One major trend influencing the furniture industry and the retail landscape at large is the rise of online sales, particularly those made through mobile devices. As furniture retailers develop and launch websites that are functional across smartphones, tablets, and desktops, several factors will contribute to their success, including taxonomy—the organization, classification, and categorization of products on the site. Taxonomy is important because it helps online customers easily find the furniture items they’re looking for.
In the case of selling furniture, taxonomy can make a measurable difference in turning searches into sales. In 2015, Google released a set of figures indicating that roughly half of all furniture purchases are made to replace a specific used or broken item. In addition, about a third of furniture purchasers research products online before buying in a store, making it imperative that websites make it easy for buyers to find what they need. A clearly organized site can expedite their search and ultimately gain their business—whether the buyer ultimately purchases the item online or in the showroom.
How can furniture sellers make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for? Some companies have employed professional taxonomists, who leverage their training and experience to define the categories and attributes of retail items and organize large product inventories. Others enlist the assistance of e-commerce management firms that specialize in presenting data in a logical, searchable way. Whether or not retailers opt to outsource, they should first consider these five tips for better website taxonomy:
Approach the catalog as a customer
The main objective of taxonomy is to create a superior customer experience that separates the company and its website from competitors. Organizing and classifying products in a way that makes sense to the customer starts by viewing the process from their perspective.
In most instances, furniture pieces will have a variety of classifications and descriptions that apply to them. For example, what one person calls an “armoire,” another may call a “cupboard,” while a third might use “wardrobe.” Deciding what label to assign a piece of furniture can be tricky, but it’s best to consider your target customer and what words they might use to refer to it. The remaining options can still be used to index the item, which can help users who employ less common search terms find what they need.
Mine in-store feedback
Secondly, because of the big-ticket nature of furniture, customers will most likely continue to visit the store at some point during the research and shopping process. The type of questions that people ask in the store can inform the process of organizing and classifying products on the website, because they offer direct insight into how customers think about, view, and search for furniture.
For instance, customer queries can help settle the armoire-cupboard-wardrobe debate. Which word do customers use most often when speaking to sales representatives? It’s also helpful to see the other ways that customers talk about furniture in the showroom. Are they more focused on size or material? Do they ask to compare prices between brands? Answers to these questions and others can greatly inform the online catalog design.
Analyze customer reviews online
A similar approach to observing in-store comments and requests is to monitor customer reviews online. This information can be easily aggregated and analyzed, since it’s already written or otherwise recorded. How do people talk about their customer service experience? How do they describe their new furniture in reviews or social media posts? The general sentiment drawn from these sources will help business owners to design and organize their sites to meet the expectations of potential and repeat buyers.
Evaluate market data
Data from a 2015 Google webinar are additionally relevant to strategies for furniture website taxonomy. About 31 percent of consumers complete research online before making an in-store purchase, and Google searches for home furniture are increasing at roughly 15 percent, year-over-year. This points to the importance of cataloguing the inventory so that it not only helps the buyer find his or her desired item, but that it also reflects what is in stock both online and in the store.
Google further illustrated data on searches within several sub-categories of the home furniture industry. The largest percentage of searches was for bedroom furniture; this sub-category made up half of all searches in the home furniture category. Meanwhile, about 29% of searches were for living room furniture, while 11% of searches were for kitchen and dining room furniture. Searches for bedroom and living room furniture had increased the fastest.
Adapt on a regular basis
These suggestions are starting points. Once a company has established a strong e-commerce platform, customer behavior should continue to inform the organization and taxonomy of the site. Economic projections expect e-commerce to maintain its upward trajectory, which tasks furniture sellers with the responsibility of ensuring that both their online and in-store showrooms offer a positive customer experience.