Month: August 2017

cybersecurity

7 Important Tips to Protect against Cybersecurity Risks

As a growing number of consumers choose to do their shopping from the convenience of their smartphones and home computers, a number of industries are increasing their digital presence. The home furnishings sector is no exception; in recent years, e-commerce has comprised a dramatically increasing portion of furniture sales. From 2009 to 2015, furniture businesses saw a 168 percent increase in online sales, with e-commerce activity making up 15 percent of all furniture industry sales in 2015. During the same period, brick-and-mortar business increased by just 13.8 percent.

While the rapidly expanding world of e-commerce is providing new growth and marketing opportunities for furniture business leaders, it is also presenting a number of new risks. When interacting with customers in the digital realm, companies must contend with a myriad of threats to the efficiency and overall stability of their operations. The threat of malicious activity perpetrated by cybercriminals should be chief among the concerns of both newly digital and established e-commerce companies. When paired with a lack of due diligence regarding cybersecurity, a successful cyberattack results not only in financial losses, but also significant damage to a brand’s image and consumer confidence.

These are a few tips that retail leaders should be aware of as they navigate the increasingly digital business landscape:

business
  1. The rate of cybercrime is climbing.

It is important for leaders in the furniture industry, as well as professionals throughout every sector, to understand current trends in cybercrime. As more industries choose to interact with customers via a broader array of digital touchpoints, they provide new motivation for criminals to attempt to compromise their online operations. Even as cybersecurity measures become more advanced, instances of cybercrime in the retail sector are increasing in their scope, frequency, and severity. In 2015, over 500 cases of cybercrime impacted the retail sector, causing 164 instances of large-scale data loss. In 2016, the BDO Retail RiskFactor Report identified data breaches and similar cyber threats as the most pressing challenges currently facing the retail sector, noting that each retailer studied experienced an average of eight cyberattacks per year. More recently, the WannaCry ransomware attack demonstrated the potentially devastating impact of a well-orchestrated global cyberattack, bringing down major companies and public utilities around the world while highlighting the importance of concentrated cybersecurity efforts.

  1. Ransomware is an increasingly prevalent digital threat.

As cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin become a more commonplace method of carrying out secure, anonymous digital transactions, cybercriminals are seizing the opportunity to extort these untraceable funds from unsuspecting victims. Many tech experts cite Bitcoin as a driving force behind the prevalence of ransomware attacks, in which criminals compromise a firm or individual’s data and hold it hostage for ransom. The attackers threaten to leak or destroy their victims’ data unless they receive a lofty amount of Bitcoin, forcing individuals to pay up or risk losing highly sensitive information. Ransomware attacks frequently infect networks via successful phishing attempts, and for this reason, they can be difficult to detect. Oftentimes, a company or individual does not realize that they are the target of an attack until they are locked out of their systems. To prevent instances such as these, preemptive cybersecurity measures are absolutely necessary.

business
  1. A diligent backup strategy is your best defense.

In the digital business landscape, data is a key component of business success. A company’s informational resources not only drive its day-to-day operations but provide the tools and insights to spur long-term innovation. Naturally, this valuable asset is most often the target of a cybercriminal’s schemes.

Organizations that take measures to copy, save, and protect their data lessen their risk of suffering operational interruptions or financial losses in the case of a cyberattack. A professional backup service can be the most effective solution to a company’s data redundancy needs, as these firms are equipped to provide off-site, consistently monitored storage services. The automated processes facilitated by a dedicated backup firm can remove some of the threats associated with alternative storage methods, such as cloud storage or onsite backups. While a firm may find it convenient to back up their data using onsite external storage, such methods run the risk of damage or theft and may violate cybersecurity standards governing the management of sensitive data. In addition, a company’s own external backups will rarely be sufficient to restore the entirety of their data should a breach occur.

  1. Consider all potential vulnerabilities.

Even if a furniture retailer does not currently operate an e-commerce platform, it likely uses a number of digital tools to serve customers and operate efficiently. Business leaders must consider every digital access point when assessing their operations for potential vulnerabilities, ensuring that each digital touchpoint is adequately defended by anti-virus and anti-malware applications. For example, point of sale (POS) systems have recently become popular targets for cyberattacks, as they are integral to a firm’s operations and contain a great deal of sensitive contact information and financial data. Moreover, a successful attack on a POS system can grant a hacker access to additional devices throughout an organization’s digital network.

business
  1. Education is key.

While employees are the driving force behind a business’ success, they can easily become an organization’s greatest liability if not properly educated on cybersecurity threats. In addition to ensuring that only necessary and qualified individuals have access to a firm’s most sensitive data, business leaders should also ensure that their employees are aware of the most common forms of cybercrime and proper strategies to avoid them. They should know how to identify potential phishing attacks and understand the importance of safety filters on e-mail platforms and web browsers. Additionally, businesses should encourage both employees and customers alike to create strong passwords, which can provide an extra line of defense against cybercrime.

Advertisements
furniture

4 Exciting Design Trends to Watch in the Second Half of 2017

The first half of 2017 is complete, so we can form a better picture of the design trends that are driving demand in the furniture industry. Furniture professionals have already had an opportunity to explore the sector’s latest offerings at major expos, including the winter and summer Las Vegas Market. The spring High Point Market has also passed, and designers, manufacturers, and retailers alike are now awaiting the Fall High Point Market in October. As we head into the second half of the year, here are a few of the trends that have saturated the furniture sector or are beginning to take hold:

  1. Metal Finishes

In 2017, metal finishes moved to the forefront of home décor. Brass, rose gold, copper, and various other brushed metals are providing a pop of natural color in every room of the house, appearing in everything from kitchen light fixtures to accents on upholstered furniture. Furniture designers and home owners are increasingly opting to combine multiple metal finishes in a single space or piece of furniture, which can lend a more casual, natural feel, whereas a single texture might feel too controlled. A similar effect stems from pairing metal with glass, which is evident in stylish mirrors such as those designed by Michael S. Smith for Mirror Image Home, or in light fixtures designed by Ralph Lauren for Visual Comfort.

metal furniture

As polished metal finishes become staples of home décor, another trend is adding an elegant flair to metal pieces: the color black. Dark shades are emerging as a popular trend in metal-finished furnishings. Multimedia pieces combining various metals or multiple materials—such as metal and glass—continue to catch the eye of trend-seekers.

  1. Craftsmanship and Artistry

Consumers are favoring pieces that showcase the skills and creativity of furniture designers and artisans. Simple, practical pieces that offer quality and functionality—such as chairs recently released by Ethnicraft and Oly—draw the eye with intricate detailing within their materials. Rather than featuring eye-catching patterns or upholstery, these pieces showcase fine detailing in the texture of materials such as wood.

furniture

While a number of companies are highlighting beauty through simplicity, others are creating more vibrant pieces that double as artistic focal points. Pieces such as Global View’s abstractly designed accent pillows or unique seating by HC28 provide a pop of color while drawing the eye with unique lines and patterns. Another prime example of furniture as art is Cappelini’s recent redesign of Joe Colombo’s 1969 Tube chair. The original product attracted attention as the first modular armchair that you could reposition for different seating positions. Updated with new manufacturing technology and materials, the updated piece honors the shape and function of the original while providing an eye-catching focal point.

  1. Rounded Lines and Vibrant Patterns

A number of furniture designers are currently turning to irregular shapes and angles to add a subtle amount of style and contrast to otherwise understated contemporary pieces. Unexpected curves, gradually tapered heights, and dramatic angles on major pieces such as sofas and coffee tables lead the eye throughout the room and provide a contrast against unique wall coverings, particularly the organic textures and designs that are on-trend this year.

furniture

As the larger lines that form sofas, tables, chairs, and other bigger pieces contribute to the overall ambience of a room, designers are using smaller lines to create intricate patterns that add new depth to existing design schemes. Patterns such as herringbone and chevron have become popular in backsplashes, wallpaper, furniture finishes, and upholstery, often appearing in neutral color schemes that derive texture from contrasting materials such as porcelain or stone. This year, consumers will likely continue to see geometric patterns in flooring, wall coverings, textiles, and furnishings alike.

  1. White and Pastels

This year, furniture companies and interior designers are relying on the color white to add an aura of calm and refined simplicity to spaces throughout the home. All shades of white are popular in seating, bedding, wall coverings, light fixtures, and virtually every other home furnishings category, with textured finishes and materials such as gesso, plaster, and resin adding a bit of depth to the otherwise clean design. The industry’s interest in the color white extends to materials including metal and stone, and it is especially common in the kitchen, where light color schemes have recently dominated. Even so, it is becoming routine to see swathes of dramatic, darker colors set against light backdrops, as consumers increasingly choose colors like black, gray, and dark blue for cabinets and islands.

white furniture

In keeping with the current industry preference for light and airy color schemes, blush pink is currently one of the most widely used colors in home furnishings and decor, appearing on fabrics, lamps, wall hangings, accessories, furniture, and more. Commonly seen in a lacquered finish, this light, fun shade can add a youthful ambience to a number of rooms. For a more sophisticated take, many designers are turning to home furnishings in slightly muted pastel shades. Providing a new take on saccharine hues such as mint green and baby blue, more mature tones such as sage and dusty blue are adding a gentler touch to wall coverings, upholstery, furniture, and other décor staples.

furniture

4 of the Most Significant Trends in Furniture Manufacturing

Technology impacts every industry in a variety of ways: from presenting new possibilities for sales and marketing to enabling companies to reduce their impact on the environment, digital innovation is changing the way people work, create new products, and live their lives. For furniture companies, technology has become a crucial consideration in not only advertising, selling, and delivering products to consumers, but also in creating new items efficiently.

While the $25 billion US furniture industry continues to expand, driven by a surging housing sector, it still has room to grow. According to IBISWorld, increasing foreign imports prevent it from reaching its full potential, and for many firms, technology presents an exciting new growth opportunity:

  1. Virtual Prototyping

The advent of advanced 3D imaging tools and, more recently, virtual reality has unlocked a new world of possibilities for furniture prototyping. Rather than expending the time and resources to create physical models of their products, furniture designers can now create digital representations of them. This promises to add a great deal of speed and flexibility to the overall product development process. In addition to improving speed to market, virtual prototypes also allow designers more freedom to correct mistakes, test new ideas, and customize items to meet consumer preferences.

computer

The potential for greater personalization is one of the most significant benefits of virtual prototyping. In addition to enabling furniture companies to more easily create products to unique customer specifications, virtual modeling also provides high-quality media for use in 360° models and interior design tools. Beyond enhancing the interactivity of a furniture company’s e-commerce platform, virtual prototyping can present new marketing opportunities while cutting costs on traditional advertising photography.

  1. Smarter Production

Advanced cutting machinery is one of the most significant innovations to recently impact furniture manufacturing. Capable of processing a variety of materials from woods to plastics and composites, computer-controlled cutting machines known as CNC routers allow furniture manufacturers to create products with greater precision, speed, and quality. On a basic level, these technologies work by processing CAD designs into g-code, which provides directions for the automated manufacture of physical products. In this way, computer-controlled machinery has enabled manufacturers to save valuable time and money and can have a positive impact on both a company’s customer service and bottom line.

  1. Sustainability

A number of furniture companies have recently made sustainability a core component of their business strategy. Sustainable manufacturing is important to these companies not only because of its cost-saving benefits, but for ethical reasons as well. It’s also increasingly important as consumers shop with a growing amount of social consciousness.

lumber

Furniture manufacturers can increase their sustainability in a variety of ways. By assessing the life cycles of their products, they can minimize the environmental impact of each stage in their supply chain. Organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council work to help companies establish safe, sustainable lumber supply chains.

Additionally, the Sustainable Furnishings Council has issued several guidelines on sustainable furniture production. These promote the use of formaldehyde-free materials composed of recycled and/or recyclable content whenever possible. The organization advises upholstered furniture companies to use organic fabrics such as soy-polyurethane blends or latex rubber, as well as batting and packaging materials containing materials such as down or organic cotton rather than petroleum-based substances.

At the same time, the responsible manufacturing standards established by the International Organization for Standardization guideline ISO 14001 provide further sustainable best practices for energy use, waste management, handling hazardous materials, and resource consumption in the manufacturing sector.

Furniture companies are also considering sustainability in their overall design philosophies. By creating furniture that is highly durable and intended for long-term use, they can limit the need for replacement and reduce the amount of resources consumed by the industry over time.

  1. Technology Investment

Recently, the Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL) conducted a survey of the top Asian, European, and North American upholstered furniture manufacturers. Designed to explore the most pressing challenges and leading solutions in the industry, the study revealed prevailing opinions about emerging manufacturing technology in the furniture sector, as well as how companies plan to harness these new tools.

The final report shows that 47 percent of manufacturing leaders hope to increase their company’s use of technology, while 70 percent report having a medium or high likelihood of increasing investments in manufacturing technology in the coming years.

However, 28 percent of manufacturers said they had only a minor propensity for making technology investments. Around 11 percent who do not use advanced digital solutions said they planned to implement them in the near future, while 12 percent reported that they had no plans to adopt advanced or automated manufacturing solutions.

There is no doubt that there are benefits to advanced technology for furniture manufacturers, but many barriers can stand in the way of implementation. In addition to concerns over initial installation costs and training resources, some firms struggle to convince their employees to get on board with advanced or automated technologies. It is possible that, in the future, it will be necessary to change this perspective to avoid being left behind. As technology continues to become the standard in furniture manufacturing, many of these companies may begin to innovate not only to increase their efficiency and competitiveness, but also to attract a new generation of tech-empowered workers.

ecommerce

3 of the Best Ways to Create a Sustainable E-Commerce Strategy

Technology and sustainability are currently two of the most significant factors driving furniture industry trends. Now more than ever, consumers desire a retail experience that is convenient, intuitive, and as close to instantaneous as possible.

At the same time, however, they seek the assurance that the companies they support are having a positive impact on the world. In fact, a recent Nielsen study involving participants from 60 countries found that 55 percent of consumers would be willing to pay a higher price for a product or service from a company with a commitment to environmental stewardship.

ecommerce

The world of e-commerce is growing rapidly. At $97.3 million, total US online retail sales in the second quarter of 2016 alone were up 15.8 percent from the year prior. This rapid e-commerce growth has extended to the furniture industry, where some 15 percent of all 2015 sales took place online.

The logistical and technological resources necessary to create an engaging e-commerce platform can easily increase a company’s carbon footprint. The following are strategies furniture companies – and firms across every sector – can utilize to weave environmental consciousness into the fabric of their e-commerce strategies.

Tip #1: Consider Energy Efficient Web Hosting and Design

The amount of energy required to load a web page can vary based on its design and server needs. Websites that include a limited amount of resource-draining applications – such as Flash videos or JavaScript widgets – require less processing power to load and are therefore more energy efficient.

Companies can also make their retail websites more sustainable by using images as efficiently as possible. While high-quality pictures are a necessity in a retail sector such as home furnishings, firms should consider using lower-resolution photos on search result pages in order to conserve processing power.

Other web design adjustments that can increase the load speed of a website and decrease its energy requirements include the use of browser caching and the use of printer-friendly page options. The color of a retailer’s website can even impact its energy efficiency. Because bold or dark colors require more energy to load, simple page layouts with a large amount of white space will yield faster page load times.

Tip #2: Develop Sustainable Packing and Logistics Strategies

Shipping is a key strategic consideration for any online retailer, but for a furniture company, logistics can pose significant challenges and opportunities. Tasked with delivering cumbersome and often-fragile items in a safe and timely manner, furniture companies must take extra care to craft efficient and sustainable logistics strategies.

They can begin with packaging. Inefficient packaging not only requires a greater amount of energy to transport, but can also create excessive pollution. Furniture companies should strive to improve their logistics sustainably by developing packaging that uses eco-friendly materials, such as responsibly-sourced cardboard that is Cradle to Cradle or Forestry Stewardship Council certified. Companies should avoid using Styrofoam, which is not biodegradable, and instead seek alternative, sustainable filling materials.

shipping box

In designing their packaging, furniture retailers should aim for efficient boxes that are as streamlined as possible. In addition to reducing the cost of packaging materials and allowing for more efficient shipping, this can also help increase a company’s speed to market, offering new value to consumers.

Another simple way to improve the sustainability of furniture shipping practices is to reduce the amount of paperwork included in the box. Retailers should use electronic invoices whenever possible and consider allowing customers to opt to receive warranty information and instruction manuals online.

Furniture companies can gain an advantage in pursuing their sustainability goals by partnering with a logistics service provider. Certain providers with a commitment to green operations may offer payment options to help offset a retailer’s carbon footprint, and logistics firms can also provide data analysis tools to assess a company’s environmental efficiency.

In addition, online furniture retailers must ensure that their reverse supply chain is just as efficient as their initial delivery strategy. Because online purchases often carry an increased likelihood of returns, it is important to develop environmentally sustainable methods of facilitating product returns, repairs, and replacements. This is a boon not only for the environment, but also for a company’s customer service and brand image.

Tip #3: Harness Customer Engagement

By involving consumers in their sustainability initiatives, furniture retailers can have a positive environmental impact that extends far beyond their own operations. One potential strategy is to offer sustainability-minded incentives, such as donations to ecological organizations or pledges to offset carbon emissions, to new social media or website subscribers.

As furniture retailers develop online brand images that complement their e-commerce offerings, they can use social media platforms to encourage a greener lifestyle. For example, a company may launch a blog wherein they offer not only furniture design trend news, but also easy tips for sustainable living.

Online furniture retailers seeking to improve their sustainability initiatives might also find that they can accomplish this by involving customers in their logistics processes. Services such as UPS My Choice or UPS Access Point allow consumers to update and personalize their delivery times and locations. This may decrease the inconvenience, financial cost, and environmental burden posed by missed deliveries and repeated delivery attempts.

office chair

These Are the Motion Furniture Trends You Need to Know

In recent decades, motion furniture—furniture that reclines or features moving parts that can be adjusted for comfort—was notorious for prioritizing function over style. Buyers often relegated these pieces to far-off entertainment rooms, renovated basements, or living room corners, rather than make them the focal points of a room. However, as advancing technology makes it more possible for manufacturers to offer better function in a sleeker, more subdued package, motion furniture is gradually taking a more central role in home interior design.

Read on to learn more about the factors driving the most significant changes in the motion furniture sector.

Technology

reclining sofaTechnology has spurred the development of new motion furniture products since the early 2000s, when the advent of flat screen televisions caused many consumers to seek a more theatrical home entertainment experience. Tech innovation has made motion furniture one of the only categories to undergo consistent changes to its fundamental design. While aesthetic trends influence the look of virtually every home furnishings product, technological advances are changing the nature of motion furniture manufacturing, use, and repairs.

More advanced motor systems have allowed manufacturers to develop seating with several different motion mechanisms. Today’s most popular motion sofas and chairs offer users several ways to recline, including separate functions to adjust the head rest, ottoman, and lumbar support. New motion technology is also facilitating the development of more versatile, user-friendly motion furniture.

For example, a new base system and power conversion kit created by Evolution Incorporated allows companies to transform manual motion mechanisms into electrically-powered systems. This has created exciting new opportunities for promotional demonstrations on the sales floor and allowed companies to save valuable warehouse space. At the same time, it has also made it easier for customers to customize and repair their seating sets.

In addition to facilitating more convenient and efficient motion furniture designs, technology has also led companies to introduce new features designed for the modern, technology-immersed lifestyle. Today’s top motion seating arrangements include cleverly concealed USB ports and plugs that allow people to simultaneously charge and use their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices from the comfort of their couches.

A growing number of motion furniture producers are also offering Bluetooth functionality. One such company, Klaussner, recently released an app that allows users to connect to their motion sofas via Bluetooth and adjust their seating directly from their smartphones or tablets. In addition to allowing users to adjust three power mechanisms, the app also includes a memory function to allow users to save their favorite seating positions.

In recent years, features such as speakers and reading lights have added further value to motion furniture collections. As time goes on, these innovations are allowing motion furniture to not only offer enhanced comfort, but also to serve as a command center for the most advanced home entertainment systems.

Health Benefits

As motion furniture technology improves, companies are able to offer products with health benefits as well. Sofas and recliners with added lumbar support have become popular, as has motion furniture with built-in massage functions. As motion technology becomes more advanced, adjustable beds are becoming an attractive sub-category for consumers seeking home furnishings that promote health and wellness. With a variety of adjustable metrics, motion beds allow customers to configure sleeping positions that help relieve conditions such as sleep apnea, heartburn, acid reflux, and poor circulation.

Motion furniture is also facilitating healthier habits in the workplace. Sitting for long periods of time is associated with a number of health risks, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease. However, adjustable desks are allowing employees to spend more time on their feet while in the office, while at the same time helping companies accommodate an increasingly mobile workforce.

Consumer Trends

A recent survey conducted by Home Furnishings Business’ parent company, Impact Consulting Services, found that 47.3 percent of respondents count style among their chief concerns when purchasing motion furniture—although just over 52 percent reported that style wasn’t a potential barrier to purchase. Although the majority of consumers still prefer manual motion mechanisms, a growing number are beginning to appreciate power and automated reclining mechanisms. In addition, 52.1 percent of survey respondents said they’re willing to pay $50 more for a power mechanism.

Although preferences regarding motion mechanisms vary, one motion furniture trend prevails: companies are making a concentrated effort to design motion seating that more closely resembles traditional stationary pieces. Some designers are achieving this by adding legs to motion furniture, while others are exchanging dated shapes and fabrics for sleek, modern lines and materials. Furniture manufacturers are also appealing to consumers with new levels of convenience. For example, a newly redesigned seating system by Franklin offers increased maneuverability with a removable back panel, allowing for easier delivery.

Market research suggests that retailers’ attempts to blend style, comfort, and efficiency are paying off. When asked by Impact Consulting to rate their recent motion furniture purchases on a scale of one to seven, 27.6 percent of consumers gave their products a score of seven—the highest possible rating—while 31 percent ranked their purchases a six.