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Lights, Camera, Action! - Why Video Marketing Should Be a Top Priority for Furniture Retailers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by

If you are a furniture retailer, you know how important style and quality is to your consumer (in addition to price of course!) Highlighting style, quality and workmanship in your online catalog is important in gaining consumer trust in your products ensuring their peace of mind while avoiding surprises when your product arrives at their door. Unfortunately in today’s busy world, consumer attention span continues to decrease and using verbose text to describe a product is no longer a viable solution for retailers. Video has become a popular trend among marketers and online retailers to showcase products and services in an engaging way. 76% of marketers are making video a top priority. The team at Blueport has looked into the numbers and shares four tips to help you get started.

                        
The Data Behind Video

Why are marketers making video a top priority? Let us break down the numbers:

  • About 87% of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online videos in 2013
  • On average, consumers who watch product videos on a retail site are 64%-85% more likely to purchase than other visitors and are more likely to stay on the site longer 
  • 52% of consumers who watch product videos say videos make them more confident about purchasing a product online
  • Videos of products increased sales for Zappos by between 6% and 30% back in 2010 according to Econsultancy

The numbers clearly show that video sells. And if you’re a furniture retailer, you should probably start thinking about how to incorporate video into your online strategy (if you haven’t already). Here are four tips to help you get started.

Tip #4: Videos Should Be Simple, Short And Sweet

Remember when we said consumers have a short attention span? Well that attention span doesn’t just apply to reading text. The general rule of thumb is to not share a video that is over a few minutes as consumers are most engaged in the first 1-2 minutes. Therefore, the shorter the video the better. Start with outlining the objective of the video and make sure the content aligns with your objective. If you are showcasing a product, think about the questions a consumer would ask about it and key attributes to highlight.

Tip #3: Videos Should Appear Professionally Done

Producing videos has become extremely easy to do in-house. But if you go that route, make sure you put in the time and effort to make them appear professionally done so that you consumer is engaged, rather than distracted by production quality. It is important to make sure you have the right equipment for sound, lighting and location. A poorly produced video can impact not only a customer’s decision to buy, but also their perceptions of your brand.  It might be better to outsource video production until you have the necessary resources on hand to take over that responsibility.

Tip #2: Video Is Not Just for Showing off Products

Considering video as an overall part of your content marketing strategy is a great way to drive engagement and develop trust among your core group of consumers. For furniture, this is especially important given that consumers on average only shop for big-ticket items like appliances and furniture once every seven years. Videos can help bring consumers back to your website more frequently, even if the original intent is not always to buy. Consider posting educational videos in addition to product ones with this in mind. A blog or resource center, for example, are great vehicles for sharing educational videos, such as design tips.

Tip #1: Don’t Forget About Search Engine Optimization

Video tends to be SEO friendly. Google places emphasis on the amount of time people spend on your site and, when people watch videos they typically spend more time on a site compared to those who do not watch them. But there is still some work that needs to be done to make sure Google is tracking your video content. Be sure to stay up to date on SEO tips for video, such as posting a separate video sitemap, to ensure you get the added SEO benefit of video content on your site.

Now that you are armed with some information you need to get started with video, get out there and do it. Retailers who get on the trend first are sure to have an advantage over those who lag behind. Lights, Camera, Action!


About Blueport Commerce
Blueport Commerce is the omnichannel solution for the $78B furniture industry. We marry retailers' bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology and unique marketing and sales solutions to create modern, efficient, easy shopping experiences. $6.3B in furniture retailers choose Blueport. For some retailers, Blueport's SaaS omnichannel platform powers their branded websites, driving sales online and in their stores. For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many retailers, we do both. Our technology is transforming furniture retail, for the 4% of sofas that sell online and the 96% that don't. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our available jobs on our careers page.

Free Shipping…The New Norm?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 by

In today’s world, free shipping is a right not a privilege. Well, that’s how it would be if it were up to the customer. Blueport Commerce takes a look at recent shipping trends and the unique challenges it presents to furniture retailers.

According to a recent Forrester Report, consumers are most likely to revisit e-tail sites that offer low delivery costs in addition to low prices. In another report by comScore, nearly half of respondents chose free shipping as the ‘most important’ service offered by online retailers.

Why? To put it simply - sticker shock. Customers on the cusp of a purchase will abandon a cart quicker than you can say ‘checkout’ when seeing the total skyrocket with added shipping charges. As a result, many retailers have begun appeasing consumer demands by incorporating free or reduced shipping.

Unfortunately for furniture retailers, simple mathematics show the benefits of closing a purchase do not outweigh the cost of shipping those big-ticket items cross country, particularly when offering low or reduced pricing on products. So while the rest of e-commerce is headed towards free shipping, furniture retailers find themselves yet again in a situation where they have to veer from the progressive norm.

Not being able to follow the e-commerce norm is the very reason why many people thought big-ticket items like furniture would never go online in the first place. But furniture has found a model online to be successful and once furniture shopping online catches up to the rest of e-commerce (which it will) we may have to face the facts that consumers will expect free shipping.

So what can furniture retailers do now to prevent shipping charges from impeding an online purchase?

First and Foremost, Location Is Key

Keep delivery costs down by only shipping products to locations within proximity to your stores and warehouses. This is why leading furniture retailers turn to us at Blueport Commerce, the e-commerce platform for the furniture industry, to localize furniture shopping online.

Second, Don’t Be Afraid To Over-Communicate

Small tweaks in communication may help mitigate the blow of sticker shock that leaves customers dubious of an online purchase:
  • Educate your customers on your shipping process and what goes into the expense. Knowing shipping charges are comparable to in-store purchase delivery may help ease them into a purchase.
  • Remind your customers throughout the process of these charges, such as a simple message telling them the product price does not include shipping and delivery charges.

Third, Get Creative About Your Promotions

If you do offer a promotion for free or reduced shipping, be sure to over-emphasize the offer. Because shipping is such an important part of the decision making process, plastering the offer throughout the purchase funnel, beyond the homepage, will help instill the value of the offer and urge customers to pull the trigger. Wayfair, for example, offers free front door delivery, but additional charges for in-house assembly.

While furniture may not be able to compete with the Amazon’s of the world when it comes to free shipping (yet), these simple tactics will help encourage buyers and ultimately help usher in the new era of shopping for furniture online. And, beyond free shipping, once consumers become even more accustomed to buying furniture online, the possibilities in this category are endless. 


About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

A Look Back At 2013. The Best Of The Blueport Big-Ticket Blog

Saturday, January 4, 2014 by

2013 has been a banner year for us Blueporters. As an ode to 2013, we’ve rounded up some of the best articles posted on the Blueport Big-Ticket blog over the past year. Enjoy!

At the beginning of 2013, I shared my out-of-the-box predictions in the January 4, 2013 post, Our Crazy Predictions for the Year Ahead. While these predictions didn’t exactly come true, they sure were innovative (and fun).

On January 18, 2013, Marketing Director Betsy Miller wrote about Furniture Shopping: Major Differences Revealed Between Generations. It remains one of our most popular posts for the year.

Following the annual MITX E-Commerce Summit held in February this past year, Account Manager Liz Ricklefs reported on the event in her February 8, 2013 post, 7 Things Blueport Learned at the MITX: What’s Next E-Commerce Summit. This year, Blueport joins other MITX members as a sponsor and President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle will speak on how the rise of mobile has impacted furniture e-commerce. 

On March 8, 2013, Account Manager Bindi Tuli wrote about Forrester’s The State of Online Retailing 2013 where she shared findings on the importance of mobile, shipping and site speed. Check out her follow up post as well, published September 21, 2013 on peak planning

Payment trends were a big topic in 2013 and especially for e-commerce. I discussed these payment trends in his April 12, 2013 post, with a particular focus on digital wallets and alternative financial services.

Showrooming is a popular topic around the Blueport water cooler. We love it! It is definitely furniture’s “Friend, Not Foe,” as indicated in Betsy Miller’s April 26, 2013 post.

In June, Blueporters attended The Annual Internet Retailing Conference & Expo. Business Development Associate Kate Putnam covered topics from the conference, including content strategy by Craftsman, Kenmore and Diehard and the wonders of Petflow.com.

As we live and breathe furniture here at Blueport Commerce, Account Management Associate Sarah Metzger-Traber couldn’t resist writing about What Furniture Consumers Want Most (hint: it’s better quality) on July 27, 2013.

As most of us Blueporters know, pretty much anything authored by our President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle is gold. And his August 3, 2013 post did not disappoint. Check it out here.

Not to be outdone, we loved Marketing Content Strategist Erica Blute’s post on Instagram for furniture retailers, as well as Kristina Hartjen’s post on the ideal customer service experience.

Holiday predictions and Cyber Monday/Black Friday results have already made a big splash on the Blueport blog this year, with more to come.

Last, but not least it wouldn’t be Blueport Big-Ticket Blog post without some shameless self-promotion. Learn more about us through our infographic on our May 9, 2013 post, the waves we’re making on Furniture.com in our November 30, 2013 post and if you missed it, don’t forget to watch our latest video on Store-Sync, which we posted on December 28, 2013.

Thanks for an amazing 2013. We hope you’ll like what we have in store for 2014. 


About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Trend Report: Furniture Retail Expected To Grow In 2014

Saturday, December 21, 2013 by

It has been a promising start to the holiday season for many retailers and the outlook is only looking brighter. But items that fit into a UPS box are not the only retail goods that will be ringing the register this holiday season. Blueport Commerce reports on how big-ticket durable goods are ripe for a return in the marketplace after a stagnant few years post-recession. That coupled with a rise in consumer confidence and a promising outlook in the real estate market, has us anticipating that 2014 will be a landmark year for furniture retail sales.

Overall Trends Are Pointing Upward

We’ve seen reports of two trends in particular that are expected to impact the furniture industry in 2014.

  • Consumer confidence is slowly gaining momentum.
    While consumer sentiment decreased in November, it quickly and unexpectedly boomeranged amidst the onset of the holiday shopping season. According to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan, consumer confidence reached a high of 82.5 in December, up from 75.1 in November, which is also the highest reading since July.  
     
  • Increasing real estate prices are contributing to the positive outlook. 
    Consumer confidence has been in part fueled by increasing home prices over the past year, helping to fatten the wallet of many homeowners. Comscore’s State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy in Q3 2013 notes home values are no longer a top economic concern as the market slowly climbs back from its fateful 2009 crash. And as home buyers continue to penetrate the market, you can be sure they will be knocking on furniture retailers’ door to outfit their new homes.

    America is not the only country seeing this increase, Canada also had a surge in consumer confidence due to the resilient housing market. In fact, Canada’s consumer confidence increased to 59.3 in December, up from 58.9 the week prior. Additionally, those who think real-estate prices will continue to rise has reached 40.3, the highest reading since March 2012.

High Time Nears To Replace Old Furniture

You might be thinking, so what? Just because consumer confidence is up and the real estate market is in a good place doesn’t necessarily mean furniture sales will sky rocket, right? Well one additional trend in the mix caught our attention, and it’s the combination of these trends that really makes a difference. Since the recession, Americans having been reluctant to spend money on durable goods and instead tried to prolong the life of the goods they own. According to a recent Bloomberg article, the average age for long-lasting household items, including furniture, has reached an all-time high since the 1960’s. But as couches sag and fabrics wear and tear, consumers will inevitably be reaching into their pockets to replace the furniture they’ve been holding on to for quite some time. And for many consumers, that time is 2014.

But while the opportunity is there, retailers need to take advantage of the opportunity to get consumers looking to replace their furniture or add to their collections. Here are two strategies:

  1. Build a relationship with potential consumers. Because purchase frequency is so low with furniture, it is important to focus on building a relationship with the consumer, not just attracting them through a positive purchase experience. Instill loyalty among your consumers through long-term relationship building tactics, tapping into them through a variety of channels.
     
  2. Meet your customer where they expect to be greeted: The time to invest in an omnichannel platform is now. Showrooming continues to be an increasingly popular tactic, with over a third of consumers saying they have showroomed. Additionally, of those who have showroomed, 44% say they planned to buy online, but wanted to see it in person beforehand. Consumers entering into the market are getting more and more technologically savvy and are looking for retailers that can satisfy a variety of shopping needs. Don’t wait until the opportunity comes ringing to build a lasting relationship with your consumer; invest now.

Good Fortune Is Where Opportunity And Preparation Meet

Trends are surely reporting that 2014 will be a blockbuster opportunity for furniture retailers to grow their revenue, provided they are able to prepare and take advantage of the opportunity ahead. We’re looking forward to a continued successful holiday season and 2014 for furniture and e-commerce.

Five Proven Guidelines For Creating A Successful Online Customer Experience

Saturday, November 23, 2013 by

This post is featured as a special contributing blog post for the MITX November e-Commerce Blog Series

Despite the evolving nature of commerce, there is one thing for all retailers that holds true—the importance of customer care. Study after study shows that high quality customer care is a critical factor in consumer’s decision to shop with a retailer. On Furniture.com, powered by Blueport Commerce, we quickly realized the need for a powerful and progressive customer care department to not only increase consumer satisfaction, but also our bottom line. This is especially critical because Furniture.com is an online-only retailer who lacks the arm of in-store sales support. Here are some best practices we’ve found to bring us success and happy customers:



1) Your Customer Care Department Is Only As Strong As Your Team

Building a successful call center is not an easy task. Sure it is easy to answer a call, but think about the ups and downs of customer service that can be trying on even the best customer care teams. As manager of the customer care department at Blueport Commerce and managing customer care for Furniture.com, I am only as good as the team I have engaging with customers on a daily basis. Fostering a cohesive, collaborative environment is essential to keeping spirits and motivation strong so we consistently deliver on the expert care we promise our customers.

2) In An Online World, Customer Care Must Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Online-only retailers miss out on the incremental sales that come from in-store sales efforts. In turn, we are constantly searching for progressive ways to engage our customers and keep them coming back. Our representatives are empowered to not only serve customer issues, but also to drive sales, which has proven to be a successful means for generating incremental revenue. 

3) One Form Of Communication Does Not Fit All

Not all customers are the same. And with so many methods of communicating these days, one form of communication might satisfy one customer and irritate another. We aim to give each of our customers a positive experience, no matter their preferred mode of communication. Which is why having expert communication skills on the phone is just as important as crafting a superb email and responding swiftly on live chat to capture all types of audiences. Our website is a huge communication tool, where we continue to optimize our site design to direct customers to the communication channel they prefer, whether it is finding tips and tricks through the our Pursuit of Home blog, or a more personal connection through the phone or live chat.

4) Creating A “White-Glove” Experience

Working in big-ticket retail, reviving abandoned carts is critically important. There are multiple marketing tools available that aid in this process, such as retargeting and trigger email campaigns. On the side of customer care, we have taken multiple measures to create a “white-glove experience”, particularly for some of our viable cart abandoners. This carefully crafted experience helps makes our brand appear more personal for some of our key customers, despite the impersonal nature of online shopping. As a result, we not only helped to close several abandoned sales, but also let our customers know that we are there for them throughout every step of the sales process.  

5) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is And Keep Track Of Your Progress

At Furniture.com, we continuously strive to improve every touch point we have with customers. Looking back on call and email data has helped us improve response times and increase the value of touch points to ensure a positive and seamless experience for each and every customer. 
 

It is easy to say you are a customer-centric, but what really makes a difference is the execution. At Furniture.com, we’ve come to learn that following these best practices, such as providing proactive, top of the line service through multiple communications channels, help make that vision a reality for our customers. And as a result, we are not only seeing increased satisfaction, but also increased sales.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

What You Need To Know About Mcommerce, Part Two

Saturday, November 16, 2013 by

So you’ve read our overview of the eMarketer mobile commerce roundup and are thinking to yourself…what can I do next to get involved with mobile commerce? Here are a few creative ways to use this data to your advantage and enhance your brand presence in the mobile space:


Responsive design for your mobile site is key.

According to a study by Nielson, shoppers increasingly prefer mobile sites over store-specific apps. And since furniture is not a frequent purchase for most consumers, it may make more sense for a consumer to visit a furniture retailer’s website as opposed to downloading the store app for continued and frequent use. If you don’t currently have a responsive design for your mobile website and email, make sure you have it in your pipeline. Consumers are becoming more and more accustomed to rich, responsive designs with high load speed, and you risk losing your customers if your site is not optimized for mobile. Not to mention, a poorly designed site will decrease your mobile ranking on Google.

Track your progress via mobile specific analytics.

Mobile apps and websites are different from a traditional website design, and as such website metrics are not as relevant in the mobile space. Consider investing in mobile app and mobile website analytics. Not only will you be able to accurately measure your success on mobile, but will also help you test out different marketing tactics.

Be a part of your consumer’s research.

Much of consumer behavior on mobile is focused on research, especially using tablets. Furniture is a particularly research-heavy category and with design apps like Houzz, consumers are growing more and more accustomed to having research-friendly tactics at their finger-tips. Consider offering mobile features to help make researching your products easier. Augmented reality apps have been a recent trend that allow consumers to see a product in their room through a mobile device scanner.

Target your customer through mobile.

Remember how we said showrooming is a big trend among moms for big-ticket items? Use this nuanced behavior to your advantage. Geo-targeting tactics are a great use for mobile marketing. The next time a customer is shopping in your store, send them a targeted coupon or promotion to encourage an on the spot purchase. Not only will these tactics improve the shopping experience, it will also make you appear innovative and forward thinking to your consumer.

Stay ahead of the curve with SMS marketing.

SMS is a severely under tapped market with 90% of users reading text messages, compared to 20% of emails opened. Consider an SMS marketing campaign to drive subscribed recipients online or in-store through a targeted promotion, perhaps to consumers who have previously been researching your furniture online.

The next wave of Mcommerce is an exciting trend for retailers. But with all the buzz it is hard to know which tactics are fads and which will truly drive incremental revenue. By following these tips specifically for furniture retailers, you will not only be ahead of the curve, but also take advantage of the opportunity Mcommerce offers to increase your bottom line.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

What You Need To Know About Mcommerce, Part One

Saturday, November 9, 2013 by
It is not news that mobile is growing. The buzz has been going on for quite some time. But what is quite astonishing is how quickly mobile shopping is growing. By 2017 it is expected that a majority of e-commerce will be conducted through a mobile device. Blueport Commerce has discussed the push for mobile in several of our recent blog posts (here and here). Recently eMarketer came out with their Mobile Commerce Roundup that highlights key trends from using mobile to grow holiday e-commerce sales to embracing showrooming through mobile. Here are a few key stats from the roundup:
 
 
Mobile To Boost Holiday E-Commerce Sales
 
As I mentioned last week in the Blueport blog, holiday sales are expected to increase by 15% from last year. Mobile will be giving online sales a major boost as both a driver of sales and a form of research culminating in 16% of holiday sales. Tablet retail in particular is expected to hit nearly 63% of Mcommerce sales, leaving smartphones with 35% of the pie. Forecasters expect mobile shopping on smartphones to continue to decrease as tablets become the go-to choice for mobile shopping.

                                     

The Affluent Consumer Is A Key Demographic In The Mobile Space
 
The affluent consumer, known as an “affluencer”, is a key demographic to online retailers as they not only have the money to spend, but also have influence over others to promote and generate awareness for your brand. Affluencers are more likely to own a tablet and/or smartphone and are becoming increasingly accustomed to incorporating mobile into their shopping. While 78% of affluent consumers still prefer to purchase in-store, mobile browsing continues to rise with affluencers looking to mobile for store information, customer reviews and price comparison, among other activities. 
 
Showrooming With Mobile For Big-Ticket Items Is Popular Among Moms
 
When shopping for expensive items like furniture, about half of moms say they check their mobile device in-store to compare prices. Despite the proclivity to price-check, moms do not particularly prefer shopping via mobile. In fact only 11% of moms say mobile is their preferred shopping method. But as mobile browsing continues to become a staple in the purchase funnel, more and more consumers will become accustomed to shopping via mobile. Optimizing your omnichannel efforts for mobile browsing, purchasing and buying in-store will help increase your bottom line and make your customers happier. 

                                    
Forge ahead with tactics to increase your brand presence through mobile in 2014. It’s clear that in the e-commerce and omnichannel equation, mobile plays an increasingly significant role. But with all this data, it is hard to break through the clutter and figure out where to begin. Don’t worry, Blueport Commerce is keeping up with mobile trends and has some actionable tips furniture retailers can use in our part two post coming soon. Stay tuned…
 

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Face Shopping Cart Abandonment Head-On (Part One)

Saturday, October 12, 2013 by
Since the dawn of internet retail, shopping cart abandonment has been a major challenge for merchants. Despite advancements made in the ease of shopping online, retailers are still seeing up to a 75% drop off shopping cart orders. We at Blueport Commerce assume that statistic becomes inflated with big-ticket purchases, due to the extended path to purchase customers take compared to that of less expensive items. But as consumers become accustomed to purchasing larger items online, it is increasingly important for furniture retailers to approach this problem head-on.

In part one of our two part series, we are going to discuss key tips to optimize your checkout process and decrease the chance of customers abandoning their shopping cart. (Be sure to tune in next week for tips on how to bring customers back post-abandonment.)
 
According to ConversionXL about 75% of abandoners do have some intent to purchase prior to abandonment. Which means that for a majority of these shoppers, something throughout the checkout process hinders them from following through. 
 
 
AVOID THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE 
 

According to Statista, the number one reason why customers abandon their shopping cart is unexpected costs. Imagine you are a first-time customer browsing for a new couch. You find a couch that meets your style, quality and functional needs. While the price is slightly over budget, you think its overall value is strong enough to move forward with the purchase. That is until you are about to check out and see the total jump from just outside your budget to way out of the ballpark with the inclusion of taxes and delivery fees. Not to mention, it is going to take up to six weeks to receive the couch you've now fallen in love with. And, unless you REALLY want to break the bank, you’ll likely decide to hold off on your purchase to shop around and see if the couch will be less expensive if purchased through another retailer or on sale at a later time. 

Reasons for consumers to drop out of an online purchase in 2012
You will find more statistics at Statista

While we can’t necessarily control the experience for all big-ticket e-commerce, and delivery presents its own unique challenges online, setting expectations and showing all fees up front is critically important to ease customers’ purchase decision.

  • Consider testing your pricing and promotional strategy to include delivery fees with discounted products or little or no delivery fees with an increased price. Remember, this pricing strategy needs to align with your retail store, unless you’re running an online-only promotion.  
  • Offer customers easy-to-read and thorough product descriptions. Avoid leaving them with lingering questions that might lead to hesitation.
  • Customer reviews are a proven way to increase consumer confidence in purchase decisions.
CHECKOUT SHOULD BE A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON 
 

The checkout process should be the easiest part of your customer’s day. The longer it takes for your customer to check out, the more time you are giving them to change their mind on a purchase.

  • Decrease the amount of confusion and time it takes to check out and by providing clear and concise instructions throughout the process.
  • Consider including a progress bar that shows them each step they are at and how much longer they have to go.
  • Allow for auto-fill capabilities in forms to decrease the annoyance of pesky, invasive registration forms.
  • Minimize the amount of times a person needs to bounce in and out of the checkout process. For example, if you have a promotion going on, be sure the promotion code is highlighted clearly on the page so the customer does not have to leave the page to find the code.
Blueport Commerce clients can take advantage of our platform that provides a localized solution that integrates with store inventory so customers shopping online see products available at their local retail stores. This means that customers can get their products faster and at a more reasonable delivery price from their local store or warehouse, if speed is the number one priority.
 
Setting cost expectations and speeding up the checkout process can help avoid cart abandonment, but even with these actions, abandonment is inevitable. But don’t worry, we have some tactics next week to turn this negative into a positive. Don’t miss part two of this two-part series, where we will discuss some tactics to help turn cart abandonment into another step in the purchase funnel.
 

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

 

What Do Furniture Consumers Want Most? Better Quality.

Saturday, July 27, 2013 by

Are you in the market for a new piece of furniture? Have you ever bought a sofa off Craigslist? Have you ever needed a piece of furniture quickly but just knew it wasn’t going to last? You’re not alone. According to a Furniture Today/Apartment Therapy Consumer Survey, 40% of furniture buyers revealed that they would buy better quality furniture next time. Closely mirroring that response, 24% said they would buy more durable furniture. What does this mean for retailers? Quality, style and design are top of mind for consumers – not price.

 


Quality

Of note from the survey, one 21-year-old said “My Craigslist sofa find won’t last long” while another respondent said “It would be nice to find better quality pieces now.” In line with this, 35% of respondents picked their sofa as the piece of furniture they most wanted to put in the trash today and buy new. Oftentimes furniture purchasers, particularly younger consumers, compromise on quality in order to match their small budgets. In an ideal world, for them, quality would be a higher consideration than price – however, in the reality of a tougher economy, many furniture consumers are forced to buy “just for now” furniture that they know they won’t keep for more than a few years.

Durability

A Missouri respondent claimed that the next time a furniture purchase was to happen, the goal would be to “invest more so the furniture lasts and remains comfortable”. Similarly, another consumer mentioned wanting “quality materials, like wood and steel which are considerably more durable.” Because furniture is a big-ticket purchase, with big-ticket prices attached, the sales cycle is often longer, and the expectation is that the furniture will last longer than a small-ticket item such as a t-shirt. While many consumers equate durability with price, some materials such as steel are not expensive but can meet consumers’ demands for ruggedness.

Style

Following closely behind durability, 23% of respondents will shop based on style or design. One 25-year-old is looking to “evolve” her home as she “grows as a person.” And a 41-year-old in West Virginia admitted to having “finally figured out what I like.” Many consumers view their furniture as a reflection of who they are as a person and the image they present to anyone who may visit their home – and as such, they want to ensure they are painting an accurate picture of themselves.

Takeaways

So what are the takeaways for furniture retailers? First of all, only 18% of consumers wished they had spent more, and 5% wished they had not spent as much on their last furniture purchase. So only 23% of the people surveyed named price as a regret. Compared to the 40% that wanted higher quality, 24% that wanted better durability and 23% that wanted a different style, consumers are not as influenced by price as is traditionally thought.

Additionally, the margin for impulse purchases over $500 are slim – while 48% of consumers are comfortable making an impulse furniture purchase if the price is under $50, only 1% of those surveyed would buy an item priced at $500 or above on a whim.

And finally, quality, durability and style are top of mind for furniture purchasers – because furniture is an expensive, long-term and thoughtfully considered purchase, consumers are more likely to first identify a style they want, and then adjust their budget to fit the selected item. So furniture retailers shouldn’t be afraid to offer beautiful and interesting pieces of furniture at slightly higher than normal prices – if consumers are basing their decisions on the aesthetic and functional aspects of an item, they will stretch their perceived budgets to obtain the furniture they most desire.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

With Blueport Commerce, furniture retailers can build an integrated, branded e-commerce platform online, elevating their brands and creating an ultimate online superstore. Blueport Commerce is the e-commerce solution for the furniture industry. We serve the top furniture retail chains with billions in sales interested in selling furniture online. Blueport Commerce is a full-service solution that combines over a decade of experience, innovative technology and customized marketing services to meet the unique, localized needs of furniture retail chains. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

 

Bringing a Solid Content Strategy to Life – Learnings from IRCE 2013 Part II

Saturday, June 22, 2013 by

In part I of our two-part series, we learned at IRCE 2013 how PetFlow.com has innovated on Facebook with customized, cute and relevant content to drive e-commerce sales. We also learned from Ryan Ostrom, CMO of Craftsman and Head of Digital KCD (Kenmore, Craftsman, Diehard) Brands, Sears Holdings, how a solid content strategy based on relevance, reach and results is key to e-commerce success. And, as it turns out, the three tips listed below are amazingly relevant to big-ticket furniture retail.

 Tip #1: It Is About Being What People Are Interested In

Ostrom could not have said it any better that a content strategy should be “about what people are interested in.” While this seems like completely obvious advice, retailers can often lose sight of this in the execution of their content strategy. The particular issue Ostrom faced was how do you get consumers to engage with you and stay relevant when you are selling products with longer purchase cycles? For Kenmore, the average appliance purchase is every seven years, and only when something breaks. Craftsman has some of the most trusted and long-lasting tools, and Diehard is, well, die-hard. KCD created content around the human experience and lifestyle that cooking, tinkering and driving brought them. Products just happened to be involved at every stage of the purchase funnel but the focus was on life first. A good example of this strategy is Cookmore.com, an online cooking community with a combination of user and Kenmore generated recipes and videos. Members have the option to purchase Kenmore products through the community, but are primarily there to interact with other members, watch videos and get recipes and tips.

Tip #2: Content Should Maximize Reach

Ostrom created a content strategy to change the marketing paradigm across all channels and funnels to build deeper customer relationships and maximize reach – a strategy he calls DEEP (Dialogue, Engage, Educate, and Purchase).

The application of this strategy shines in the case of the Craftsman brand that features a community, complete web experience with everything you’d want to know to DIY or buy, plus email campaigns and a huge YouTube channel, offering tips for all kinds of projects. All aspects of the experience recommend and use Craftsman tools, which makes it easy to navigate and buy. A particular example was a campaign showing DIYers how to convert a simple table to a felt poker table with a mini-fridge, kegerator, and soft arm rests. This was integrated through email and with links everywhere to hit their e-commerce site and convert.

Tip #3: Own Your Content, Because It Drives RESULTS

Owning your own content goes across the purchase funnel and, according to Ostrom, it also allows for syndication and monetization. Most importantly, owning content allows for flexibility, customization and drives results. Here are the numbers:

  • Email is still a key driver – Craftsman gets a CTR of 25%
  • 99x industry average banner ad CTR
  • 4.6x industry average in-stream video ad CTR
  • 24% lift on conversion for video product pages
  • 15% lift in open rates on targeted community open rates
  • 26% lift in visits by community members during non-deal periods
  • Videos are huge:
    • 53% more likely than text pages to appear on the first page of search results and 70% of all Google search results pages
    • Video email marketing increases CTR by 96%
    • Retail shoppers who watch video online spend 2 minutes longer on site and are 64% more likely to buy
    • Best in class companies use video marketing to achieve 2x online conversion rate versus other companies

So how is does this all apply to the furniture retail industry? First, relevance, reach and results driven content needs to be tailored to work in a unique and opportunistic way for furniture e-commerce. This is because furniture retail has a similar issue to brands like Craftsman and Kenmore – shoppers are purchasing in life stages that are years apart – so furniture retailers need to innovate with content to keep their brand top of mind. New ways to market include videos, lifestyle-based marketing and analytics. Consistently compelling content from furniture retailers in this ever changing online world can drive real results. We’re looking forward to the fun changes ahead for furniture and e-commerce.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

With Blueport Commerce, furniture retailers can build an integrated, branded e-commerce platform online, elevating their brands and creating an ultimate online superstore. Blueport Commerce is the e-commerce solution for the furniture industry. We serve the top furniture retail chains with billions in sales interested in selling furniture online. Blueport Commerce is a full-service solution that combines over a decade of experience, innovative technology and customized marketing services to meet the unique, localized needs of furniture retail chains. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

PetFlow.com: Making F-Commerce Real – Learnings from IRCE 2013 Part I

Friday, June 21, 2013 by

PetFlow.comCan my company really make money from Facebook? For one company, PetFlow.com, the answer is yes.

It must first be noted that Blueport Commerce was thrilled to attend the 2013 IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition), held at McCormick Place West in Chicago from June 5-6. With a focus on social, mobile and global changes that e-commerce players are bringing to the new retail economy, the sessions and show floor were packed with internet retailers. Boasting 9,600 conference attendees, 200+ e-commerce experts and with nearly 90% of the e-commerce solutions market attending IRCE, there was an abundance of e-commerce energy and knowledge to capture.

Standing out from the crowd this year at IRCE was Chief Executive Officer and founder of PetFlow.com, Alex Zhardanovsky. In part one of our two-part series, Blueport examines how a company specializing in pet food delivery took steps to conquer the seemingly impossible world of f-commerce – the practice of making money off of Facebook. Furniture retailers – take note – these worlds aren’t so different.

Origins and a Marketing Problem

Now ranked number one in social commerce by CBS MoneyWatch, PetFlow.com wasn’t founded until Alex Zhardanovsky, Manhattan native and owner of a dog who required a special pet food diet, was frustrated when his local pet food store was constantly out of stock. Zhardanovsky discovered that people only realize they need pet food when they’re out! Similar to furniture retailers and big-ticket appliance retailers – people only tend to purchase new furniture every few years – so how do you stay top of mind? In the $50 billion a year pet food industry, PetFlow needed to stand out – fast. Here are the steps PetFlow took to drive retail revenue through social media.

Step 1: Know Your Customer

Originally it cost PetFlow about $300-400 to acquire a customer via Facebook advertising – too much for a startup. So Zhardanovsky asked a simple but poignant question: who are my customers? Exit survey data showed PetFlow's customers were 85% female, all 35-40+ years old with high household incomes and were comfortable shopping online. With this data in hand, Zhardanovsky honed his strategy and now pays about $.35 per fan to get his target audience – women who meet the above criteria who also like Neiman Marcus, Amazon and Saks on Facebook – aka online shopping savvy. In just two months, PetFlow's Facebook page grew from 10,000 to 200,000 fans. A tip – analyze and merchandise your product according to your audience.

Step 2: Use Humor and Go Viral to Reap the Rewards of F-Commerce

PetFlow.com Facebook Sample Post

 

PetFlow's posts on Facebook are humorous and go viral – consisting mostly of photos of cute pets with “caption this” or memes (like the example above).

So why does humor work, and furthermore on Facebook over Google?

1. Advertising lives on longer on a Facebook news feed – even with posts that are old and if that Facebook user is not active.

2. Repurposing is easy – Google is one and done. Facebook allows companies to edit the post and redo the caption repeatedly.

3. Facebook stays top of mind – originally, no one knew who PetfFlow was. However if a user likes, shares, or comments via Facebook, it moves to the newsfeeds of people who may not know who they are. PetFlow also did a one-time Facebook page name change from “Pet Flow” to “PetFlow – Pet Food for Delivery” which grew traffic. Current PetFlow.com revenue is $28 million.

Can furniture retails use humor? We think so – babies and puppies look ever so cute on plush sofas, and people tend to share images they find humorous and relatable.

Step 3: Brand Ubiquity

A final touch? PetFlow employed physical retargeting, by putting a message on all delivery boxes and encouraging people to upload user generated content to PetFlow's Facebook page. Additionally, customers would email pictures of their cute pets in the delivery boxes – allowing the content to be re-used online. PetFlow staffs accordingly to do this – in fact, they post to Facebook 20 times a day on average and respond to every message or question on social media channels. Every opportunity to promote their brand counts.

Furniture retailers can take advantage of how PetFlow.com has taken f-commerce by storm through data-driven marketing, humor and linking physical retargeting with the digital. Now, get posting!

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

With Blueport Commerce, furniture retailers can build an integrated, branded e-commerce platform online, elevating their brands and creating an ultimate online superstore. Blueport Commerce is the e-commerce solution for the furniture industry. We serve the top furniture retail chains with billions in sales interested in selling furniture online. Blueport Commerce is a full-service solution that combines over a decade of experience, innovative technology and customized marketing services to meet the unique, localized needs of furniture retail chains. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Best Buy – Taking Steps Toward Reclaiming Their Name

Saturday, June 8, 2013 by

Best Buy has been much maligned in the press – considered to be an example of a stagnant and backwards-thinking retailer. Recently Moody’s changed their rating on Best Buy to be ‘negative’ from ‘developing’. As a big-ticket electronics and appliances retailer, Blueport has watched Best Buy, a former heavyweight contender in the big-ticket market, attempt to battle increased competition from online retailers and discount stores. We are seeing some smart signs of life from Best Buy as it lives up to its name and turns its focus to where furniture retailers are discovering real ROI: e-commerce.

What Best Buy Did Wrong

Quite simply, Best Buy didn’t invest in e-commerce technology. In the words of president and CEO Hubert Joly, “We’ve historically underinvested in the online channel.” Brick and mortar money-saving tactics employed by Best Buy at a store level were just not enough and have included closing stores, cutting costs and investing in training its employees. Despite these measures, domestic same-store sales were down 1.1% year-over-year; excluding the extra week in last year’s first quarter, same-store sales were flat. Because Best Buy includes online sales in the same-store calculation it means that physical stores open at least a year sold less in Q1 than the same period a year earlier, even after discounting the extra week.

What Best Buy Is Doing Right

As part of the “Renew Blue” effort for BestBuy.com, Best Buy turned its attention to the web and integrating the online with their stores. Blueport’s own furniture retailers, a vertical that was previously thought to have no ability to sell online, have found success by integrating their local physical stores with their online stores.

Online Improvements: Search, Mobile, and Services

Best Buy CEO Joly knows that SEO optimization initiatives are Best Buy’s top priority. 80% of Best Buy’s customers are researching product online before going to the store and using the first page of search results to aid in their decision of where to buy. For Best Buy, and in Blueport’s eyes, showrooming is starting online.

In Q2, Best Buy is going to improve its 10-year-old site search engine with one that will provide more personalized search results. Also on the docket? A “consistent customer experience across mobile, tablet, and PC devices including common navigation and product information.”  Another initiative will allow customers to add services from Geek Squad to a shopping cart online.

Blueport supports all of these initiatives, as it’s important that sites rank well in organic search so that people can find your website, and, additionally, that once they’re on the site they find the products they are looking for. Additionally, it’s crucial that the website renders consistently across all devices as mobile can often be the first place a customer goes to price compare.

Price Matching and Ship From Stores

What else is Best Buy doing? Price Matching and a soft roll out of ship from stores. Specifically:

  • Best Buy introduced last fall a policy of matching prices at major online and store rivals, including Amazon.
  • As a beta test, Best Buy will begin shipping web orders from 50 stores, similar to Wal-Mart’s policy. If the ROI is there, Best Buy will roll out the program nationally. Currently, Best Buy loses 2-4% of its orders because the site shows the item out of stock at the e-commerce distribution centers, although 80% of the time the product is available in a Best Buy store.  

Steps in the Right Direction

At the end of the day, only time will tell if Best Buy can live up to its name or succumb to savvy online competitors (RIP Circuit City). Blueport’s furniture retailers can learn a thing or two from the smart decisions Best Buy is making to help customers select them first for large purchases like electronics and appliances, which are not unlike how customers research furniture. With its “Renew Blue” tactics, optimizing the online e-commerce opportunities while integrating with the omnichannel, Best Buy still has a large undertaking in order to ensure the company’s success.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

With Blueport Commerce, furniture retailers can build an integrated, branded e-commerce platform online, elevating their brands and creating an ultimate online superstore. Blueport Commerce is the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes furniture retail online. We serve the top furniture retail chains with billions in sales interested in selling furniture online. Blueport Commerce is a full-service solution that combines a decade of experience, innovative technology and customized marketing services to meet the unique, localized needs of furniture retail chains. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Translating Hockey Success to E-Commerce: How Canadian Retailers Can Beat Their US E-Commerce Counterparts

Saturday, May 25, 2013 by

 

Canadian Furniture E-CommerceFor years, Blueport has been following the fledgling and humble beginnings of e-commerce in Canada, as well as the rise of the connected Canadian consumer, making Canada seemingly the ideal destination for an imminent e-commerce shopping explosion. Yet despite all this promise, Canadian consumers’ needs aren’t being met, and thus they are finding the products they need elsewhere: across the Canadian-US border. Currently, 68 percent of the online shoppers surveyed said they have shopped at a web store based outside Canada.

Principal Analyst Peter Sheldon of Forrester Research reports in The State of Canadian Online Retail –  2013 that one of the biggest factors hurting Canadian retailers is their seeming disconnect between physical and digital retail; the lack of a true omnichannel organization.

The report (funded in part by Canada Post and Shop.ca) is based on surveys with 1,103 Canadian online shoppers and concludes that U.S. retailers are in a strong position to steal online revenue from Canadian retailers. Part of this is that many Canadian retailers currently don’t embrace the two key drivers critical to the omnichannel: customer-centricity in all forms of fulfillment and payments.

1. Mastering Shipping, Pick Up and Returns the Canadian Way

It is a myth that Canadians require free shipping – consumers from Canada are actually more concerned with flexible pickup options than expedited shipping. Canada Post, in a model similar to Amazon Locker, allows consumers to pick up their orders in different nearby locations, such as local pharmacies or convenience stores. And 57 percent of consumers polled said they would be somewhat or very likely to abandon cart if a Canada Post nearby pickup option wasn’t available, with 48 percent saying the same about an online retailer’s physical location.

Canadian shoppers are also adamant about their need to both buy and reserve online and pickup in-stores. In fact, 47 percent of those surveyed are somewhat or very likely to abandon cart if they cannot buy online and pickup in store, and 40 percent said the same about reserving online and picking up and paying in store. Sites such as Best Buy® and Future Shop allow these options, and Future Shop even allows for pick up a mere twenty minutes after placing an order.

In the case of returns, 43 percent of Canadians demand free returns as a mandatory condition of shopping online. However this has been slow to catch on with Canadian retailers, and as a result, business is not booming, and Canadian dollars continue to get spent overseas – 25 percent of online spending by Canadians goes through international websites.

If US retailers in Canada and the Canadian Post can adjust to this customer-centric business model, Canadian retailers must adjust their shipping, pick up and returns policies to match.

2. Payments

In a positive trend, PayPal and Interac Online are getting adopted by more and more Canadian e-commerce retailers. However, retailers must remain flexible with regard to payment models, and offer more omnichannel payment methods. Of consumers polled, 52 percent were somewhat or very likely to abandon cart if they could not use a store gift card online, 41 percent felt the same about store credits and 37 percent felt similarly about loyalty points. The best thing Canadian retailers can do? Consider every payment option not enabled as lost revenue, and work to implement payment methods that work both online and in store.

Overall, The State of Canadian Online Retail - 2013, stresses the importance of all retailers offering an omnichannel experience – a seamless blend of physical and digital retail. However, progress is being made in the Canadian furniture world: many homegrown Canadian furniture retailers have the option to reserve online, as well as pay and pick up in a local store. Additionally, free shipping is offered once a furniture order reaches a certain minimum, though for big-ticket considered purchases, that minimum is harder to meet than for apparel. All are great starts – but for Canadian retailers to stand strong against foreign retailers, the focus needs to be on meeting their local consumers where they are – by being world-class, customer-centric organizations.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

With Blueport Commerce, furniture retailers can build an integrated, branded e-commerce platform online, elevating their brands and creating an ultimate online superstore. Blueport Commerce is the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes furniture retail online. We serve the top furniture retail chains with billions in sales interested in selling furniture online. Blueport Commerce is a full-service solution that combines a decade of experience, innovative technology and customized marketing services to meet the unique, localized needs of furniture retail chains. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Differences Revealed: How Men & Women Approach Furniture Shopping

Friday, April 5, 2013 by

Furniture Shopping E-CommerceIt’s no secret men and women approach many activities in life in varying ways, with an oft-joked-about hobby being shopping. But nowhere are the differences between men and women more pronounced than when it comes to the act of furniture shopping. Furniture retailers take note: how you set up a showroom and display your furniture online makes a huge difference depending on what target audience you’re trying to reach and how it’s going to impact your profit. So stayed tuned for the sequel to Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Furniture Retail Edition and read on.

Philosophy of Furniture Shopping

According to Social4Retail’s excellent infographic, 74% of women surveyed think about shopping all of the time. Not surprisingly, men prefer to think about beer (25%) and football (25%), while half (50%) think of the expense related to the furniture purchase. Consequently, men have the goal of moving through the purchase cycle as quickly as possible, seeing furniture shopping as a chore and wanting to spend their time on other activities. Of the men surveyed, most view furniture as just a single item and care most about comfort, value and durability. In contrast, women shoppers think of a piece of furniture as a part of the entire room, and value cohesiveness and design the most when selecting the perfect big-ticket item.

Crucial E-Commerce Mistakes to Avoid

For e-commerce, furniture retailers need to keep in mind mistakes that are common among both genders. Two overlapping points that are the most detrimental for both men and women shopping for furniture online are a retailer not having a secure website (54% of women, 49% of men) and forms that are complicated to fill out (47% of women, 41% of men). Furniture retailers that don’t allow customers to add to cart without signing up first receive negative feedback (38% of women, 36% of men). Provided furniture retailers solve for security and ease of use, both men and women will be satisfied.

Online Shopping Features to Embrace

The e-commerce features that are most important to women include customer reviews (57%), as well as detailed product information and clear images (54%). In contrast, men feel the most critical online e-commerce features are product recommendation suggestions (such as “customers also bought” at 48%) and speedy checkout (47%). These findings tie in with the earlier survey numbers which suggest women are most concerned with selecting a highly curated piece of furniture that fits into their home as a lifestyle enhancement, while men just want the shopping process to be as expeditious as possible, whether online or in brick and mortar stores.

So What Is an E-Commerce Furniture Retailer to Do?

In order to drive the most revenue online, furniture retailers should focus on easy wins such as detailed product information and clear images that speak to women and quick checkout for men. In terms of bigger implementations, site security is the biggest concern for both genders, along with ensuring that form fields aren’t tedious to fill out. With a carefully curated selection and a website that allows for quick and easy conversion, online furniture retailers can ensure they always win the battle of the sexes, as well as the battle for greater profit.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Pinterest: The Toddler Years

Friday, March 22, 2013 by

 

Pinterest for E-Commerce Furniture RetailersIt's been a little over a year since Pinterest burst onto the scene, so we at Blueport Commerce thought it a perfect time to check in and see if it's living up to all the initial hype, especially for our furniture retailers. It's certainly tapped into what is for many retailers a dream potential customer pool: women, aged 18-49, who are well-educated with higher incomes – ideal shoppers for furniture retailers. In short, Pinteresters are our buyers.

Pinterest Reaches Out to Businesses

Late last year, Pinterest created business accounts and now they’ve announced an analytics tool. This is a blessing for marketers and furniture retailers whose only option to login was through personal Facebook accounts. In addition, retailers can capture data on pinner, pins and repins, as well as referral traffic clicks and visits. Having even basic analytics is always a best practice when measuring Return on Investment (ROI) on a social media channel.

Offers More to Consumers

“Site experience” is a constant buzzword at Blueport and the same goes when optimizing social media for our clients. Pinterest is currently rolling out updates to its user interface, including increased speed browsing the site. Larger images and icons and discovery features such as “people who pinned this also pinned” images that appear upon zooming into an individual pin increase the site experience. We’re convinced this will only encourage people to spend even more time pinning and re-pinning, adding to the potential for retail conversion. 

A Year Later: Who’s Getting the ROI?

Consumers continue to embrace Pinterest: to vocalize their love for products, recipes and create wish lists. However, while many retailers have found success with increasing conversion on Pinterest, conversion for furniture retailers is still lacking. For items such as furniture, we’re seeing a lower ROI on Pinterest compared to other sharing methods such as Facebook, and email. We believe this is reflective of the type of purchase that is furniture: infrequent, where feedback from close friends and family is highly valued, and the consideration cycle is longer. According to a 2012 Google/Compete Retail Furniture Study, 36% of online furniture shoppers research furniture for over a month before pulling the trigger to purchase.

Using Pinterest is an easy way for people to be inspired by your furniture and accessories and be aware of current trends so you can focus on activities closer to the buy cycle. Pinning from your website should be simple for users to follow, with robust data attached to the pins. Encourage those wish lists, as you never know when they’ll bring someone closer to a big-ticket furniture conversion!

 

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Gamification: For E-Commerce, the Game Is On

Friday, March 15, 2013 by

E-Commerce GamificationAre you the type of person who gets driven insane by incomplete tasks? Did you have to hit 100 percent completeness on your LinkedIn profile? Or collect a retailer’s loyalty points to get rewards? If so, you’ve been gamified. Gamification is the concept of using game design elements in non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. By 2014, 70 percent of large companies will use the technique for at least one business process, per Gartner’s estimate. And e-commerce is no stranger to gamification – right now the trend is for online promotions to drive consumers to checkout, as well as steer people to social media and email sharing.

Gamification in Action: Checkout

Blueport Commerce has helped implement gamification elements for our furniture retail clients. Last year, Blueport set up an interactive Las Vegas style promo for a superstore client, which allowed users to roll dice online to receive a discount. This tied in to the in-store promotion where casinos were set up in the retailer’s selected brick and mortar locations and people were able to play roulette to get discounts.

Registered users received a link directly to the dice rolling widget via promotional email. For new users, they needed to register before they could roll the dice to get discounts. Each registered user could roll only once, and depending on their number, they would receive a $50, $100 or $200 coupon, valid on orders of $1,200 or more. Codes were then added to the registered user’s shopping cart automatically.

The Results

People found out about the game via website banners and email blasts to opted-in users. Our client banked 2,000 new registered users, and 5,000 people rolled the dice. In just over four days they experienced double digit increases in revenue during the event generated by people rolling the dice and purchasing with discounts.

Gamification is Afoot: Driving to Social & Email

Thanks to Bernie Madoff and their generally suspect nature, Ponzi schemes are generally not thought of in a positive light. However the concept of gamification worked wonders for a Blueport big-ticket e-commerce client who wanted to encourage email sharing. Blueport created a discount app, where a registered user of that retailer’s website received an email giving them a discount for a mattress. Depending on how many people the original recipient forwarded it to, that person could build up discount credits to the point where they were able to get a free mattress. The credits were only applied if the people who received the email signed up on the site. This concept has also been adapted to fit social sharing by other companies.

The principles of gamification state that humans are looking for rewards, loss aversion, status, competition and reputation, and feedback. Good gamification implementation demands that you give users motivation to do something (emotional investment, promise of reward, etc.), the ability to complete the action, and a trigger to complete the action. If e-commerce retailers can successfully create and implement gamification, the financial ROI can bring down the house.  

 

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Three Reasons Why Video Works for Big-Ticket Retail Online

Friday, March 1, 2013 by

E-Commerce Videos WebsitesFor those of us that remember some of the first Jane Fonda fitness videos, their impact still makes you want to “Work Out.” Combine videos with product cross-sell and many companies are increasing their conversions online through video. But, can selling big-ticket retail online really be optimized through video? Dust off your leg warmers and leotards and read on.

Below are three reasons why video can help increase conversion for big-ticket retail e-commerce.

1. Watching Video Is Like Sitting On the Couch in the Store

Zappos continues to innovate and now has videos on most product pages where people actually show and walk around in their shoes. Similarly, a major fitness retailer learned that customers wanted to see how their clothes fit moving around in a class and videos helped them provide that information and increase their sales. The same goes for big-ticket retail e-commerce. Customers who can’t make it to your brick and mortar store still want to see your merchandise in order to help them make a purchase. For example, when considering buying a couch, customers might want to see how much the cushion depresses when someone sits in it or the size of the couch relative to the people in the video for perspective.

Watching a video is like being in the store, but your customers don’t have to be there, or feel like they are being sold something. And, unlike TV, they can browse videos online, look at many products in the convenience of their own home and ultimately convert. 

2. Customers Can Find You More Easily Online

In addition to providing your customers with visual value, video can help new customers find you more easily. Video attracts search traffic organically. According to Marketing Profs, simply adding video helps raise a company’s SEO profile, regardless of whether Google, YouTube and others change their algorithms. 

The more opportunities you provide to help your customers find your product online, the more traffic you’ll have to your site, which can only help increase conversion. This is especially true in the world of big-ticket furniture. The web is cluttered with offerings and you want to make sure your brand stands out.

3. Video Personalizes Your Brand

As indicated by the other two reasons above, the more you can do online, the better! That is never more true than video. Adding video to your already existing initiatives will help drive conversion and you’ll be able to develop video for multiple uses. In a case study of sharpmen.com through Internet Retailer, videos range from story-like videos to product features and benefits. The company’s conversion rate is 3.75%, greater than the 2.99% on average from North America’s Internet Retailer Top 500 and Second 500 guides. 

Whether or not you have big-ticket furniture items to sell online, or appliances and electronics, video can help make an impact on converting your customers online. Now, get out there and “Work Out” your e-commerce muscles!

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Border Gateway Protocol: What It Is and What It Means for E-Commerce

Friday, February 22, 2013 by

E-Commerce Website TrafficWhat Is BGP?
Ever wonder how traffic flow on the internet is routed so efficiently? Blueport Commerce is proud to announce that as of March 2013 we will be live with Border Gateway Protocol. BGP is a protocol that makes core routing decisions on the internet. With a table of IP networks, or "prefixes", which designate network reach-ability among autonomous systems (AS), BGP essentially regulates traffic flow on the internet based on real-time information. This makes it similar to a GPS in a car which will route the driver to the roads with the least traffic. For businesses, the benefit is that they can now optimize bandwidth and maximize redundancy – it leverages the full power of BGP while keeping a company like Blueport vendor-agnostic. For big-ticket e-commerce retailers like Blueport’s clients, it ensures that their website traffic is routed most effectively so that customers can browse and buy from anywhere, on any device, at any time.

What Is “Peering”?
As a protocol, BGP is similar to how http in URLs is a protocol, where the http tells your browser where to point to load a certain website. It defines the best syntaxes to navigate. BGP allows for “peering” – or letting a company like Blueport Commerce partner with an ISP such as Cogent or Lightower. Blueport gives out our AS numbers and the IPs we own to our peering partners, which tells customers how to reach us. In return, our peering partners Cogent and Lightower tell us their data and the IPs accessing us from each way. Other peering partners can be added at any time, maximizing the efficiency of internet traffic on our clients’ e-commerce websites.

What Are the Benefits of BGP?
The benefits of moving to Border Gateway Protocol are redundancy and staying ahead of the curve. With BGP, Blueport is connecting our clients to the internet in the most efficient way possible. Think of it as having two cell phones in case one loses battery power or is misplaced. Or the equivalent of having regular electricity in your home, but also a generator in case a downed tree crashes a power line near your house. You’ll stay connected, even if disaster strikes. For big-ticket e-commerce retailers, it ensures that their customers are always able to reach their website, even during high-traffic periods such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

What’s the Current Process?
ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, gives out IP addresses (which can be thought of as “internet zip codes”), as well as AS numbers. In order to become live with BGP, Blueport submitted the paperwork necessary to get our AS number and public IPs. This allows us to partner with ISPs such as Cogent, Lightower, RCN, AT&T and Comcast.

The older system of IP addresses used by most companies now is called IPV4. These are traditional IP addresses (such as 10.3.45.34). The new form is IPV6, which consists of 4 letters and number combinations and colons (such as A4B4:A3B3:A2B2:A1B1). Blueport is currently migrating from IPV4 to IPV6 and the process should be completed by the end of Q3.

What Are Other Forward-Thinking Companies Doing?
Forward-thinking companies like Akamai, GoDaddy, Facebook and Google have started supporting both IPV4 and IPV6 IP addresses. This allows them to stay ahead of the curve – the reason for the distribution of IPV6’s is that eventually IPV4’s will run out. By taking this step, Blueport Commerce is proving we are ready now for the eventual transition from IPV4 to IPV6.

At the end of the day, the success of an e-commerce website is rooted in the idea of 24x7 availability. By moving to Border Gateway Protocol, Blueport ensures that all of our clients and their customers will be able to transact from any location, at any time, in the most optimal way possible.

 

Selling Furniture Online E-Commerce

7 Things Blueport Learned at the MITX: What’s Next E-Commerce Summit

Friday, February 8, 2013 by

MITX E-Commerce SummitRecently, eight members of the Blueport Commerce team attended the MITX: What’s Next E-Commerce Summit (Twitter hashtag #MITXECS) to learn about the latest trends and technology in Boston-based e-commerce. Below are seven highlights we took away from this high-energy, informative and inspiring e-commerce experience.

  1. Biggest Recurring Theme: Big Data
    The phrase of the day was definitely “big data”. This was a key focus of Wayfair’s panel to kick off the event. Ben Clark, Director of Software Engineering at Wayfair, spoke to the need to structure the data post-capture and being able to create a tailored experience via tactics like clickstream tracking. By creating a record of how people interact with an e-commerce website, such as their products and interests, retailers can create a truly customized experience that is better than any canned solution. We appreciated the focus on consumer behavior pre- and post-purchase and optimized your e-commerce site for maximum revenue generation.
     
  2. Most Fascinating Technology Application: Mobile App Segmentation
    One of Blueport’s favorite quotes of the day came from SapientNitro’s Mark Berinato, Associate Creative Director, Experience Design, who said “Your customers aren’t monolithic,” referring to the need for retailers to meet their customers where they are. During the “Building the Next Wave of Great Mobile User Experiences” breakout session, various mobile experts discussed the need to create different levels of apps for different fan bases. For example, designing a full mobile app with each device getting its own platform works for a client like NASCAR, who has some of the most passionate fans on the planet. In contrast, for the casual Indianapolis 500 fan, NASCAR also commissioned a hybrid mobile app which used a combination of an app plus HTML to engaged mobile users who didn’t require the full functionality of a full mobile app. At the end of the session, the panel concluded that designing a mobile app was all about “choreographing the customer journey,” a phrase we at Blueport really loved as it speaks to the heart of the true customer e-commerce experience, not just purchase.
     
  3. Best Example of Customization in E-Commerce: Boston Fashion
    One of the most “tailored” presentations was “Boston Fashion Gets Personal with Gemvara, Blank Label, CustomMade, Bow & Drape”. All four companies cater to a more affluent and unique type of customer that wants the highest level of personalization possible in jewelry, furniture, and fashion (men’s and women’s), respectively. Blueport Commerce really enjoyed this panel for its focus on extreme personalization, loyalty tactics and high-end service. For example, Bow & Drape has photorealistic technology which allows a woman shopping for a custom-made dress to virtually “try on” the clothes on a body that mimics her measurements. Bow & Drape also has an at-home-try-on program, where muslins in up to three different sizes will be sent to potential customers, complete with seamstresses’ marks, in order to ensure the best fit possible. These “fit kits” lead to a whopping 60% conversion rate. Also impressive was Bow & Drape’s surprise post-purchase gifts to their loyal customers. We at Blueport Commerce loved the concept of learning to emotionally connect with highly selective consumers pre-purchase to establish trust, something essential for selling big-ticket items such as furniture online.
     
  4. Most Interesting Presentation: Karmaloop
    A crowd-favorite presentation was the always-entertaining Greg Selkoe, the founder of Karmaloop, a Boston-based streetwear company. In this fireside chat, Greg touched on multiple topics including the fact he hires passionate people who wear his products as his customer service representatives, knowing that it adds credibility to have people that truly care about the brand representing it. Greg also says he doesn't hire experts anymore regarding his site content because they don't know his audience the way his team does. Greg also spoke passionately against rigid Boston laws that he feels prevent Boston start-ups and businesses from thriving, and encouraged people to check out his project, Future Boston Alliance, which advocates for collective action to improve Boston laws and businesses. 
     
  5. Best Vendor Station: STaples
    Thanks to their adorable mini-cupcakes and enormous pastry spread, Staples absolutely killed it in the vendor display department. And who doesn’t love a little conference carbo-loading? Oh, and their panel in the morning on creating an omnichannel experience was delicious as well, touching upon the need for automated metrics around page speed and page performance before even thinking of rolling out new capabilities.
     
  6. Most Controversial Statement: Omnichannel
    Speaking of omnichannel, the most controversial statement of the day belonged to Steve Davis, President of Rue La La, who boldly stated his disdain for the phrase “omnichannel”, insisting that it’s overrated and what really matters is the customer experience. Steve also views traditional customer service as reactionary, while by contrast, a great concierge anticipates your needs. Rue La La is extremely focused on NPS (Net Promoter Score) as a mission-critical metric and feels strongly that customer loyalty must be earned. While we at Blueport don’t necessarily agree the need to be omnichannel is overrated, Rue La La is a great example of a truly customer-centric company that prides itself on and strives for great customer service.
     
  7. Most Engaged Tweeters
    No surprise, but MITX was full of very active social media enthusiasts. Some of our favorite tweets came from the following companies, speakers and audience members:
    @MITX
    @Selkoe
    @drkleiman
    @trishofthetrade
    @bowanddrape
    @karmaloop
    @UsefulArts
    @ScottKirsner
    @sapientnitro
    @compete
    @aubriepagano
    @gemvara
    @blanklabel
    @custommade
    @SteveHaase

Overall, the #MITXECS was a very informative, fun and engaging day that made Blueport Commerce proud to be a part of the fabric of the Boston e-commerce scene. Our hope is that big-ticket retail is an even bigger focus at the next e-commerce event.

Want to read more? Read the MITX Event Recap: Top Tweets from the 2013 "What's Next" e-Commerce Summit (#MITXECS) and listen to Greg Selkoe’s Fireside Chat on Boston.com [may require Boston.com registration].

Selling Furniture Online E-Commerce

 

Seizing the Opportunity to Offer Big-Ticket Retail Through Mobile Apps

Thursday, January 31, 2013 by

E-Commerce Big-Ticket Retail Mobile AppsWhen was the last time you looked at your smartphone? We can wager a guess that it was not more than a few minutes ago. In our increasingly digital world, more than ever a big-ticket retailer can take advantage of mobile apps as an avenue for your shoppers to view and buy merchandise.  

Mobile Apps to Influence Shoppers Pre-Store

Shoppers are relying on their mobile devices to discover more about a brand before they even consider stepping into a store. According to eMarketer’s report on two studies, Apigee/Harris Interactive and Adobe, one in five shoppers is using a mobile app to become familiar with a brand on their smartphone or tablet. Conversely, one in five respondents said not having a mobile app could make a retailer appear old-fashioned. For a big-ticket retailer staying ahead of the curve, allowing shoppers to view and purchase big-ticket items and promoting your brand through your mobile app can provide an additional avenue to help enhance a brand's in-store experience and can help increase sales.

Mobile Apps to Drive In-Store Visits and Engagement

Smartphone usage is tied to the shopping experience and influences the decision for a shopper to visit a store. A mobile app can allow shoppers to review your selection, share offers and allow them to find your store easily, even before making a purchase. More specifically:

  • 67% of shoppers value money saving offers
  • 60% want to locate brick and mortar stores through the app
  • 58% want to be able to purchase on the app itself

Having a well-organized and easy to search app, which includes store locations and a quality image catalogue, can allow shoppers to find what they need and get them to your store quicker.

Marketing of Mobile Apps as an Influencer in Purchasing Decisions

Lastly, having a mobile app creates another avenue for you to market your brand and display your merchandise. While an app store and friends significantly impact purchasing decisions, purchasing decisions are also heavily influenced by emails, online ads and Facebook, in that order. By using these marketing tactics to drive shoppers to a mobile app that they can use, they become more aware of the brand and the merchandise you are trying to sell, which has the potential to drive more omnichannel sales both online and in store.

Given the opportunity to create a mobile app to strengthen a shopper's connection to the brand, drive in-store visits and engagement, and help market your brand and merchandise, a mobile app can be a key component for a big-ticket retailer to increase sales not only in the mobile world but in the live world as well. Happy mobile shopping!

Selling Furniture Online E-Commerce