The advent of the Internet has altered consumer behavior in indisputably significant ways, especially in the case of furniture shopping. Consumers are increasingly relying on web-based information and online stores when making their home décor purchases, both big and small.
About one-third of furniture shoppers turn to the web first to find and price their options before visiting a brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. In total, online furniture sales make up about 14% of all furniture sales in the US, and this percentage is growing.
To tap into this market, many furniture sellers have created online sales platforms. Their commitment to creating a personalized, digital buying experience for customers, new and returning, fuels the ever-growing e-commerce landscape.
Still, only a relatively small percentage of companies (about 30 percent) in the furniture industry offer online sales and have allocated the necessary personnel and resources to manage digital marketing. As it stands, the online furniture market is largely untapped, though the companies who have made the transition will see the payoff, particularly if they embrace mobile commerce.
A compilation of data in the 2016 edition of the Mobile 500 report revealed that mobile commerce, or the sector comprising purchases made from smartphones, now represents roughly 30 percent of e-commerce in the United States. U.S. mobile commerce sales in 2015 totaled $104.05 billion, which handily eclipsed the $75.03 billion record set the previous year. Whereas the U.S. saw this 38% growth, the mobile commerce sales of the top 14 Asian m-commerce retailers grew by 249.3%, over 6 times faster than in the US. In Europe, the top 93 m-commerce retailers grew their sales by 70.7% in 2015. It’s clear that both at home and abroad, mobile commerce is growing exponentially.
Exploring this shift in shopping, researchers at Google aggregated statistics on consumer trends for 2015, narrowing their focus to examine the furniture industry. They discovered that computer and tablet Internet searches for home furniture are increasing at a steady rate (2 percent, year-over-year). However, the trajectory of similar searches on mobile devices is outpacing the former at a whopping 47 percent year-over-year growth. Additionally, the Google research showed that mobile outperformed desktop computers and tablets in searches for home furniture items over the 2015 President’s Day Weekend, an important weekend for sales in the retail industry.
In order to adapt to the current trends in consumer behavior, furniture industry professionals will have to ensure that their website draws traffic, generates a positive first impression, and leads to sales. For drawing traffic, a website must first respond with proper formatting on all devices, especially smartphones. Without a mobile-friendly site, furniture companies will have difficulty achieving the same consistent, high-volume traffic as their competitors.
In 2015, Google modified its search algorithm to favor sites with mobile-friendly pages and forecasted major changes in search results because of this. The uproar created by the announcement died down after initial analysis revealed few changes. However, a year later, it’s clear that companies with mobile-friendly sites have received a boost from the new algorithm. Compared to mobile-friendly sites, non-mobile-friendly sites experienced a 12% drop in traffic in the two months following the implementation of the changes.
In addition to optimization for mobile users, the second factor to consider when creating a website is usability. Consumers respond well to layouts that have fewer pages and easy-to-find navigation tools. The expandable “hamburger menu”—the three horizontal lines placed in the top corner of many mobile sites, hiding the navigation buttons—can help clear space for site visitors and provide a more streamlined look. However, despite the convenience of tucking away links, the hamburger menu can prevent users from discovering the most important navigation tools on the page. When navigation links are hidden, users may be less likely to explore a site. When creating the layout of a site, therefore, designers should take care to make navigation as easy as possible.
A clean, clutter-free look is also important. Designers should limit the number of typefaces they use to two, at most, as a website with several different fonts can be visually confusing to the user. A card-based design is another good strategy, especially in terms of optimizing for m-commerce. This type of design is characterized by the use of rectangles to organize text, video, and images on a site, offering a more organized feel and allowing for easy scrolling and selecting on mobile platforms. The card design diversifies the presentation of text and photographic information and allows potential buyers to look at items one-at-a-time or side-by-side.
Ultimately, as more consumers take to the web and their mobile phones to research furniture they want to buy and ultimately make purchases, they will not only seek out quality, well-priced items. They also want the best e-commerce and m-commerce experiences. Furniture sellers can position their companies for success by investing in a website design that’s clutter-free, easy to use, and optimized for mobile.