot of time searching an area for the right location, hiring a broker, and purchasing or renting the building. You plan for days of negotiations, you pay an attorney, you do building improvements. You have your designers come in and design the store, you bring the product, and you tell the city that you're opening soon. There's a ribbon cutting and maybe the mayor’s there.
All that requires planning, because you have to have the right people, the right budget to make it happen. Businesses forget that with an eCommerce website, because it’s often being created in a back office with someone flipping a switch to turn it “on.”
I recently had a demo with a retail furniture store. They said I have 15 locations, as well as an eCommerce site. I told them they had 16 locations, and their eCommerce site had become the number one store. And that changed how they looked at it.
It’s also not enough to just have a website. You also need to build an eCommerce experience. You do that by creating great product content. That’s more than saying, “This is a sofa.” It’s using what’s referred to as romance language. You tell the customer this sofa is 72” long and 35” wide with this fabric and this feel. It’s a comfortable, blue, cozy sofa. It’s where you’ll read a book, or watch TV, or open birthday presents.
When a shopper reads your description, they need to feel like they’re sitting in that sofa, and you do it by creating a story behind every product.
You need images, too, because you need to show the customer what that sofa looks like in real life. The goal is to provide enough content on your eCommerce site to overcome the fact that your customers can't sit down and touch the sofa themselves. To do that, you can include a video, or a 360-degree view, so they can see the back and the sides, and consider how the sofa will look in their home. This adds to the story.
This is especially important in-home furnishings, where returns are more difficult and expensive than other industries. By having good content and accurate content like specifications, images, and descriptions, you have a better chance of creating a sale that's a sale that's going to stick. You can manage that manually, or you can use a product information management (PIM) solution to make it easier.
So now you've chosen the right products. You've got your site up and going, you got great descriptions and images and videos. Once you've done that and you have had orders placed on the website, the last piece is getting that information into your ERP, so you can fulfill the orders quickly. The simplest way to do that is with an eCommerce ERP integration that plugs right into your business system. That way, the information is sent right away—no waiting for someone to check their email or type the details in. And it’s always accurate, because the information is going straight from the customer to your store to your ERP.
To get started with eCommerce, you don't have to recreate the wheel. You already know how to open a store, now you just have to use that same strategy and planning effort to do so online.
Doing nothing isn’t a smart strategy. The internet, and eCommerce isn’t the way of the future. It's the way of today— and it's becoming more powerful every day. So, stop wishing it away. Start small and build from there.
And if you need help? Talk to us. We’ve been helping furniture retailers for years, and we have the eCommerce technology and support to get you started successfully.
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About the Author: Ron Sellers, co-founder and chief revenue officer of TrueCommerce ecUtopia, is a technology advocate and leader for the home furnishings industry. With more than 25 years of industry-related experience, he offers significant expertise as a committee member of the Home Furnishings Association (HFA) and sits on the Executive Advisory Council for WithIt, a women’s leadership development network for the home and furnishings industries. When Ron is outside of the office, he can be found on his Harley Davidson cruising the streets.