The Furniture Industry Is Two Steps Behind????

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Ask anyone inside the furniture industry their opinion of the “progressiveness” of the industry and they’ll probably say, “it’s two steps behind everyone else.”

Ask a potential customer how far behind the furniture industry is and their answer will probably be, “I don’t know, I haven’t had to replace our furniture since I just bought it in 2006.”

And, therein lays the problem. There is a disconnect somewhere between the perception of what we believe our industry should be doing and what we actually are doing. Keep in mind, since furniture has a long buying cycle, our industry has the luxury to sit around idly while everyone else is changing to meet consumer demands.

Nonetheless, let’s say a consumer wanted a better, more technological experience to furniture shopping. We generally think she has to settle for the old-fashioned showroom buying experience because there are no other means to shopping for furniture. However, that is changing, and changing fast.

Online companies are getting really good at learning how to sell furniture online and in mass.  According to a Forrester Research Study conducted in 2010, approximately 10 percent of all home furnishing sales happened from the click of a mouse, phone call or tablet device.  That number is expected to increase to 33 percent by 2020, according to the same study.

Yet, with these promising statistics, why is it that the single biggest objection we hear from current and prospective retailers in regards to online selling is, “well, that’s not happening in our market?” This sort of thinking can turn a very profitable selling tool into one that has completely lost touch with their consumer marketplace.  Ask the Yellow Pages if they would have changed their opinion when they were told, “everyone was using Google to find things.”

Dr. Jerry Kennedy, from DrJerryKennedy.com, offers seven reasons why we (a society) reject change:

  1. Fear
  2. Weakness
  3. Too Much Pleasure
  4. Not Enough Pain
  5. Unorganized
  6. Laziness
  7. Ignorance

At their core, these words can hurt and the use of them as constructive comments seems far from the truth. However, when it comes to change and the use of technology as a selling tool for furniture, we need take a different approach, as illustrated below:

1 – We believe that EVERYONE in this industry understands what is happening in the world. They may not know how to execute it.  They may not know how to capitalize off of it, but they know it is there.  Flip through this magazine or attend a seminar at the last several markets and furniture retailers are aware that social media, online media and all media is available to improve their business.

2 – We believe that the long buying cycle of the industry creates barriers for this industry to change. This is because retailers are not feeling the same pressure that other, shorter buying-cycle industries often face.

3 – We believe that because the furniture industry is a “Cash on Delivery” business model and what you sell you have to first buy; there are a lot of self-made retailers who worked hard to get to the top. As a result, admitting that there might be another way, approach or person would be admitting that the way they built themselves up for years cannot work anymore.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.

How can we as an industry combat our success in the past and flourish in the future?  Here are four surefire ways to shift our thought processes to survive for the future:

1 – Use Facebook as a marketing tool with cost associated: Facebook, since it was launched in 2004, has been transitioning from a connection portal to a news stream. With the shift towards being a new stream we as marketers need to adjust. Begin creating product focused advertising via the Facebook Ads portal to begin having your merchandise advertised to select demos across all platforms that Facebook serves ads on. Our advice? Sign up for Social Edge’s tool Social to Sale to begin to really hone your social media skills. Click here to learn more.

2 – SELL OnlineWe are not of the thought that the entire commerce world is going to shift 100% online. However, we cannot be naive enough to not admit the world is shifting through a multi platform buying process. Our suggestion is to invest into selling on 3rd party sites like eBay, Craig’s List and Amazon Marketplace to let them do the heavy lifting on customer acquisition and then you just do the fulfillment. This investment will bring you into markets that you aren’t currently selling in and also to demographics you can’t afford to reach without cutting off your current bankroll. Click here to learn about the Amazon Marketplace.

3 – Start investing into your sales people to be your digital voice: You’ve got enough to do without trying to figure out how to update your Facebook page, post a blog, send an email blast and create an online store while learning the buying habits of Millennials. With traffic numbers going down across all retail sectors, our sales people have a lot of time on their hands. Your social media presence could be that more engaging if you empowered your people to use it no different than you allow them to talk to customers on a daily basis.

4 – Know your store metrics on demand: You are in this thing to MAKE MONEY for YOU. Focusing on your business metrics to position yourself to make a profit on every purchase is essential to succeed into the retail world of today. However, having the data at your finger tips on demand is paramount and most of the operating software we leverage doesn’t allow that. Invest in a company like Tools 2 Win which was made by a furniture retailer to provide true furniture retail data. They hook up with your POS and then give you the data you need on demand. Learn more here.

“To succeed you must first improve, to improve you must first practice, to practice you must first learn, and to learn you must first fail.”

-Wesley Woo


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