Month: November 2018

ecommerce

Here Are the Top Qualities of an Excellent Retail Website

It should come as no surprise that it’s critical for furniture retailers to have an effective website to be successful in today’s market. The home furnishings industry as a whole has been somewhat slow to embrace certain technologies, but retailers can’t deny the power of the Internet. Maintaining a presence online is now more important than ever as consumers continue to turn to the web to communicate with friends and family, keep up with the news, and connect with all types of businesses.

Whether you’ve just gotten started or your business is already well-established online, there a few things you can do to ensure that you stand out among other retailers on the web.

Read on for some of the top features of a standout website.

 

Effective Design

Design is important for all websites, but those that offer items for purchase need to ensure that the products are the star of the show. Regardless of whether yours is an e-commerce site or not, the focus should be on the sofas, chairs, tables, beds, and other furniture items you offer. Typically, a sleek, simple design is more effective than a layout with a host of effects that may distract from the products.

online shopping

However, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to add some “wow factor” elements that can stimulate consumers visually and draw their eyes to promotions and call-to-actions. The best website designs showcase new and popular products while making it easy for consumers to find and browse the specific items they’re looking for.

 

Simple Navigation

With effective design and layout, navigating through your website should be simple, logical, and intuitive. Prospective customers who are browsing your products online are often in a hurry, and nothing will kill a potential sale more quickly than a frustrating user experience. In fact, studies have shown that over three-quarters of all consumers cite ease of use as the most important characteristic of any website.

On yours, be sure that product categories are clearly labeled, and don’t hesitate to include filters and comparison capabilities to help users narrow down their search. For retailers of daily use products like furniture, it’s also a good idea to feature easy-to-find customer reviews and FAQs that can assist buyers in their purchasing decision.

 

Search Capabilities

Simple navigation will go a long way toward helping your customers find what they’re looking for, but some will still run into trouble locating certain products. This is particularly true of larger sites featuring several product categories that all contain a variety of options. A simple sitewide search function can help customers get right to the product they want without having to wade through multiple links along the way.

In addition to offering site-wide search capabilities, giving site visitors the ability to check the inventory in your brick-and-mortar store is also worth the investment. Often, the main purpose of a furniture retail website is to get shoppers into a physical location. Enabling customers to see what’s in their local showroom can definitely help accomplish this goal. If you offer an inventory look-up function on your website, however, be sure that it is current with accurate pricing and availability information.

 

Eye-Catching Visual Content

You can’t sell anything online without quality photos that clearly and accurately display your product offerings. Text can be effective, but images are what matter most in the modern age. It’s also important to remember that today’s consumers have come to expect multi-media visual content that gives them the ability to see products from multiple angles and in different environments. To make the most of your website, offer several high-resolution photos of each product and make sure they are optimized to reduce page-load times, which plays an important role in keeping consumers engaged.

Along with quality photos, effective websites use animation and other visual content to drive attention and quickly tell a story. Eye-catching logos, menus, and banners can improve engagement even further and keep customers on your site for longer. Partnering with a proven website developer can help you put all of your visual content together most effectively.

 

checkout cart

 

Simple Checkouts

If you give customers the ability to buy items through your website, it’s crucial that you make the checkout process as simple as possible. While maintaining security, avoid over-complicating things with too many steps that can lead users to abandon their shopping cart (which happens with nearly 70 percent of all online transactions). Don’t forget to include an easy-to-find shopping cart icon to help speed up the purchasing process.

It’s also a good idea to offer advanced payment options and ensure that customers know what payment methods you accept before proceeding with their purchase. Of course, credit and debit cards are the most common forms of accepted payment, but you may also consider accepting PayPal, Apple Pay, gift vouchers, cash on delivery, and even bitcoin.

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tiny home

How to Make the Most of Your Small Living Area

Whether you reside in an apartment, tiny home, or just an older home with a small living room, furnishing and decorating the space can present a challenge. Finding furniture that will fit in a tight area can be difficult enough, but then you have to tackle the task of arranging items in a way that is inviting, comfortable, and stylish. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an interior designer to turn your apartment or cramped family room into a great living space. With a little creativity and planning, anyone can make the most of every square foot in their home.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Think about the essentials

If you’re tight on space and ready to improve the look and feel of your home, it’s a good idea to start with the essentials. The items you can use will depend on the space, but to make your living area functional, you’ll need a few crucial pieces. You’ll definitely need seating along with some sort of table that can provide a usable surface for you and your guests. Also, don’t forget to think about what type of storage you’ll need in the space. Once you’ve determined what is essential, you can decide on the exact pieces to use and where to put them.

 

tiny home

Image courtesy Inhabitat | Flickr

 

Consider your seating carefully

When furnishing a living area, seating is often the first thing that people think about. For those with a cramped space, the options can seem limited, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It’s all about assessing your needs and then getting creative. Of course, loveseats and smaller sofas are the logical choices, but you don’t have to rule out larger options.

If you need seating for several people or just want ample room to stretch out, it may be possible to bring a sectional into the space. When combined with the right pieces, a sectional that hugs the walls can make a small room feel cozy and inviting rather than crowded and overwhelming. Other options to consider include a sleeper sofa or sofa bed, which are perfect for those who need to optimize every inch of their living area.

 

Invest in multi-functional and flexible pieces

In addition to sleeper sofas, a number of other furniture pieces can save space by serving double duty in your home. Coffee tables with built-in storage or adjustable height may be worth the investment, as are nesting tables that can be “stacked” or fully extended when needed. You can even find couches, chairs, and small accent tables with drawers and compartments for keeping clutter from overwhelming a tiny room.

If you lack the resources to buy new furniture, don’t be afraid to get creative with the pieces you already have. Consider using your dining set for extra seating or putting your desk to work as an accent table. Bookcases and shelving can also double as room dividers in studio apartments and other small combined living areas.

 

Add functionality and personality with accessories

You may have limited space, but that doesn’t mean you need to skimp on the accent pieces. Don’t hesitate to add some personality to the area with rugs, pillows, and ottomans. Instead of table lamps, consider lighting the space with eye-catching floor lamps, which can add visual interest while freeing up surfaces for other items.

Photos, trinkets, and keepsakes can also add life to your small living area. Rather than feeling cluttered, a room that is carefully designed with personal items can feel larger because the eye is drawn into every area of the space.

 

tiny house

Image courtesy Nicolás Boullosa | Flickr

 

Use design to your advantage

While you’re accessorizing, be sure to do so with design in mind. Whenever possible, do your best to use visual tricks to make the space feel larger than it is. Ceiling-to-floor curtains and tall shelving units can elongate the space, while linear prints on an area rug can add width.

Also, consider opting for clear coffee tables and accent furniture with delicate frames to cut down on visual clutter. A classic design trick, strategically placed mirrors reflect light and make a small room feel open and airy.

 

Don’t waste space

This final tip may seem overly obvious, but it is far too easy to underutilize what little space you have. Overlooked areas such as windowsills provide a perfect spot for books, houseplants, and decorative objects. If you need extra storage, look for hidden space in corners and under coffee tables and sofas.

When space is at a premium, it’s also important to think vertically. You can free up more room by opting for stacked storage and using any available wall space for extra shelving. If you want to create a sleek look in your small room, consider the benefits of floating shelves, which give you a spot for books and other items without taking up valuable floor space.

Quick and Easy Tips to Protect and Clean Your Furniture

Furniture can be a significant investment for many families. Picking out the right pieces for your home can also be a time-consuming process. Once you’ve found that perfect table, chair, or sofa, it’s important that you protect it with regular cleaning and care. Your furniture will likely see a lot of use over the years, but you can keep it looking great without too much effort. The following tips will help you do this.

 

General Furniture Care Tips

Regardless of the type of materials your furniture is made of, there are some things you can do to care for any piece. Here are a few general tips to remember:

sofa

 

  1. Read the care label.

Most new furniture, especially upholstered pieces, will include a care label with information on how to clean and maintain the item. If your furniture has one of these labels, read it so that you know how to clean the piece without damaging it.

 

  1. Avoid direct sunlight and heat.

With excessive heat and sunlight, the color of your furniture upholstery can fade, and your wood pieces may dry out and crack. If possible, keep all of your furniture away from heating sources as well as windows. You can also use a window film to protect furniture in brightly lit rooms.

 

  1. Rearrange from time to time.

Moving your furniture regularly is one easy way to keep pieces from being overexposed to heat, sunlight, and other environmental elements. It also gives you a chance to clean in hard-to-reach areas.

 

  1. Lift, don’t drag.

When you move your furniture, be sure to safely lift the item instead of dragging it across the floor. Dragging can break furniture legs, rip upholstery, and damage floor coverings.

 

  1. Protect surfaces.

Using coasters, placemats, and tablecloths is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to protect your furniture. It’s also a good idea to use a protective pad when writing with a ballpoint pen on furniture surfaces.

 

Protecting Wooden Furniture

Wooden furniture is a timeless option that can look great in any design scheme. Most wooden pieces are also durable, but how long they last depends on how you care for them. To keep your furniture woods looking great, follow these tips:

wood furniture

 

  1. You must dust.

Regular dusting keeps wood surfaces shiny and helps avoid the buildup of abrasive material that can cause scratches. Dust every few days or so, and be sure to use a cloth that is soft, dry, and clean.

 

  1. Mind the chemicals.

Cleaners that contain ammonia can damage wooden furniture. It’s also important to avoid products with silicone and excess alcohol, which can harm wood surfaces. In most cases, it’s best to wipe down any truly dirty spots with a damp cloth that’s been soaked in warm, soapy water, then wrung out so it’s not dripping wet. Repeat as needed, then dry the area with a clean cloth.

 

  1. Avoid moisture.

When cleaning wood, be sure not to use too much water. Excessive moisture can lead to mildew, warping, and other problems. For this reason, wooden furniture should not be placed in bathrooms or laundry rooms.

 

  1. Keep the polishing to a minimum.

Despite popular opinion, regular polishing does not create a protective layer on wooden furniture. It does add shine, but it also makes surfaces more slippery and can cause a buildup of residue. Very oily products can show every fingerprint, too. Cut the polishing back to once or twice a year.

 

  1. Make timely repairs.

Repairing damage quickly will ensure that a minor issue does not become a major problem. If the damage is beyond your repair skills, call a professional for help. Doing so will save money in the long run.

 

Caring for and Cleaning Leather and Upholstery

Upholstered and leather furniture often gets a lot of use. Children, pets, and life in general can take a toll on sofas, chairs, and other pieces, but caring for them doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow a few care tips, and you can keep them looking great.

leather furniture

 

  1. Always test cleaning products.

When using a new cleaning product, test it in an inconspicuous area before spot cleaning. This will help you avoid ruining the material with something more unsightly than a simple stain.

 

  1. Blot, don’t wipe.

When you spot clean, avoid using a wiping or scrubbing motion, which can spread the stain and work it deeper into the fabric. Instead, gently blot from the inside to the outside of the stain.

 

  1. Use a leather conditioner.

A barely damp, soft towel is all you need to clean up messes on leather surfaces. To keep leather looking and feeling great for many years, it’s also important to apply leather conditioner every six to 12 months.

 

  1. Flip and rotate cushions.

Rotating cushions once a week will help evenly distribute wear. While you’re at it, take a minute to fluff your cushions and don’t forget to vacuum in order to keep dirt from becoming embedded in the upholstery fibers.

 

  1. Know your upholstery cleaning codes.

Many manufacturers provide cleaning codes on care tags to help people clean the item properly. For example, Ashley Furniture has 13 universal cleaning codes for its products. Knowing what these codes mean will help you with your regular furniture cleaning.

What You Need to Know about Furniture Today’s Leadership Conference

furnituretodayleadershipconferenceEach year, the top furniture retailers and manufacturers in the home furnishings industry gather at Furniture Today’s Leadership Conference. The multi-day event features expert speakers, panel discussions, and insightful presentations.

The Furniture Today 2018 Leadership Conference takes place November 27-29 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Following is an overview of everything you need to know about the industry event.

 

Venue Location, Travel Details, and Lodging Options

Furniture Today’s 2018 Leadership Conference will be held at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort on Dream Tree Boulevard. Those flying in for the event will likely land at either Orlando International Airport or Orlando Executive Airport. These are both approximately 30 minutes from the conference venue.

The conference does not provide transportation between the hotel and the airport. However, attendees can hire a taxi, hop on a shuttle, or rent a car. During the event, attendees can take advantage of reduced valet parking rates at the Four Seasons.

The hotel room block reserved for attendees at the Four Seasons Orlando is sold out. However, there are numerous lodging options in the area. Nearby hotels include Villas of Grand Cypress (3 miles away), Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (4 miles away), and Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress (5 miles away).

 

Four Seasons Orlando

Four Seasons Orlando | Image by Inside the Magic | Flickr

 

Registration Information

Those planning to attend the Leadership Conference can register for the event online. Registration pricing ranges from $599 for home furnishings retailers to $1,499 for third-party service providers. The rate for manufacturers is $1,250 per person. Spouses and other non-industry guests can attend conference activities for $499 per person. Registered parties who find that they are no longer able to attend may be subject to a cancellation fee of up to 50 percent of the registration total.

 

What to Expect from the Educational Programming

One of the main highlights of Furniture Today’s 2018 Leadership Conference is the all-star lineup of prominent speakers. Vincent Boles, a US Army general who served in the military for over three decades, is the event’s keynote speaker. During his presentation, Boles will discuss the leadership insights and experience he gained over the years serving as an Army general, executive coach, university professor, and owner of a supply chain consulting practice.

In addition to General Boles, expert speakers and panelists include Clarence Smith and Irv Blumkin. The home furnishings executives are directing a peer-to-peer leadership session focused on furniture retail. During the discussion, Smith, Blumkin, and other panelists will cover topics ranging from merchandising and retail technology to human resources and business management.

Other speakers include Liza Hausman of Houzz and Alessandra Wood of Modsy. Their merchandising session will focus on holistic retail and discuss how consumers are engaging with businesses through both in-store and online environments.

TedX speaker Andrew Tarvin will discuss leadership through improvisation. Danny Kim, a millennial executive coach, will explore how today’s furniture industry leaders can best manage a multi-generational workplace that is affected by technology and social media. Attendees can also learn about human resources best practices from furniture industry veterans Joe Genduso and Victor Herrera.

A leadership session examining the customer experience will focus specifically on what furniture retailers and manufacturers need to do in order to compete for customers in a retail environment dominated by big-box and online companies. Strategic consulting executive Lorri Kelly will lead the discussion.

To close the show, a “Future of the Industry” panel led by Ryan Blumkin, Mark Mueller, and Travis Wagner will address how the next generation will guide the future of furniture retail and manufacturing. Following the panel, Furniture Today Editor-in-Chief Bill McLoughlin will officially wrap up the 2018 Leadership Conference.

 

What about Networking?

Outside of the learning activities, there will be plenty of time for attendees to socialize and network with other leaders in the home furnishings industry. On the afternoon of November 27, Leadership Conference sponsor Malouf will host a golf tournament at the Tranquilo Golf Club.

Attendees not interested in hitting the fairways can instead take part in a tour of a local furniture store’s warehouse, showroom, and adjoining café and wine bar. In the evening, attendees can return to the Four Seasons Orlando for a cocktail reception and dinner in the hotel’s grand ballroom.

Other networking activities at the conference will include an awards dinner and after-party on the evening of November 28. More information is available at www.leadershipcon.com.