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From Home Furnishing Business

Customer Experience

By: Bob George


If a retailer is losing market share it can be attributed to one or a combination of three things: merchandise, advertising or consumer experience. The last topic is, at best, vague.

In the past decade a new element in the buying process has emerged with more than 75 percent of all consumers doing research on the Web before visiting the stores. In other words, the consumer visits a retailer’s Internet store unannounced, wanders through the product selection and reads the statements stressing why the retailer is different from the competition, but has no real chance to engage directly with the retailer. More often now than in previous years, a certain number of shoppers buy online without ever visiting a physical, brick and mortar store. Unfortunately, the retailer the consumer purchases from may not have a physical store.

At least 85 percent of the consumers who initially visit a Web site will proceed to the store. However, the list of retailers that the consumer visits has declined to about 2.1 stores per purchase. As the industry is beginning to recognize, the traffic continues to decline regardless of the volume. It is crucial to understand the significant variance between what the new Millennials want and what the downsizing, but still-purchasing Baby Boomers prefer because it is at this point that the sales challenge begins.

This sales challenge can be addressed with retail technology. Time-starved consumers want to have reliable information unfettered by a sales pitch to aid them in arriving at the product that they desire.

How do they do this? They go online to begin and often complete their purchase. Internet advertising, store advertising and social media are means to direct them to the retail commerce site. Once there, a series of questions aid in profiling the consumer. Information gleaned will also lead to offered products. How focused is the consumer? Is he or she concentrating on one product category or wanting to see an overview of several products? Product presentation on the Web is critical. Retailers can romance that bedroom or sofa or dining room table so that the consumer can envision it in her home—a key to closing the sale.

After the consumer pinpoints one product or products, point-of-sale material becomes important whether online or in a physical store. It directly communicates with the shopper by offering additional product information that can secure the sale.

Once the shopper has made the decision to buy, the rest of the consumer experience is business. How this is handled online or in a store is important to capturing an ongoing customer, one who will return to your store for the next furniture purchase. At this point, consumers feel that they have managed the hard part and are ready to get the minutiae out of the way. Delivery scheduling, protection plans, and after-sale satisfaction now become the main focus. They want their order to be processed efficiently, and the delivery made at a convenient time that fits their schedule. To complete the consumers’ wish list is the expectation of a product that will never necessitate a return for any reason.

The main emphasis of this issue of Home Furnishings Business is to focus on the consumer experience and how technology can achieve the high standard that the consumer demands today for shopping and purchasing.

That standard is how products are shopped and purchased on Amazon is an online retailing giant, but it is the giant to which millions of consumers have become accustomed. How does your business stack up in comparison?




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