Millennials have rapidly emerged as a much sought-after customer demographic in the furniture industry. Currently nearly 80 million strong, individuals born between 1982 and 2004 now make up the largest generation in American history. In addition to comprising one-third of the country’s adult population, millennials contribute approximately $600 billion to the consumer economy each year, and an increasing amount of this spending is going toward home furnishings.
Between 2012 and 2014, furniture purchases made by consumers over 70 years of age dropped precipitously, plummeting from $17.7 billion to $3 billion. However, millennials have filled this gap in furniture sales—and then some. Over the same two-year period, millennial spending on furniture skyrocketed from $11.1 billion to $27 billion—an increase of 142 percent. By 2014, the generation accounted for 37 percent of all households purchasing furniture.
With no shortage of statistics indicating that millennials will drive the home design trends of the future, companies are now learning how to cater to a new generation of buyers whose design sense, purchasing habits, and living situations differ from prior generations. Read on to explore some of the many ways in which millennials are spurring change in the furniture industry.
The Convenience Factor
A number of factors, from economic challenges to a desire for freedom and flexibility, have led millennials to largely reside in apartments. In fact, the generation is credited with driving a historic surge in new apartment construction.
For this apartment-dwelling generation, purchasing a couch, transporting it home, and carrying it into an apartment—possibly up one or more flights of stairs—can seem like an exceptionally trying task. In many cases, this reality can lead potential furniture buyers to delay making a purchase entirely. For this reason, a number of companies have set out to relieve the pain points that can often lead millennials to avoid shopping for furniture. With shipping bundled into the cost of their products, customer-considerate packaging arrangements, and simple assembly, their products are making it far more convenient for apartment renters to buy furniture and get it into their homes without assistance.
Online and Omnichannel Shopping
Millennials’ desire for a simplified, more convenient furniture-buying experience is driving e-commerce in the home furnishings sector. A recent survey by Apartment Therapy and Furniture Today found that 80 percent of millennial shoppers buying upholstered products, such as recliners, chairs, and both motion and stationary sofas, conducted online research before making a purchase.
The rising popularity of online shopping is pressuring furniture retailers to optimize their online consumer experience and is increasing the importance of well-written, detailed, and expressive product descriptions. Online shopping also increases the relevance of product reviews; while the majority of baby boomers, generation X, and millennials all consider the content of reviews while online shopping, millennials rely on reviews more than any other generation, with 78 percent describing them as “very influential” to their purchasing decisions in a 2016 BigCommerce survey.
While furniture retailers are paying more attention to their e-commerce platforms to cater to millennial shopping habits, they must also ensure that their showrooms offer a seamless and uniquely valuable experience. Apartment Therapy’s survey of upholstery shoppers revealed that 55 percent of millennials still visited a brick and mortar store to see the products in person.
Portability and Versatility
In addition to their penchant for apartment living, millennials also move quite often. A Rent.com survey of 1,000 individuals under 34 years of age discovered that 44 percent of respondents planned to move within the next 12 months.
If the tall order of moving a large sofa into an apartment isn’t enough to deter a shopper from making a purchase, the knowledge that they will be transporting it again in less than a year could very well be a deal breaker. This is why some companies are beginning to develop furniture that caters to the somewhat nomadic millennial lifestyle. Increasingly, home furnishings are not only easier to bring home and assemble, but easy to disassemble and relocate as well.
Extremely versatile and multipurpose furniture has also become popular with the generation at a time when the average home square footage is shrinking. Adjustable desks and customizable pieces are now finding a place in millennial homes.
Overarching trends in millennials’ sense of style and identity are also driving furniture industry design choices. Many young adults are apt to entertain at home, making mobile bar carts and other accessories attractive pieces for the millennial host.
Additionally, millennials’ passion for self-expression and declining interest in elaborate interior design are driving the popularity of simple, modern pieces that can easily complement a buyer’s personal aesthetic rather than overpowering it. Limited ornamentation, sleek lines, and neutral color schemes are popular with millennial buyers seeking a minimalist aesthetic.
It’s no secret that technology plays a significant role in millennials’ lives, and furniture companies are beginning to cater to consumers’ desire for digital interaction as well. Prevailing tech-friendly trends include desks equipped with cable management systems and media furniture with technology-specific design considerations, such as soundbar spaces and cabinets with infrared transmitting glass.