Nate Murray

The Transformation of Consumer Behavior in the Home Furnishing Industry

How Technology is Changing the Landscape

From the pandemic to the swift advancement of artificial intelligence, the world has changed a lot in the last few years — and with it, so has consumer behavior. Our shopping habits look little like they did a short decade ago and, if the significant changes in consumer sentiment are to be believed, there's no going back.

While these changes span numerous sectors, they are especially marked in the home furnishing industry. These days, consumers realize that digital solutions can play a valuable role in how they renovate, decorate, and furnish their spaces. The implications could be profound for the industry at large, with retailers and designers alike forced to rethink concepts and processes that once seemed straightforward.

The latest changes may bring some new challenges to the table, but they also present a wealth of opportunities. Below, we delve into the most noteworthy trends in this quickly-evolving industry, as well as the best options for boosting customer engagement and satisfaction moving forward.

eCommerce Is
Becoming the
Preferred Option

Prior to the pandemic, consumers were split regarding their preferences for online versus in-person shopping. Many worried that they simply couldn't get an accurate feel for how furniture or decor might look without viewing it in person.

Forced to give digital solutions a try, however, many people have since changed their stance — and eCommerce is quickly becoming a popular alternative. Yes, some consumers remain reluctant, but many more are excited about the unique advantages that online solutions provide.

These days, surveys reveal that, while half of consumers still shop for furniture in brick-and-mortar stores, 43 percent are happy to shop online. Of these, a significant share use eCommerce platforms, although 18 percent make purchases directly from their preferred brands' websites. Those who purchase furniture online cite lower prices and increased inventory as their top reasons for going digital.

Leveraging Emotions to Create Meaningful Experiences

Emotional selling has long been a top strategy across many sectors. In the furniture industry, it's well-known that an emotional response can drive sales even among initially ambivalent customers.

The goal should be to convey how furniture will make consumers feel not only immediately upon purchasing it, but also, far into the future — especially as these furnishings become a core part of customers' daily lives.

Storytelling becomes particularly important as more consumers shift from in-person to online experiences. When visiting stores themselves, customers can often weave their own stories, perhaps with a few key prompts from salespeople familiar with their wants and needs.

With marketing initiatives, however, these stories must come across through strategic branding. Every social media update and marketing email has the power to make customers feel connected, and, with many exposed to exceptional marketing campaigns on a regular basis, few will settle for less.

Emotions can also play heavily into furniture design. This power should not be underestimated, even as consumers increasingly emphasize convenience.

As the study Emotionalism in Furniture Design points out, it is vital that designers understand how strong the connection can be. It's so strong that people will keep a piece of furniture in their home for years and years, even after it's broken...That is an astonishingly powerful connection.

These days, it's far more apparent that the inherent stories told through furniture design need to be amplified and built into everything from marketing campaigns to in-person sales. Only then will consumers fully buy into these stories and achieve the impactful emotional experiences needed to turn them from casual buyers into loyal customers.

Online Reviews

The Need for Social Proof

Even when exceptional marketing sparks a strong emotional response, most consumers prefer to seek additional peace of mind before they make major investments. Typically, this takes the form of reviews, which consumers regard as more objective than other forms of feedback.

Examining reviews has long been a critical part of the buying process in fashion and electronics, but now, consumers also look to this feedback when selecting furniture.

First, consumers take a close look at reviews for specific retailers. This is particularly important when buying from smaller businesses, which may have yet to establish a strong impression as compared to the familiar names of major providers.

Consumers may complete general searches such as furniture store near me or specifically research shops or brands with which they're at least somewhat familiar.

Next, shoppers may move on to specific products. Some prefer to view these in person as they navigate brick-and-mortar stores — but as we've discussed, many primarily search online these days. Often, they are able to find feedback on specific products, including basic specs and dimensions, as well as detailed reviews from satisfied or not-so-satisfied buyers.

Online reviews are regarded as especially important for today's many direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, which, generally speaking, are still not as trusted as their traditional counterparts. With enough insight, however, customers are often willing to make the leap, particularly for highly-rated products with positive reviews posted across a variety of platforms.

Augmented Reality Delivers a More Engaging Experience

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) arguably provide even more peace of mind than reviews, as consumers can use these digital solutions to determine how, exactly, new purchases will appear within their own homes.

These tools used to feel like a novelty, but now, they're practically expected. Many major retailers offer some way for consumers to digitally view potential purchases within the context of their current spaces.

This is a common solution not only among budget options such as IKEA Place, but also, for high-end favorites such as Roche Bobois. The latter offers a variety of digital design tools, including 3D software and a VR studio for visualizing impressive renderings of textures, patterns, and more.

Meanwhile, professional designers are also able to make the most of advanced digital tools. RoOomy, for example, creates dynamic 3D scenes that designers can share with their clients and even offers staging services.

Consumers are thrilled about the opportunity to virtually try before they buy. Findings highlighted by the product visualization platform Cylindo reveal that 60 percent of American users hope to use AR to find and purchase furniture.

Meanwhile, promising new research suggests that the effect can be amplified by bringing virtual reality experiences into brick-and-mortar locations, where in-person customers can also make the most of VR and AR's extraordinary potential.

Exciting Developments in 3D Printing

As online purchases and even AR become commonplace, the next big shift in the home furnishing industry may involve 3D printing. This could provide an exciting and efficient solution to processes that are otherwise inefficient: creating prototypes, testing the models, and more.

With 3D printing, these processes can be expedited by producing quick and inexpensive prototypes and even, in some situations, the furniture itself.

French designer Patrick Jouin has been an early adopter of 3D solutions. His agency has unveiled many 3D-printed products over the course of the past few years, including the foldable TAMU chair and even an articulated lamp.

Similarly, the Gradient Furniture Collection from Philipp Aduatz reveals the world of potential in 3D concrete printing. Moving forward, a variety of other designers and retailers can be expected to add 3D printing to the mix, including both budget and high-end providers.

AI Shakes Up the Furniture Market

Another big shift on the way for the home furnishing industry? An increased reliance on artificial intelligence. IKEA, for example, has experimented with generative AI to produce some truly remarkable results.

More important, however, is the impact of AI on the consumer experience. Even when they purchase items traced back to traditional designers, customers can be heavily influenced by advanced algorithms, which reveal the styles they are most likely to find appealing. AI-powered solutions draw on a wealth of data to determine customer intent and target recommendations accordingly.

A Promising Future for Home Furnishings

From eCommerce to artificial intelligence and even 3D printing, there is no shortage of opportunity within the modern home furnishing industry. These days, consumers enjoy a greater degree of control over how they research and purchase furniture and decor. Further empowering these customers may be the key to increasing engagement and achieving newfound levels of brand loyalty.

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