Furniture is bulky, it’s not a particularly frequent purchase, and arguably such high value items require a bit of touching-and-feeling before customers commit to making a purchase.
This suggests the category is not particularly well suited to online transactions. Not so it seems as there has certainly been some action in this area of late.
Online-only Worldstores recently raised £25 million of funding from Goldman Sachs and others for its ‘home and living’ goods retail site and flash sales operation Casafina. The idea is that the funding will enable it to scale-up and create an in-house next-day delivery fleet that will give it the firepower to compete with the traditional furniture retailers.
The appeal to Worldstores and its investors is the highly fragmented nature of the furniture market and the old-school way of operating in this category – with poor fulfilment and after-sales service often combined with ridiculously long lead times for many large products.
Breaking the old model is also the objective of another progressive operator in this space Made.com. It is rocking the furniture boat by sourcing unique designer goods direct from the manufacturers at dramatically reduced costs.
It is also adding the odd showroom where it holds minimal stock but utilises digital technology to display 3D imagery of its goods on screens and NFC technology to scan images of products that can then be added to wish-lists and shared with friends.
It is building up this user-generated content on its ‘Made.com/Unboxed’ platform that is enabling its customers to show how their Made.com purchases look in their homes. The next step is to use this as a route to effectively using these customers’ homes as showrooms.
For a commission these homeowners will be able to show off their new items – in situ – to potential Made.com purchases. Although it sounds rather radical – is it a less of a big deal than Airbnb.
This is certainly taking furniture into the sharing economy, which is a world away from the traditional way of doing things, but is yet another example of how even the most staid ends of retail is facing disruptive pressures.
Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider
K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.