The global furniture market has been experiencing continual growth in recent years. The latest projections indicate that this growth isn’t stopping anytime soon. In fact, a 2018 report from Zion Market Research predicts that the market will experience a 5.2 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years to reach a valuation of approximately $472.3 billion by 2024.
Among the important factors helping to drive growth in the industry are several tech trends that increase consumer engagement and improve the overall shopping experience. Here’s an overview of three technology trends to watch for in furniture retail:
Increased Mobile Payment Optimization
With the number of smartphone users expected to exceed 5 billion in 2019, the rise of mobile is now one of the most widespread tech trends affecting the human experience. Seemingly everyone is tied to their devices. Mobile technology is now used for everything from socializing and catching up with the news to streaming entertainment content and shopping for the latest retail products.
While savvy retailers have no doubt already optimized their websites for mobile, consumers are starting to use their devices for more than just browsing. Now, more people than ever are turning their phones and wearable devices into convenient mobile wallets.
Millennials and members of Generation Z are the biggest groups behind the smart-payment trend, but it isn’t limited to younger consumers. Recent research shows that a significant percentage of consumers across all age groups either already uses or is interested in using mobile payment applications on their devices. Additionally, since the first apps of this kind were launched around 2014, the number of users has steadily increased.
By 2022, estimates predict that the total transaction value of mobile app payments worldwide will reach almost $14 trillion. This will represent nearly a sevenfold increase from 2016. It seems that now is the time for furniture retailers who haven’t done so already to get on board with the mobile wallet trend and start offering smart-payment options in their stores.
3D Visualization Tools
While their full potential has yet to be realized, augmented reality and virtual reality are two emerging technologies that are particularly well-suited for the world of furniture retail. These 3D visualization tools give consumers the ability to place a virtual model of a piece of furniture in a real room. This can help potential furniture buyers see how a product would fit in their home alongside their other furniture and décor items.
With the ability to view a product from all angles in their own living spaces without having to step into a physical store, consumers are more likely to make a purchase. In fact, retailers that have offered 3D visualization tools have experienced both an increase in sales and a decrease in returns.
Even though the tech is becoming more common, however, it’s important to note that both augmented reality and virtual reality are still in the early phases. In the world of home furnishings, the list of companies that are already taking advantage of the technology includes retailers like Ashley Furniture. Consumers can expect more companies to get on board as the technology improves and becomes less expensive to adopt.
Growth of Digital Merchandising and the “Endless Aisle”
Tools supporting 3D visualization are definitely big right now. However, they are just a part of a larger trend to drive consumer engagement through digital merchandising. It likely goes without saying, but more consumers than ever are now browsing for and purchasing products online. Still, even the most connected consumers crave multiple options, including having the ability to buy the items they see online in a local store.
Creating a seamless customer experience in today’s retail environment requires an omnichannel approach that blends both digital and physical merchandising. This is particularly true in the world of furniture retail, which still relies heavily on brick-and-mortar transactions. Going forward, consumers can expect to see more blurring of online-offline boundaries as retailers leverage more digital merchandising and concepts such as the “endless aisle” to provide a better retail experience.
The term “endless aisle” refers to a strategy that gives retailers the ability to essentially extend their in-store shelves. This is accomplished with the help of digital tools such as interactive kiosks and tablets. The strategy offers numerous benefits.
First, it gives stores the ability to showcase their entire product selection without having to carry each item at all of their physical locations. It also gives customers the option of browsing through products and their variations in-store while they wait for assistance from a sales associate.
Perhaps most importantly, the endless aisle creates a more engaging shopping experience for consumers. It also prevents them from turning to another retailer because they can’t find a certain product in-store.
Combining digital tools with support from a knowledgeable sales team also increases customer loyalty, which results in more sales. Endless aisle technology may be relatively new, but it is likely to play a big role in retail going forward thanks to the benefits it provides for both retailers and consumers.