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From Home Furnishing Business

What is the Next Point of Vulnerability?

By Bob George,

This issue focuses on what happens after the sale. Without a doubt, this segment of the buying process is essential in maintaining a customer for life. Even though the fast growing ecommerce channel made it a marketing point with “big items ship for free,” that last interaction with the consumer is critical. This issue establishes the foundation for discussion, which is our objective.

Another element of the Home Furnishings Business vision is to establish a future perspective. In the words of Wayne Gretzky, “to win you need to know where the puck is going, not where the puck has been.” In that light, we should consider the beginning of the buying process before the consumer starts shopping.

Recent research from FurnitureCore, the marketing arm of Home Furnishings Business, provided the insight that 68% of consumers anticipate purchasing furniture this year. Research also tells us that 73% visit the internet to conduct research before beginning the serious buying process. Additionally, 40% scout the store before committing to shopping the 2+/- retailers they want to include in the buying journey. These are the facts.

Unfortunately, many of the planned shoppers do not follow through with their intent. What are their barriers? For the most part it’s the time strapped consumer. However, it is also the fear of beginning. The typical consumer is challenged with the subject of style — what is in style and what is my style? The emergence of eclectic styling where anything goes has not helped the situation.

The next barrier is the layout. As the room sizes decrease or the new open floor plan concepts gain popularity, the consumer is even more design challenged.

This is an opportunity that traditional retailers must seize. It is an accepted fact that with a “home plan” created by a visit of the sales associate to the home, the ticket is four times larger and the probability of closing the sale is 80+%. I am not referring to high-end designer stores but the more mainstream retailers.

Several high preforming retailers, such as Steinhafels and City Furniture, have robust designer programs that generate a significant percentage of their transactions, and yes, they really charge for the process. Again, this is accomplished by trained sales associates, not just interior designers on staff. Many retailers offer the service “free design consultation,” but do they “sell” the process? What impact would having 30-40% of your tickets being generated by home visits? You do the math.

The challenge for traditional retailers is to execute the next strategic change before the other distribution channels. Assisting consumers with in-home design will be the next frontier. The online decorating services, such as, are launching major television campaigns offering design service with price guarantees for all products recommended. Wayfair has a special site dedicated to interior design.

Traditional retailers, let’s get there first instead of playing catch-up.

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