Logistics

furniture tech

This Is How Technology Is Changing the Furniture Industry

Professionals in the home furniture industry understand that offering customers the best possible service requires incorporating the latest technologies. For example, innovations like self-driving trucks could make furniture delivery much more convenient in the not-too-distant future. Other emerging technologies will offer additional benefits.

Customers expect convenience. Technology helps to provide it. That’s why furniture industry professionals should monitor the development of the following major tech trends. Implementing them in the right ways may enable them to substantially improve their services going forward.

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Augmented Reality

Augmented reality gained widespread popularity thanks to the success of the game Pokemon Go! However, gaming certainly isn’t the only industry to potentially benefit from this rapidly-developing technology.

Put simply, augmented reality allows users to superimpose virtual elements on top of the “real world” via digital devices. Right now, the tech is primarily restricted to mobile phones and tablets, but it will also have applications for wearable headsets in the future.

Retailers in various industries have already experimented with using augmented reality to help ecommerce customers make informed shopping decisions. Popular cosmetics retailer Sephora, for example, offers a feature on its app that allows customers to apply virtual makeup to a selfie. This gives people a better sense of whether or not they wish to buy a particular product.

This same concept can be applied to the furniture industry. Shopping for furniture online can be tricky. Seeing an image and description of a couch or desk is one thing. Knowing what it will look like in your own home is something else entirely.

With AR, customers could superimpose images of a piece of furniture onto images of their homes. This would make it easier to find the right item online. It could also drive more people to brick-and-mortar stores.

 

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality, when applied to the furniture industry, takes the potential applications of augmented reality a step further. With virtual reality, customers who are unable to reach a brick-and-mortar store at the time could browse a virtual showroom, with realistic renderings of the various items they would otherwise find at the store. This makes them easier to assess when compared to simply looking at images online.

Virtual reality will also allow customers to more thoroughly plan the overall interior design of their homes. Wearing a VR headset, customers will be able to arrange virtual renderings of multiple pieces of furniture into different positions. This is potentially useful for many, since buying a piece of furniture often involves taking into account how it will complement all the other fixtures in a given living space. Ideally, customers want all of their furniture and fixtures to conform to a unified design aesthetic. Virtual reality will make it easier to achieve this goal.

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The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the increasingly popular trend of designing home products that can be linked to the internet. This allows customers to control them remotely.

For example, the IoT has dramatically changed how people buy home thermostats. In the recent past, a thermostat was a simple wall unit that needed to be adjusted manually. Now, there are home thermostats that can be adjusted remotely via smartphone. Through apps, users can customize their settings, limiting the amount of energy they use throughout the day.

The furniture industry will also benefit from this trend. Although most furniture requires no adjustment, some pieces can be manipulated to serve different purposes. The obvious example is a reclining chair – someday soon, you may be able to control your recliner with an app. A similar product would be a smart sofa, which could unfold into a bed with nothing more than the click of a few buttons on your phone. You wouldn’t even need to be in the room to adjust it.

This concept also applies to outdoor furniture and fixtures. Imagine a “smart” patio umbrella that you can open or close remotely. If you accidentally leave the umbrella open on a day when bad weather is expected, you don’t have to worry about it blowing over, even if you’re not close to home. You may simply be able to close it with an app.

Not all of these developments are expected to come to fruition in the immediate future. That said, it’s a smart idea for those working in the furniture industry to continue exploring them. Once again, technology makes it easier to offer customers the service they expect. These technologies in particular will soon change the way the average person buys and enjoys their own home furniture.

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Millennials

7 of the Best Recruiting Tips for Furniture Business Leaders

The Internet has transformed the recruitment process over the past two decades, greatly expanding the variety of opportunities available to companies and job seekers alike. Online recruiting tools have enabled business leaders to pore through an international expanse of qualified candidates with more speed and accuracy than ever before, while at the same time empowering professionals to thoroughly research a multitude of employment options.

The World Wide Web has greatly expanded the recruiting playing field, and while this has its benefits for companies seeking top talent, it also requires business leaders to be extremely diligent in their hiring efforts. In order to keep up with the competition, furniture companies of all sizes must take an active approach to recruiting that not only responds to the firm’s current needs, but also anticipates future challenges and growth.

The following are some key tips to keep in mind when seeking out new team members for your furniture business:

  1. Be Proactive.

It may be tempting to delay serious recruiting efforts until they become a necessity. However, if you wait until your business has a clear need to fill a particular role, it’s likely that the empty position will have already caused operational delays and lost sales.

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To avoid the negative repercussions of an understaffed team, you must approach recruiting proactively. It is not enough to simply set aside time and resources for recruiting at a later date; in order to connect with the best candidates, you should make a habit of conducting recruiting activities on a regular basis. In doing so, you should make a clear distinction between hiring and recruiting. While you’ll only hire when you’ve identified a need to expand your team, your recruiting activities should be an ongoing effort shared by multiple members of your company.

Business leaders should allow mid-level managers to share some of the recruiting responsibilities. In fact, their job descriptions should include regularly scheduled recruiting tasks. These individuals are in the best position to detect gaps in their current teams and aid in the development of job listings that capture the essence of their departmental goals. In order to keep your managers accountable to your broader recruitment game plan, you might consider scheduling regular recruiting strategy meetings to ensure that all managers are on the same page regarding the company’s objectives and are working diligently to meet them.

  1. Practice Networking.

Recruiting is one operational area in which you should never hesitate to ask for help. A significant portion of the recruitment process is networking, and business leaders should explore every avenue when seeking the candidates who could one day become their most valued employees.

You most likely will not be able to offer employment to every qualified candidate that you interview, and the same fact holds true for your competitors. For this reason, it can be effective to develop a rapport with other businesses in your sector in order to share qualified candidates for open roles. While some business leaders may hesitate to share attractive candidates with their competitors, research has demonstrated this practice to be mutually beneficial. According to Scott Wintrip, author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant, business owners who introduce talent to at least eight other companies describe hiring leading candidates at a much faster pace than their peers who overlook the value of networking.

Your current employees are an extremely valuable—yet often overlooked—recruiting resource. By encouraging them to search their networks, both personal and professional, for qualified job-seekers, you can greatly expand your recruitment potential. You might even consider introducing an incentive program for referrals, offering employees bonuses for recommending new hires who remain with the company for a specified period of time.

Former employees who left the company under positive circumstances can also help you connect with other skilled workers in the industry. When seeking ideal candidates for positions in sales, you might even find attractive prospects elsewhere in your company. Individuals working in various aspects of your operations will often possess the knowledge and enthusiasm to excel in customer-facing roles and may be eager to apply these skills to increase their earnings in a sales environment.

  1. Know What You’re Looking for

To make the most of your recruiting efforts, it is important to be specific in your job listings and requests for employee referrals. Each position should have a detailed, task-oriented description that clearly outlines the skills and experience required for the role. You should also carefully consider the type of attitude that your ideal candidate would have, thus ensuring that you are seeking out individuals whose personalities will mesh well with your existing team and company culture.

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The time you invest in creating a highly detailed job listing will result in a much more efficient recruiting process, thus enabling you to fine-tune your recruitment strategy. Rather than simply asking your industry contacts if they know anyone who is searching for a job, you will be able to take a more direct approach by inquiring after individuals who, for example, have experience managing a retail environment or providing fast-paced customer support.

  1. Conduct Hands-On Interviews.

While a typical verbal interview can provide a valuable introduction to a candidate’s personality, it rarely offers an opportunity to assess his or her skills. Including a hands-on portion in your interview process will enable you to evaluate candidates with a greater degree of confidence. For example, you might design sample exercises to observe how candidates handle sales calls or customer service scenarios, or you might give them the opportunity to showcase their abilities alongside one of your existing team members by allowing them to assist with real customer interactions.

  1. Cultivate an Inspiring Culture.

In order to attract high-quality employees, your business must be a place where experienced, skilled individuals want to work. As a business leader, you hold the responsibility for creating an empowering, structured, and rewarding work environment that will give your employees the tools they need to thrive. You should ensure that your managers approach their jobs with a positive, uplifting attitude and are capable of leading with clarity, empathy, and vision. You should also take the time to create and communicate your company’s mission, policies, and values.

In order to attract the best candidates, your recruiting strategies should center on the mutual goal fulfillment. While seeking qualified candidates to support your business’ continued success, you should also operate with a dedication to helping employees meet their highest potential and fulfill their professional objectives.

furniture

The Top 7 Furniture Trends You Need to Watch in 2018

As a new year approaches, many consumers may be planning to signify the transition with a change in decor. Furniture shoppers, as well as interior designers and furniture business leaders, should take a moment to explore the materials, colors, and styles that will play a role in shaping next year’s trends.

The following are some of the major trends likely to impact the furniture industry in 2018:

  1. Comfort

A number of emerging design trends promote the idea of the home as a place for relaxation and tranquility. Upcoming pieces feature shapes and materials that, while attractive, emphasize coziness over luxury or flashy style. The practice of separating large, open rooms into smaller nooks is gaining in popularity as a way to create spaces that feel comfortable and intimate. Some designers are turning to fashionable room dividers to accomplish this goal, but thoughtfully arranged furnishings—such as a chair, a side table, and a bookcase tucked into a corner to create a reading nook—can add an element of coziness to larger spaces all on their own.

interior designer

Comfort is a priority not only in the composition of home furnishings, but in their designs as well. Many new sofas are curved and low to the ground, with invitingly plush upholstery. Linen is becoming more common as a material for both bedding and upholstered seating, but padded velvet and suede have also reemerged as sought-after coverings for sofas and chairs. Velvet can add a luxurious yet eclectic flair to modern living spaces; the material exudes an elegant vintage air, while a wide variety of color options—from neutral shades to deep jewel tones—make it ideal for both conservative and adventurous shoppers and designers.

  1. Dramatic Wood Grains

The influx of retro-inspired styles, such as velvet upholstery, is coinciding with the renewed popularity of dramatic wood tones in furniture, cabinets, doors, walls, and flooring. The light brown of many natural wood varieties is popular in small spaces, where it can help brighten and expand the room. However, the luxurious deep brown of wood grains like mahogany has also become a popular design staple in major pieces such as beds and tables, as well as wall paneling and cabinetry.

  1. New Neutrals

While traditional white kitchens and bathrooms will likely never go out of style, a number of dramatic shades are replacing pearlescent tones in kitchen and bathroom fixtures, flooring, cabinetry, and appliances. Dark shades, such as deep blue, green, brown, charcoal, and plum, are becoming popular base colors in the kitchen, while copper, concrete, and other stones are starting to replace the stark white often seen on sinks and appliances.

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  1. Warm Tones

Elsewhere in the home, warm shades have begun to overtake many of the cool jewel tones popular in interiors in 2017. Consumers and designers are relying on shades like terracotta, tobacco, rust, and russet to add a comforting energy to the home. Shades of teal and red, often arranged in tonal designs that stack multiple hues atop one another, are providing contrast to these warm neutrals. At the same time, consumers should expect to see the continuing popularity of millennial pink, which is likely to fade away from its 2017 prominence to serve as more of an understated contrast to complimentary shades such as berry.

  1. Metallic Accents

Copper will continue to be a popular material for light fixtures, furniture bases, and decorative accents. However, metallic gray, gold, and bronze are also likely to gain in popularity. In addition to adding a sense of both luxury and durability to wood and upholstered pieces, metal accents contrast beautifully with leather and stone. Consumers should expect to see all of these combinations in the coming year.

  1. Industrial and Recycled Pieces

In addition to vintage home furnishings and light fixtures, consumers are showing more interest in industrial-inspired pieces. Tables, storage units, and even bed frames with an industrial aesthetic are quickly becoming a trendy way to add rustic charm to every room of the house. Industrial-style furnishings that combine wood and steel elements, as well as creatively upcycled pieces, will continue to contribute to the casual chic décor of American homes in 2018.

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  1. Simplicity

Inspired in part by the minimalist slant of Scandinavian interior designs, many home furnishings collections are favoring simplicity over elaborate shapes and designs. Geometric patterns, clean lines, and gradual angles will be common features of home furnishings in 2018. Oftentimes, these pared-down pieces will pay homage to retro design periods. This will be especially true in the bedroom, where designers are taking a more understated, minimalist approach to create spaces primed for relaxation. While recent years saw a focus on ornate, luxurious bedroom motifs, new designs will draw beauty from soft neutrals, delicate materials, and an overarching sense of rest and tranquility.

shopper

4 of the Best Questions to Ask Prospective Furniture Buyers

Thoughtful, open-ended questions are a very important aspect of the sales process. Not only do they provide retail associates with the information they need to help shoppers find furnishings that meet their needs and aesthetic tastes, but they also help them establish a trusting rapport with customers. As such, sales professionals must learn to pose questions that are effective at gleaning new information, efficiently constructed to make the most of customers’ time, and appropriate for the situation at hand in order to learn the current desires, challenges, and limitations shaping a customer’s shopping experience.

To ask effective probing and qualifying questions, you must arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of your companies’ inventories, policies, financing offerings, marketing campaigns, warranties, and delivery services. You must also draw on a knowledge of broader factors, such as furniture industry trends and the recent activities of competing firms, that contribute to successful sales. Once you are confident that you can transform customers’ stated wants and needs into an effective, individualized selling strategy, you can begin using the following questions to learn exactly what your clients are looking for:

  1. How do you feel about your current furniture?

While your approach to this question may vary depending on what type of furniture the customer is looking for, it is generally a good idea to find out why a prospective buyer has decided to shop for new home furnishings. This will help you begin to match the customer’s needs to the potential solutions your company offers.

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If a customer is replacing a specific piece, it is vital that you find out what he or she currently likes and dislikes about it. This will allow you to conduct your sales pitch more efficiently, skipping over the products with features that your shopper has already expressed distaste for. Moreover, asking this question can also give you a better sense of a customer’s urgency. For example, an individual who is shopping to replace a broken bed is likely planning to make a purchase much sooner than someone who is searching for ideas for an upcoming room redesign.

If a customer is simply adding a piece to an existing ensemble, then gaining knowledge about the present layout, function, and aesthetic feel of the other pieces in his or her home will enable you to suggest products that will integrate well with his or her current home furnishings. This is also a great opportunity to learn whether a purchase is part of a larger redesign or renovation, which can provide you with further opportunities to offer guidance on a shopper’s broader home-design efforts.

  1. What qualities in a new piece of furniture are important to you?

Open-ended questions such as this help you convey your genuine interest in each customer’s unique situation. People’s answers will undoubtedly vary based on the type of furniture that they are shopping for, but these responses will be a valuable resource as you plan and prioritize your sales strategy.

Some customers might be primarily concerned with comfort, while others might be seeking the latest designs by a renowned luxury brand. Additionally, individuals could be looking for a piece that is likely to last them several years or is accompanied by a highly competitive warranty.

Oftentimes, customers aren’t quite sure which qualities they value the most in a furniture purchase. In this situation, it might be appropriate to move away from open-ended questions and ask customers whether specific factors—such as brand or durability—play a role in their buying decisions.

  1. What other stores and products have you considered?

You may hesitate to ask customers about their previous interactions with other retailers because you don’t want to pry unnecessarily or remind shoppers about the competitor down the street. However, your customers are surveying the products in your store because other options have not yet won them over. By showing an interest in a customer’s full furniture-shopping experience—not just his or her opinions on the items in your store—you will further communicate your commitment to helping him or her find the ideal product while equipping yourself with more valuable information that you can use to fine-tune your sales strategy.

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If you have taken the time to educate yourself about competitors’ offerings, then you can draw on information about a customer’s earlier shopping experiences to provide comparable recommendations from your own inventory. Asking this question lets you learn what customers did and did not like about other retailer’s product offerings. Moreover, it provides you with a jumping-off point from which to compare and contrast competitors’ products with the unique value your own firm offers.

  1. What are your thoughts on the price of this piece?

A shopper’s budget plays a significant role in determining his or her comfort level with a potential purchase. Most consumers don’t purchase relatively expensive items like furniture very often, and the price tag on a major purchase such as a couch or bed has the potential to stall the sales process when it deviates too drastically from the price a shopper hopes to pay.

Budgetary restrictions are one of the most frequently encountered obstacles to a successful sale, yet it can be difficult to ask about a customer’s financial situation without seeming pushy or intrusive. Therefore, you must find a way to integrate this topic into the conversation in a natural, considerate manner. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to ask how a prospective buyer feels about the price of a piece that you are currently discussing. This allows the customer to provide insight into his or her furniture budget without feeling pressured to set a specific minimum or maximum price point. It also helps you gain a better understanding of shoppers’ financial limitations without seeming overzealous or intrusive.

ransomeware

What Every Online Retailer Needs to Know about Ransomware

While digital innovation has created exciting new opportunities for businesses across the retail sector, it has also paved the way for an entirely new type of operational risk. In 2016, American businesses and government agencies experienced a 40 percent year-on-year increase in data breaches, and the volume of digital attacks targeting US organizations is likely to increase in the coming years.

Cybercriminals are constantly developing tools to target an increasingly sophisticated digital landscape, and ransomware has become one of the most significant threats facing modern companies. A type of malware, ransomware can compromise systems via even the smallest security vulnerabilities, and in recent years, a growing number of furniture retailers have fallen prey to this insidious type of cyberattack. As business leaders form strategies to defend their enterprises against digital threats, they should be aware of the following facts regarding ransomware.

What Is Ransomware?

ransomwareRansomware is a type of malicious software that can infiltrate and disable a network by encrypting all of its files, both on individual machines and across the server. After infecting a network, the software demands that users pay a ransom, usually in cryptocurrency, in exchange for the decryption key. If the victim does not pay the demanded amount by a specified time, the ransomware automatically deletes every file on the infected system.

In this way, ransomware can immediately put all of a company’s data at risk. Once compromised by ransomware, all of a company’s data on customers, internal operations, external suppliers, employees, and more will be inaccessible and potentially unrecoverable. Sensitive data, such as consumer financial information, and operationally crucial information, such as inventory lists, are all placed at risk during a ransomware attack. In many cases, this can essentially shut down a company’s operations.

As cyberattacks become a larger area of concern for business leaders, the rate of ransomware attacks in particular has recently been on the rise. This is largely due to the emergence of ransomware-as-a-service, which allows cybercriminals to simply download malicious software from the cloud to deploy at their leisure. In 2016, network security firm SonicWall logged 638 million ransomware attacks across a variety of business sectors—a staggering increase compared to the 3.8 million ransomware attacks reported the previous year. During the first quarter of 2016 alone, this startling influx of cybercrime prompted companies to pay approximately $210 million in ransom money.

In addition to the monetary losses incurred by companies who choose to pay the ransom, ransomware attacks can also lead to lost revenue by causing unplanned downtime, redirecting employees from their usual tasks, and requiring companies to invest in new hardware. All in all, this growing threat could soon rob companies of a collective $75 billion per year.

The Furniture Industry: A Likely Target?

Furniture business leaders have cause to be especially wary of ransomware attacks and similarly malicious online activities, as the industry’s rapid growth and digitization have placed it at a heightened risk for cybercrime. The furniture industry is currently outpacing many other retail sectors in terms of growth. With a projected valuation of $111 billion by 2019, the home furnishings sector is likely to grow 10.7 percent faster that the apparel industry in the coming years, while also outpacing department store sales by more than 16 percent. Because ransomware attackers tend to target companies and individuals with the means to pay the demanded funds, the furniture sector’s revenue growth could make it a prime target for future cyberattacks.

Additionally, the home furnishing sector’s burgeoning relationship with e-commerce could leave many companies vulnerable to ransomware. While the development of an e-commerce platform and broader digitization efforts are becoming a necessity in today’s business landscape, each expansion of a firm’s digital footprint introduces new touchpoints that could potentially grant network access to malicious actors. The furniture industry has lagged behind many other sectors in terms of digital integration, and because of this, home furnishings retailers are likely to have less robust cyber security strategies compared to firms in more digitally advanced industries.

What Can You Do?

ransomwareThe growing prevalence of ransomware attacks—paired with the increasingly digital nature of furniture retail operations—should make cybersecurity a core priority for every business leader. There are a variety of actions that retailers can take to bolster their digital security. The first is to ensure the regular maintenance of backups in accordance with the 3-2-1 rule; that is, businesses should store three copies of their data across two different storage platforms, and one of these devices should be outside of the company’s facilities. It is important to test these backups on a regular basis to ensure that they are functional and capable of facilitating a full data recovery in the case of a digital disaster.

But while backups can help a company recover from a cyberattack, they do little to deter cybercriminals. In order to reduce their vulnerability to malicious online activity, business leaders should develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes an Internet filtration system, security strategies designed to defend both desktop and mobile devices, and sandbox environments to allow potentially malicious emails to be tested safely.

In addition, business leaders must consider the role that employees play in upholding digital security. A company’s staff can often become its greatest digital vulnerability, as careless web browsing or a failure to recognize compromised email attachments can open the door to risk. Therefore, educating employees on digital threats such as ransomware, how to respond to malicious online activity, and the role they play in protecting the firm’s digital capital should be a significant aspect of every company’s cybersecurity plan.

furniture

This Is What the Future of Furniture Delivery Could Look Like

While it’s often the final leg in the sales process, furniture delivery comprises a significant aspect of the overall customer experience. Receiving a new product on time, in good condition, and with all expected premium services—such as white glove delivery—can help ensure that a customer has a positive experience with a brand. At the same time, hiccups during the delivery stage could turn what was otherwise a successful sale into a negative detractor for your company.

Changes in the way that consumers shop, driven in large part by technology, are also fueling an evolution in furniture logistics and delivery. Over the next few years, a number of innovations will likely enable furniture retailers to offer improved delivery services while operating more efficiently. The following are some of the major changes that could soon transform furniture delivery:

  1. Consolidated Shipping

Online retail is rapidly becoming a significant source of revenue for retailers across many sectors. The second quarter of 2017 saw 8.9 percent of all retail transactions take place online, representing a nearly 1 percent increase from the previous year. Furthermore, market research suggests that e-commerce is growing at a heightened pace in the furniture sector particularly. Online furniture sales made up some 15 percent of all furniture industry business in 2015, and Statista estimates that global revenue from online furniture and houseware sales will rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 percent in the coming years, reaching $220 billion by 2020.

delivery truckThe ever-growing world of e-commerce has created numerous opportunities for business and consumers alike. By leveraging the Internet to reach a broader audience, even regional and local furniture retailers can market and sell to a global customer base, while consumers benefit from a greatly expanded selection of products.

Still, smaller retailers may face logistical challenges when seeking to expand their market. A well-developed e-commerce platform and digital marketing strategy can make reaching customers in another country almost as simple as attracting customers in a retailer’s hometown, but complications often arise when sales start coming from a variety of regions. In many cases, retailers cannot afford to pay a la carte shipping—or establish new distribution centers—to accommodate a small, scattered number of customers outside of their typical operating area.

Shipping consolidation presents a cost-effective strategy for local and regional furniture retailers to take full advantage of the power of e-commerce while maintaining efficient delivery operations. In the near future, consumers could begin receiving more furniture shipments from third-party shipping service providers who comingle different companies’ products in their trucks.

By adopting this new business model, local and regional furniture retailers would give up the marketing opportunities created by branded trucks. However, they would be able to offer more cost-efficient deliveries across a wider service area and potentially pass these benefits on to consumers.

  1. Advancing Technology

artificial intelligenceA number of emerging technologies will soon enable furniture retailers to deliver their products more efficiently while meeting more demanding consumer preferences. The advent of self-driving vehicles has created endless possibilities not only for consumer transportation, but for freight shipping as well. With the aid of advanced artificial intelligence systems, self-driving trucks could soon take on the bulk of long-haul delivery for furniture retailers. While it’s likely that the industry will stick with traditional options for last-mile services, self-driving technology would make it possible for furniture companies to serve wider markets with a smaller number of distribution centers.

Artificial intelligence would also improve delivery efficiency within furniture warehouses. Self-driving lift trucks could drastically reduce the time and labor required to prepare an order for shipment, cutting costs for furniture retailers while facilitating speedier, cheaper deliveries for customers.

Additionally, technological innovations such as 3D printing are impacting furniture manufacturing, making it possible for customers to receive products designed to their exact specifications as quickly as if they had come from a retailer’s primary warehouse. And in addition to the numerous applications for augmented reality (AR) in sales and marketing, AR could also streamline the process of mapping the most efficient route for both long-haul and local deliveries. In the future, AR tools could help retailers offer flexible delivery pricing, which would allow customers to save money by opting for delivery plans that may not be as fast, but are more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

  1. Inventory Management

inventoryE-commerce has made it possible for retailers to offer incredibly vast catalogues of goods. But as furniture companies expand their online selections, they are likely to find that it isn’t cost-effective to hold all of their inventory in a physical space. Large online retailers are able to offer a seemingly infinite selection of products by relying on manufacturers and distributors to ship products to a centralized delivery center.

Smaller home furnishings retailers could soon adopt this strategy as they seek to compete in the e-commerce space and find it necessary to offer a product selection that far exceeds their showroom and warehouse space. This will require retailers to negotiate with suppliers whose products they wish to sell, but not hold in stock. It will also require third-party delivery companies to expand their capabilities to provide end-to-end logistics services. As retailers begin to decentralize their inventories in favor of a vast online product selection, third-party logistics providers will play a greater role in providing less-than-truckload services, last-mile home delivery, and reverse logistics.

furniture

3 Exciting Factors That Will Shape the Future of Furniture

As the furniture industry continues to show strong signs of recovery following the Great Recession, many corners of the sector are undergoing transformations. Innovative minds in sectors ranging from software development to genetic engineering are poised to not only change the way consumers shop for furniture, but also usher in evolutions in the way companies source and create their products. The following are some of the major advances that could influence the future of the furniture sector:

  1. Widely Accessible Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the major technological innovations driving change in the home furnishings industry. By allowing users to overlay, reposition, and resize realistic 3-D models atop images of real-world environments, AR software promises to usher in a new era of home design. AR grants customers greater creative freedom while they shop for furniture, as it allows them to test out how specific products might appear in their own homes. At the same time, AR can aid the efforts of furniture retailers and interior designers by enabling employees to provide more personalized, mobile services to consumers.

Augmented realityThanks to recent innovations by two leading mobile technology producers, AR design applications are more accessible than ever. The recent release of Apple’s iOS11 operating system included ARKit, which supports more advanced processing capabilities for augmented reality applications, and Android has set out to accomplish similar feats with its ARCore development tool.

These toolkits have paved the way for exciting new applications such as Intiaro. Using geo-mapping metadata, Intiaro enables users to generate full 3-D images of rooms that can be saved and loaded on the go. These images include data specifying the angles of varying planes in the space in the position of the camera, thus allowing designers to overlay and position 3-D images to detailed specifications.

While Intiaro caters to designers, several leading furniture retailers have developed AR design apps for consumers. The recently released Ikea Place, for example, allows prospective buyers to select items from a portion of Ikea’s vast catalogue to situate in a 360-degree recreation of a given room, and additional brands, including Lowes and Wayfair, have unveiled similar products as well. In addition to its AR room-design tool, Lowes has developed an AP that uses similar technology to act as a digital tape measurer.

  1. Developments in 3-D Printing

3d printerWhile still in the early stages of adoption, 3-D printing is beginning to see wider usage throughout the furniture industry. Although equipment expenses have prevented 3-D printing from becoming a cost-effective method of furniture manufacturing, it can speed up the prototyping process and offer designers greater creative freedom. 3-D printing enables designers to create a larger number of high-quality prototypes before sending their concepts to vendors, thereby giving designers the ability to test new products more thoroughly.

Some innovative designers have also used 3-D printing to create elaborate, innovative products that do not require any assembly. Furniture such as the One Shot stool would be nearly impossible to efficiently produce without the streamlined process of 3-D printing. Designed by Patrick Jouin, the elegantly designed piece can fold in on itself for storage purposes and can also expand to accommodate a second person.

New innovations to the basic processes of 3-D printing could make it a viable strategy not only for creating prototypes, but also for generating mass-produced home furnishings. MIT recently partnered with leading office furniture retailer Steelcase to create a new 3-D printing method. The strategy involves injecting malleable building materials, such as rubber or plastic, into streams of supportive gel. Compared to traditional 3-D printing, which creates three-dimensional objects by laying down material in several layers, this new technique could significantly speed up furniture production.

  1. Innovative Manufacturing Materials

lumberLeather furniture is a thriving sector of the furniture industry, accounting for over $12 billion of furniture sales in 2016. However, a growing respect for environmental stewardship has led many consumers to be more discerning regarding the materials and processes required to make their products while encouraging companies to adopt greener retail and manufacturing strategies. Thanks to the innovations of a company called Modern Meadow, which is developing a biofabricated alternative to leather named Zoa, furniture shoppers could soon have the option to buy leather furniture that has a minimal impact on the environment.

By editing the DNA of yeast, the company was able to create a protein that is genetically identical to bovine collagen. Produced in varying colors, textures, and densities, and capable of seamlessly connecting with other fabrics, the genetically engineered material could create new opportunities in not only the furniture industry, but also in the auto and athletics sectors.

Other materials primed for use in innovative new home furnishings include PulpWorks’ Karta-Pack, a sturdy cotton material comprised entirely of recycled clothing. Although Karta-Pack is soft to the touch, its stiffness is similar to that of plastic. In addition to being a potential manufacturing material for upholstered seating, companies could use this unique material in new, sustainable packaging designs.

furniture

3 of the Best Strategies for Marketing to Furniture Shoppers

Due to the rise in e-commerce and the expanding role of millennial consumers, customer expectations are evolving in the home furnishings sector. Furniture shoppers are embarking on a more complicated journey that encompasses both the online and in-store shopping experience.

As a result, they are approaching their purchasing decisions with more knowledge than ever before. While furniture showrooms and sales pitches are playing a lesser role in the overall furniture-buying process, there is still a great deal that retailers can do to attract customers, exceed their expectations, and engender loyalty. Here are a few key strategies for marketing to furniture shoppers in the 21st century.

  1. Consider Emotional Intelligence

Klarna logoConsumers’ feelings and habits have always had a significant influence on their purchasing decisions, as well as retailers’ marketing efforts. However, the growing popularity of online shopping has made emotion an even greater determinant of consumer behavior. This is particularly true among millennial furniture buyers, as evidenced by recent market research conducted by Klarna UK. In examining the shopping habits of individuals ages 16 to 34, the firm found that shoppers in this demographic are far more likely than older generations to base their buying decisions on emotions experienced during the e-commerce process.

Both positive and negative emotions can influence a consumer’s decision to buy new furniture online. For example, Klarna also found that, in comparison with other age groups, millennials are five times more likely to feel anxious or guilty about how a purchase will impact their financial situation. Moreover, one in five survey respondents recall changing their mind about a purchase in response to these fears.

On the other hand, young adults shopping for furniture are also more likely to feel excited while adding potential purchases to their digital shopping carts. However, furniture retailers should not assume that an item in a shopper’s cart is a guaranteed sale. A large portion of shoppers, particularly those in the millennial generation, use their online shopping baskets to compare costs and create virtual “wish lists,” with many saving items that they have no intention of buying.

How can furniture retailers convince shoppers to finalize their prospective purchases? In many cases, a sense of urgency can convince consumers to take the plunge. More than half of millennials are more likely to buy an item to avoid missing out on a temporary special offer, indicating that retailers shouldn’t undercut the value of a good sales promotion.

By understanding how feelings such as impulsiveness, anxiety, and impatience can impact consumers’ thought processes, furniture retailers are able to provide more intuitive customer service. For example, in order to address the anxiety that some shoppers feel about making an expensive purchase, companies might promote deferred payment options to make their products more appealing. A retailer might also introduce a “try before you buy” program to reduce the risk of buyers’ remorse. By catering to customers’ emotions in such a way, companies will not only increase the likelihood of a sale, but also engender lasting loyalty among consumers who feel that the companies they frequent have their best interests in mind.

  1. Maximize Your Digital Space

If recent research on consumer emotions in the furniture sector suggests one thing, it would be that it is no longer sufficient to simply offer an e-commerce platform. Retailers must carefully consider each step of the customer journey and, in crafting their digital presence, examine how it will contribute to the overall customer journey.

Today, most shoppers begin the search for a new piece of furniture online. While a consumer’s first visit to your website probably won’t result in a sale, it is a crucial step in the customer journey as it provides shoppers with an introduction to your brand. Your website is often a consumer’s first opportunity to learn about your products, decide which brands and features appeal to them, and compare your prices, offerings, and level of service to other players in the market. With this in mind, you should prioritize the development of an engaging, informative landing page or online catalogue that provides a clear introduction to your brand. Your company website should clearly communicate what sets you apart from the competition, including delivery and consumer finance options that provide added value to customers.

ecommerce

The checkout process offers an ideal opportunity for online furniture retailers to improve customers’ digital journey. Currently, it is one of the primary pain points causing difficulties for shoppers, who can become irritated by clunky and unintuitive processes. In one survey, one out of four millennials reported experiencing frustration with checkout processes that do not save their payment details.

In considering the online customer experience, retailers should also consider how shoppers are accessing their websites. Smartphones are gradually gaining on laptop and desktop computers as the most popular tools for online shopping, and furniture companies should ensure that their e-commerce platforms are fine-tuned for mobile devices in order to avoid missing out on business from smartphone shoppers.

  1. Optimize the In-Store Experience

Despite the rise in e-commerce, consumers are still more likely to purchase furniture at a physical location. They are also likely to compare their options at multiple stores before making a final decision. Therefore, it is crucial that furniture companies prioritize both their digital and brick and mortar channels, striving to create a seamless omnichannel shopping experience. Just as your e-commerce platform should provide a variety of information to prepare shoppers to make educated decisions while in a store, the in-store experience should reflect assumptions of variety, quality, and personalized customer service created by your online presence.

One way to accomplish this is to integrate your retail management system with your e-commerce platform, ensuring that all pricing and inventory information is accurate for both in-store and online shoppers. Furniture business leaders should also consider the amount of research conducted by today’s highly informed, digitally empowered consumers when training their sales staff. As shoppers increasingly enter stores with a broad understanding of a company’s offerings and policies, it is more important than ever that sales representatives offer insights that go beyond basic product information in order to help customers find a great value that suits their needs.

ashley furniture

9 of the Best Moments from the Most Recent Ashley for the Arts

Ashley for the ArtsEach year, Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., hosts a celebration of art, community, and philanthropy in its hometown of Arcadia, Wisconsin. For three days, the town of just under 3,000 people grows by the tens of thousands as families travel from all over the region to take part in one of Wisconsin’s biggest charity events. Ashley for the Arts is a weekend dedicated to showcasing regional artists, enjoying award-winning entertainment, and bringing people together for a good cause.

Ashley Furniture has sponsored Ashley for the Arts since 2009, and the most recent iteration of the event was one for the record books. The 2017 event took place from August 10-12 and featured an unprecedented number of attendees and unforgettable performances. As per tradition, organizers hosted the affair at the 54-acre Memorial Park, which provides an expanse of beautiful, green spaces to accommodate numerous vendors, performers, refreshment stands, and other family-friendly activities. The following are some highlights from the 2017 Ashley for the Arts festival:

  1. Ashley for the Arts 2017 Achieves Record-Breaking Attendance

Ashley for the Arts is one of the largest charity events in Wisconsin, having grown exponentially since its inaugural festival in 2009. This initial affair welcomed only 300 attendees, but in 2017, Ashley for the Arts hosted an incredible 50,000 people. The largest crowd in the event’ history, this year’s audience smashed attendance records, surpassing 2016 numbers by more than 20,000.

Ashley for the Arts’ consistent affordability plays a large role in its ever-increasing popularity. From the beginning, event tickets have cost just $10 for the entire three-day festival. Sponsorship by Ashley Furniture, the involvement of several other corporations, and the support of the local community have all helped keep Ashley for the Arts an inexpensive, fun weekend for the entire family. The key facilitators of the event include nearly 3,000 volunteers, who donated their time and talents to make this magical weekend possible.

  1. Ashley for the Arts Raises Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars for Multiple Causes

In addition to being a celebration of art and creativity, Ashley for the Arts is also a massive charity event. Over the course of the weekend, the festival raised $425,000 for a vast array of children’s advocacy organizations, medical research groups, and other charitable nonprofits, as well as several regional school districts.

  1. Running for a Cure

pursuitofacure5kAshley for the Arts raises money through both admissions costs and events such as the Pursuit of a Cure 5K (and Miracle Mile) Run-Walk. Now a tradition at the annual arts festival, the casual race raises money for medical research and patient care, providing resources to help patients manage their day-to-day expenses while aiding efforts to develop cures to serious illnesses.

Each runner chooses his or her own charitable or research organization to support. The participants in the 2017 5K and Miracle Mile contributed more than $20,000 for their respective organizations, which included both national and local nonprofits such as the Arcadia Ambulance Service, the Rita Tranberg Memorial, and the American Cancer Society.

  1. Visual Spectacles

There was plenty to see at the 9th annual Ashley for the Arts. Throughout the weekend, hot air balloons provided a scenic backdrop for the daily festivities, and at night, attendees marveled at sky lanterns launched into the air.

On the third day, attendees also had the opportunity to peruse the annual Cruisin’ for the Arts car show. A treat for automobile enthusiasts of all ages, the event showcases both classic and contemporary cars.

  1. A Plethora of Family-Friendly Activities

Ashley for the Arts featured a vast array of creative performances and activities that provided exciting fun for the entire family. Throughout Memorial Park, guests encountered bounce houses, circus performers, magicians, acrobats, fire dancers, and even an interactive drum circle.

  1. Entertainment by Award-Winning Performers

Ashley for the Arts’ impressive selection of headlining musical performers is always one of the major highlights of the event, offering a medley of chart-topping hits from multiple popular genres. This year, the festival welcomed such noteworthy performers as Three Dog Night, Kip Moore, Echosmith, Gavin DeGraw, Montgomery Gentry, and NEEDTOBREATHE. It also celebrated talented local and regional artists including The Mondays, Big River Radio, Jackson Michelson, and Hope Country.

  1. Performances by Talented Young Artists

Ashley for the Arts also featured performances by the award-winning musicians of tomorrow. Several regional school districts showcased their creative talents at both the Amphitheater Stage and the Main Stage, where the festival’s headliners performed. On Friday, students from the Arcadia, Aquinas, Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau, and Hope Lutheran performed, while Saturday’s schedule featured several unique musical ensembles from around the region, including the Cotter Marching Band, the Cochrane-Fountain City Jazz Combo, and the Black River Falls Tintinnabulators.

Later, students from Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau’s Vocal Point entertained a crowd of over 30,000 on the main stage. In between headlining acts, the talented a cappella group shared multiple numbers from its recent performance at the international a cappella championships.

furinture

This Is What Ashley Furniture Has Been Up to Lately

ashley furniture logoAs the largest furniture retailer in North America and the top furniture manufacturer in the world, Ashley Furniture has developed a significant presence in many communities. The brand is not only dedicated to providing consumers with the best value on stylish and high-quality home furnishings, but also committed to giving back to the communities in which it operates.

In recent months, the company has done a great deal to support families in need while also receiving widespread recognition for its commitment to philanthropy and employee engagement. The following are some of the most recent news stories from Ashley Furniture:

  1. Ashley Helps Students Further Their Educations

A key aspect of Ashley Furniture’s ongoing efforts to enrich communities is its commitment to education. Each year, the company awards scholarships to help the children of its team members pursue their academic goals. It recently announced that it had awarded over $245,000 in scholarships to students who met these criteria and are heading off to college in 2017.

A total of 100 deserving high school graduates received scholarships under two programs: Ashley Grants in Aid, which awards a one-time scholarship of $2,000 to college-bound students; and the Wanek Engineering and Design Scholarship, which awards $3,333.33 to high school students planning to pursue secondary degrees in engineering or design.

In addition to helping fund the education of incoming college freshman, Ashley Furniture also facilitated an exciting learning opportunity for the junior high and high school students of Ashley employees. Over the summer, the company’s sponsorship allowed 23 children to attend the National Flight Academy Program, a week-long experience that offers students a uniquely engaging introduction to STEM topics.

During the program, students stay in a multi-story facility that serves as the world’s largest aircraft carrier simulator. As they take part in a variety of educational activities, or “missions,” students have an opportunity to build their interpersonal skills, learn to think on their feet, and engage with technologies such as flight simulators and virtual reality programs.

By allowing students to see through the eyes of a naval aviator, the National Flight Academy Program helps to introduce students to a variety of STEM-based career paths. Ashley furniture hopes to provide this opportunity to an even greater number of students in the future and has announced that it will sponsor 50 program participants in 2018.

  1. Ashley Furniture Contributes to Natural Disaster Relief Efforts

Ashley Furniture’s philanthropic endeavors extend far beyond education. Throughout its history, the company has shown a commitment to helping those most in need in whatever way it can. Recently, Ashley furniture teams across the country joined forces in an effort to assist communities impacted by severe hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

hurricane relief

In the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, employees at Ashley Furniture officers, retail centers, manufacturing facilities, and distribution hubs have participated in a flood drive gathering food and personal hygiene items for individuals displaced by these natural disasters.

Additionally, Ashley furniture has partnered with local retail locations and relief organizations in both states to help families find stable living arrangements as quickly as possible. The company also plans to provide over $1 million in products and discounts to residents of affected states.

  1. Dr. Ronald G. Wanek Recognized as Philanthropist of the Year

Each year, the National Speakers Association – a nonprofit that provides resources and networking tools to a diverse array of public speakers – holds an awards program to recognize noteworthy speakers who have demonstrated a strong commitment to philanthropy. Named after the founder and chairman emeritus of the National Speakers Association Foundation, the Nido R. Qubein Philanthropist of the Year Award highlights individuals both within and outside of the origination, but the 2017 awards program recognized a longstanding member: Dr. Ronald G. Wanek.

The Ashley Furniture Industries founder and chairman has prioritized philanthropy throughout his professional career. Since establishing the Ronald & Joyce Wanek Foundation with his wife in 1998, he has channeled tens of millions of dollars into areas including education, veteran’s affairs, and medical research. The Wanek family is particular concerned with the fight to cure type 1 diabetes, and to this end, the foundation recently awarded a $50 million grant to The City of Hope.

  1. Delivering A Good Night’s Sleep to Kids in Three States

Since 2010, Ashley Furniture’s Hope to Dream program has provided mattresses, bed frames, and bedding to children who do not have beds of their own. Recognizing that a safe and comfortable place to sleep is vital to children’s overall health and happiness, Ashley partners with local sports teams and nonprofit organizations to host Hope to Dream celebrations at stadiums and ballparks.

kids bed

In addition to providing children with their own beds, these fun-filled days also include plenty of snacks, exciting activities, and opportunities to hang out – and even dance – with star athletes. Over the summer, Ashley partnered with sports organizations including the Clearwater Threshers, Nashville Sounds, and Gwinnett Braves to give children in Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia an incredibly special day at the ballpark.

  1. Ashley Furniture Named One of America’s Best Workplaces

Once per year, Forbes partners with research firm Statista to assess the vast landscape of American workplaces. In their most recent study, the organizations surveyed 30,000 workers to glean which employers offer the greatest value to their employees. Forbes’ 2017 list of America’s Best Employers includes Ashley Furniture, which has been committed to employee development and engagement since its founding in 1970.

As the company has grown from a single 35-employee manufacturing facility to a global enterprise comprising over 26,000 people, Ashley furniture has continued to support the continued professional growth of its team members. As described by president and CEO Todd Wanek, “Our employees are the heartbeat of our organization.” This is demonstrated in the company’s financial investments in its employees; in recent years, it has channeled over $1 billion into employee development, particularly efforts to engage and empower employees with technology.