Not right now.

Role Reversal: Why Pure-Play Retailers are turning to Brick and Mortar to Engage Consumers

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 by

Piperlime, Birchbox, Warby Parker…What do all these pure-play retailers have in common? They are investing in brick-and-mortar stores.

Not too long ago, showrooming, the act of browsing in-store before purchasing online, was seen as a retailer’s worst nightmare. So much so that one brick-and-mortar retailer tried to charge customers for looking without the intent of making a purchase. But now online-only retailers are realizing the advantages of having a store presence. Blueport breaks down how brick-and-mortar stores have evolved to suit e-commerce and tips on how furniture retailers can stay ahead. 

Pure-Play Retailers Hop on the Brick-And-Mortar Bandwagon

Birchbox is the latest pure-play retailer to hop on the brick-and-mortar bandwagon. But instead of just adding another outlet to sell products, they are utilizing their store to engage shoppers and build a lasting relationship with them. The store will also utilize technology to create an engaging and memorable experience, such as allowing shoppers to look up product descriptions and reviews on iPads.    

So why are some retailers turning back to brick-and-mortar stores? Recent studies show an increase in webrooming, or the act of browsing online before purchasing in-store:

  • 78% of US shoppers engage in webrooming, compared with 72% who admitted to showrooming
  • Consumers increasingly expect consistency online and in-store when it comes to products available (51%), pricing (69%) as well as deals and special offers (57%)
  • 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online

Whatever path shoppers take to make a purchase, it is clear that a combination of online and in-store shopping increases consideration and most likely conversion.

Omnichannel is Not Just About Stores and E-Commerce

While having a brick-and-mortar presence and an e-commerce website is a start, it doesn’t mean your business is omnichannel. Here are a few tips to help you get on the omnichannel track:

  1. Treat your stores as fulfillment centers. Location is key to speedy delivery and likely your stores are located in densely populated areas. Make your stores work harder for you by housing enough inventory in-store to make faster deliveries to your shoppers whether they purchase in-store or online. Allow the option of in-store pick-up and cross-store shipment and you’re golden.
  2. Give your shopper the ultimate in-store experience through customer service. Having a positive experience in-store will make shoppers more likely to visit you again on their digital devices, even after they shop around or don’t make a purchase with you right away.
  3. Sync up your delivery times, pricing and promotions everywhere. Shoppers have come to expect consistency in their desktop, tablet, mobile and in-store experiences. Make it easy for them to shop anywhere, on any device – the ability to do this is the true linchpin of what it means to be omnichannel.

In furniture, we know that stores still matter – they will never be replaced by technology and UPS because shoppers still like the store experience and to touch and feel before they buy. However, they also demand the convenience of shopping anywhere at any time. This is precisely why furniture incumbents are fortunate to have the infrastructure in place to enable a modern and engaging furniture shopping experience. By embracing both showrooming and webrooming, you’ll be well on your way to being at the forefront of furniture commerce.


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.

Furniture Trend Report: Early Spring 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 by

Here at Blueport, we’re constantly scanning the web and the marketplace to keep you informed of the latest in industry news and omnichannel strategy. This week, we’d like to share three recent trends in furniture we think every furniture retailer should be aware of and suggestions for how to use them to your advantage. Hint: It’s all about color, utility and store inventory.

#3 First Thing’s First – Color Preferences Change With The Seasons. Spring is finally here, and consumers are looking for ways to incorporate color into their homes to welcome in the season. Be a color-conscious furniture retailer by staying ahead of seasonal trends and planning marketing campaigns accordingly. Furniture.com, for example, uses Pantone’s Spring 2014 color palette to showcase timely trends and guide shoppers to recommended products. Keep an eye on color trends for the future, too. Pantone has already announced the 2015 Color Trends for Home Furnishing and Interior Design, highlighting nine palettes, each reflecting a unique color story. It’s never too early to start planning ahead!

    

#2 Furniture That Caters To A (Growing) Urban Lifestyle. Ikea recently launched a special collection catering to the needs of today’s growing urban population. Inspired by insights from their global study, for the first time ever, more people are living in cities than in rural areas. Furthermore, temporary living is on the rise with 60% of 18-29 year olds in America’s cities expecting to move within the next two years. The “On the Move” collection features 51 pieces that help make smaller living spaces more functional, and mobile. Take for example, the corner easy chair which doubles as cozy seating and room divider. 

    

#1 Furniture Stores Are Sitting On Inventory Longer. Perhaps the most important of recent industry trends to be aware of is one we don’t recommend you follow. According to Sageworks, private furniture stores have seen an increase in the average number of inventory days in recent years. In an industry where sales are heavily influenced by trends and seasonality (like the ones highlighted above), managing inventory wisely is key. Having cash tied up in outdated or undesirable inventory can prevent retailers from placing orders for more current product, and, potentially, result in profit loss when inventory needs to be cleared by markdowns. As you look to stay on trend for seasons to come, keep in mind how to strike the right balance between inventory and meeting consumer demand.

Coming out of what has been (for many of us) one of the longest and harshest winters, shoppers are looking to liven their homes with color, find multi-purpose solutions in furniture and buy from the retailers that stock the inventory that suits their style vision. Which of these trends will you incorporate into your retail strategy? No matter what, if there is one trend to be certain about, it’s to make sure your inventory is current to suit your shopper’s style and price preferences. Conduct proprietary research, subscribe to leading industry content or simply listen in on how shoppers want to buy from you in-store, online and through mobile. And while you’re at it, have some fun choosing color trends and selecting inventory to suit your urban shoppers. 


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.

Blueport Picks Three Highlights From eTail West 2014: Conversion, Customers and Content

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by

Each year, eTail West brings together senior-level e-commerce and marketing professionals from various industries (apparel, consumer electronics, home furnishings and office products to name a few) to network, share best practices and showcase leading technologies. This year, eTail West focused on the overall theme of multi-channel/omnichannel and what it means for retailers. Couldn’t attend this year's conference in San Antonio? No problem. Blueport highlights our top three important takeaways for furniture retailers: conversion, customers, and content. Read on to learn more.

Highlight #3: Mobile And Email Can Live In Conversion Harmony

When it comes to offering an omnichannel strategy, email conversion on mobile devices proves to be a whole different animal. Consider how today’s consumers are constantly checking, scanning, and (maybe) reading a barrage of emails on their mobile. What will actually get them to click and ultimately buy? During the Email Summit of eTail West, Alaa Hassan, VP of iNetVideo, shared these tips on how to improve your email marketing to increase mobile conversion:

  • Analytics: Target your emails based on data surrounding customer behavior
  • Design: Your website must be mobile responsive, engaging and simple
  • Content: Test and repeat subject lines as much as possible and combine promotional with value-added content
  • Email lists: Your conversion rates can only be as good as the quality of email lists you use
  • Landing pages: Any landing page you drive to, even in email, must also be responsive to mobile

Our takeaway?

Shopping for furniture on a mobile device requires an even more superior experience to encourage conversion for product that is often larger, more expensive and requires more consideration than the average online purchase. This is exactly why Hassan’s tips are especially important for furniture retailers to note. Additionally, Blueport recommends linking to or offering free downloads of interactive apps within emails to encourage further mobile engagement and conversion. See how Blueport’s furniture e-commerce site, Furniture.com, makes use of an augmented reality app allowing shoppers to “view” how furniture will look in their home through a mobile device. Try out augmented reality through our Furniture.com app available on iTunes and Google Play.

Highlight #2: Serving Customers Everywhere Is The Key To Creating A Raving Fan Base

Kicking off day one of eTail West, keynote speaker Brad Wolanksy, CMO of the Yankee Candle Company, shared “16 keys to creating ‘raving’ and long-lasting fans”. Here are our favorites:

  • Raise the bar on customer service reps: Always hire someone better than the person they replaced
  • Paralysis by analysis: There are too many data points for you to be analyzing all of them. Identify the ones that are the most important to monitor.
  • Everyone has a role in customer service: Challenge the entire company to think like a consumer
  • Invest in the right tools: Like live chat or social monitoring

Notice a trend?  Serving customers is key to creating raving (profitable!) fans.

Our takeaway? 

For furniture retailers, every touch point matters – you never know when a customer might need another sofa or refer you to a friend. Making sure high-quality service is consistent and maintained over time, anywhere your customers are (whether in store, online, or on the phone) is critical. This goes for all activities among your store associates to your website to your social channels.

Highlight #1: No One Will Read Your Content If It Sucks

No business wants to hear what they are doing wrong but according to speaker Jonathon Colman, Content Strategist at Facebook, there are six main things every business should know when it comes to dealing with content. The pitfalls:

  1. Seeing content as just another commodity instead of a business asset
  2. Publishing as much content as possible versus valuable content your customer’s want
  3. Not scheduling or editing content before it is published instead of planning when, where and how it’s going to be published throughout the year
  4. Releasing content that is useless and inconsistent versus focusing on content that is clear and complete
  5. Designing with placeholder copy first, instead of designing with the real content in mind
  6. Allowing your platforms to define how content works versus content shaping your platform

Our takeaway?

For furniture retailers, the omnichannel opportunity can be further propelled by content. Content and promotion strategies that previously worked well in stores may not translate directly to an omnichannel strategy that incorporates the intricacies of online and mobile. Listening to what your customers want to hear and make content part of your overall business strategy.

Overall, we can’t help but be excited by the omnichannel trends occurring across the retail industry, and look forward to more widespread adoption of strategies and solutions that enable mobile conversion, consumer-centric service, and effective content. In the meantime, we’ll be working closely with our own furniture retail clients to help them take advantage of the $78 billion omnichannel opportunity in the marketplace.

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.

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.

Marketing For Omni-Channel

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by

Many retailers often dream about an If you build it, he [or she] will come situation. Alas, we don’t live in the movies and marketers have the ultimate challenge of making the registers ring with happy shoppers. Shoppers demand an increasingly omni-channel experience and as we’ve written before, they are more likely to spend compared to those shopping through one channel. Blueport Commerce takes a look at what marketers can do to take advantage of the omni-channel experience to lure in new customers.

Use Data To Your Advantage

Start with data to help guide you. Shop.org shares tips in its latest Think Tank article on how to blend online and in-store analysis of traffic, email, and PPC to help enhance your omni-channel strategy. They focus on algorithm testing by region, understanding email’s impact on stores and paid search.

Bridge The Gap Between Mobile, In-Store And Online

Once you hone in on an approach, bridge the gap between online, in-store and mobile through customer engagement tactics like these:

  • Manage and improve communication from email all the way through to customer care
  • Ensure these communications are consistent – that promotions, inventory, and availability are consistent no matter where customers are shopping
  • Make customer’s data available to them everywhere, so the shopping experience in-store, at home and through mobile is truly seamless
  • Retain them! According to Aberdeen, the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared with 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.

Omni-Channel’s Impact On Marketing Furniture

Stores are an important component of shopping for furniture, which makes omni-channel marketing even more important in this category. As such, furniture retailers need to meet their consumers at every touch point to make a sizeable impact on the market.

In the absence of brick-and-mortar stores, retailer’s need not fret. Innovative technologies, such as augmented reality, help retailers bring the in-store experience home by allowing customers to view 3D models of furniture through mobile.

Where to start? Use these tips to think about a foundation and begin to understand how customers are shopping with data. Then, bridge the gap across every possible marketing and customer touch point for the greatest impact.


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.

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 Every Furniture Retailer Should Know About Their Consumer This Year

Saturday, October 26, 2013 by

As Blueport Commerce gears up for the peak season ahead, we look to consumer trends of the year prior to help us define our upcoming sales strategy. FurnitureToday’s 2013 Consumer Buying Trends gives us the top furniture categories consumers bought in 2012 and are planning to buy in the coming months to help us tailor product selection, promotions and pricing accordingly. 

Master Bedrooms Are King
 
In 2012 consumers spent a combined $8.8 billion on master bedroom furniture, with 4.8% of households planning to buy in 2013. 30% of Millennial consumers (adults between ages 18 and 32) bought master bedroom furniture in 2012 and 26% plan to buy in 2013, more than any other demographic. Median spending on master bedroom furniture in 2012 ranged from around $500 to $550 in all geographic regions except for the Midwest, where consumers spent a median of $999.

  
 
Casual Dining Is Popular Among Millennials And Younger Baby Boomers
 
Consumers spent $4.3 billion on casual dining furniture in 2012. Millennials and Younger Boomers (ages 49-57) spent the most in this category. 28% of Millennials bought casual dining furniture in 2012 and 16% plan to buy in 2013, while younger Baby Boomers plan to buy at rates 1.3 times higher than their population presence in 2013. 
 
                        

Entertainment Centers Are Up

Consumers spent $5.5 billion on entertainment centers in 2012, and overall, 48% of households plan to buy them in 2013, up from 4.5% in 2012. Not surprisingly, Millennials bubble to the top again, planning to spend at a rate of 1.5 times higher on entertainment centers than their population presence. 

                        

What Can Furniture Retailers Do Now To Take Advantage Of Opportunities Peak Presents?
 
Furniture retailers are gearing up for their highest sale season over the next four months, which is expected to account for anywhere from 20-40 percent of annual sales. Here are some tips furniture retailers can follow from these findings from FurnitureToday: 
  1. Understand your consumers. These consumer buying trends show a shift in buying power to younger generations. Make sure your products are suited to a younger customer base.
     
  2. Price to sell. Pay attention to the data around you; median furniture prices in your region can inform what your customers are willing to pay for your furniture. Consider what else you can offer in turn to your customers to encourage sales, such as free shipping. 
     
  3. Promote products that people want to buy. If your consumers purchase more casual dining over formal dining sets, your promotions should follow suit to maximize selling potential. Be sure not to completely overhaul your promotional strategy without testing promotions first.
     
  4. Make it convenient for your customers to buy. If you’re not selling your furniture online, you’re behind. Consumer behavior demands a showroom experience with online shopping convenience.

Understanding your customers is the first step to preparing for peak. Use data available wisely and you will be singing a happy tune for your furniture business following a successful peak season. 

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.

 

Preparing For Peak? Lessons From Forrester’s The State of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing and Merchandising

Saturday, September 21, 2013 by

Blueport E-Commerce Forrester Report Retail

Though it’s been almost a year since my tenure at Forrester, I am in no shortage of excitement upon release of each new e-commerce publication.  And recently, Forrester released one of my favorite reports of the year - its State of Online Retailing 2013: Marketing and Merchandising report.  We found the report useful in helping to identify strategies for the year ahead, but Forrester’s findings are not just relevant to annual planning, but also help us stay focused on the top priorities for the upcoming furniture Peak season (November through January).  Blueport discusses these findings and suggestions for furniture retailers.

Stay Focused On Top Marketing Revenue Drivers  

Paid search and email rank (#1, and #2, respectively) as the highest marketing drivers in 2013, in contrast to natural search in previous years. In fact, natural search now ranks #5 on marketing investment growth for retailers. Given Google’s search algorithm changes, natural search has proved to be no longer as cost effective for web marketers.

Our suggestions:

  • Review your paid search strategy and determine if you’re investing enough to drive more incremental traffic to your site. If you don’t have a paid search strategy, get one.  Natural search no longer stands up to Google’s algorithm.
  • Research Google’s Product Listing Ads platform.  While Google PLA has had initial success with major experienced web retailers (Google PLA commands an average of 6% of marketing budgets), its long-term success remains yet to be seen.   
  • Increase email optimization through segmentation and personalization. 

Invest In Traditional Interactive Marketing Tactics For Mobile

Mobile is giving retailers a reason to increase stock in email, and rightfully so.  Mobile traffic has doubled since 2012, and mobile email accounts for 40% of open rates.  Retailers should continue to invest in mobile through email and search, but should stay away from more risky tactics such as mobile specific promotions, QR/bar codes, and location-based advertising. 

Our suggestions:

  • Create a mobile strategy, but don’t buy into the hype.  Given the increase in mobile spend, ensure your email efforts are optimized for all channels, especially mobile. And, make sure your website is optimized for mobile to begin with, because chances are your customers are already going to your website at home and through their smartphones and tablets, even if you aren’t yet selling your furniture online. 
  • It goes without saying that the mobile space is ever-changing, so keep tabs on this space in order to ensure you continue to stay relevant to your customers.

Take Advantage Of Cross-Channel Marketing To Drive Customers To Their Channel Of Preference  

Not surprisingly, most omnichannel retailers will only be upping the ante when it comes to spend on omnichannel priorities. But, what does that mean for those of us that are just entering the web retail world, and how can we leverage this for Peak and beyond? 

Our suggestions:

  • Control the message.  Omnichannel is just another extension of how retailers want to engage with a brand.  Make omnichannel come to life with segmentation of and personalization for customers. Additionally, many retailers are optimizing campaigns by device.  The shopper who prefers Pinterest may be interested in a different offer than the shopper who relies on email. 
  • Create consistency across all channels.  As customers touch different channels, it’s important to create a consistent experience across all online and offline channels. The shopper who came into your store yesterday, may be the shopper who converts online tomorrow. 
  • Test new ways of merchandising.  Traditional catalog merchandising is still a relevant reality for many retailers, but optimizing product presentation can only enhance customer engagement. 

As we look forward to Peak season for furniture, Forrester’s The State of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing and Merchandising provides us with valuable insights, now and in the year to come.
I myself can’t wait for the next report.

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.

Store Operations Get a Digital Facelift: Survey Results from Retail TouchPoints and Sprint

Saturday, September 14, 2013 by

Think stores are a thing of the past? Think again, because stores are just getting digitally smarter. According to the Retail TouchPoints / Sprint 2013 Store Operations Survey, some retailers are embracing technology to suit shopper demand.

Blueport examines data on how budgets and pricing are impacted by technology, the role mobile plays around in-store operations and how other technologies, such as in-store Wi-Fi, inventory and payment options are positively affected by the increase of all things digital. We’ll also share three tips for how furniture retailers can stay ahead of the digital game.

It’s All About The Money
Retail TouchPoints found that 67.6 percent of retailers are increasing their store operations, and 56.9 percent are increasing their investment in mobile technology. What does this mean exactly? Retailers who value the in-store experience are using technology to drive sales and enhance the shopping experience.

Pricing consistency plays a factor by the simple facts that shoppers can easily price-compare products in store, online and on their smartphone. And 46.1 percent of retailers surveyed say that they are offering consistent pricing across all channels, which helps them take advantage of the showrooming experience.

Furniture Retail Tip 1: Take a close look at your numbers to determine where you can allocate mobile or other technology in your stores, and further integrate your offerings both online and offline. This helps offer convenience for your shoppers while giving them time to go to your store.


Mobile Is So Hot Right Now
Mobile has clear advantages to retailers who adopt it. Specifically:

  • Retailers are increasingly arming store associates with mobile devices (44.1%)
  • 56% of these employees are using corporate smartphones and 50% are using corporate tablets
  • Product availability (71%) and product information (66.1%) are the most-used functions by store employees on in-store mobile devices
  • mPOS is not yet fully adopted, but those that do are seeing results. Only 33.3% of respondents have it today, but Moosejaw saw 72% of its transactions being completed on mobile devices

Furniture Retail Tip 2: Take control of showrooming by enabling your store associates with smartphones and tablets. While shoppers may not only browse your store, making it easier for them to shop with the use of technology is a sure way for them to remember your positive shopping experience.

Digital Lends A Helping Hand
Other digital technologies, such as in-store Wi-Fi, channel integration and location-agnostic store credit are three other areas where retailers can use technology to their advantage.

  1. Wi-Fi: 37.3% of retailers have implemented Wi-Fi for their shoppers. A survey by JiWire cautioned that 79.5% of shoppers said that the availability of in-store Wi-Fi determines where they shop – either definitely or somewhat.
  2. In-Store/Online Integration: Most retailers (67.8%) are offering some kind of buy in-store / return to another, and buy online / pick-up in-store (41.2%). Kmart has started to make inroads with its reserve online, pay and pick up in-store option.
  3. Location-Agnostic Store Credit. 33.3% give the store credit for online sales picked up in-store.  

Did you know? Blueport offers the option for shoppers to sync their items into their cart and purchase from anywhere (online, mobile, in-store).

Furniture Retail Tip 3: Examine what additional digital tools will suit your business best; look for ways to implement Wi-Fi; Determine the role mobile plays in payments, returns and credits in the future.

For most furniture retailers, the showroom is an integral part of doing business. Improving store operations and sales by taking advantage of the digital opportunities available is critically important for business success going forward. We couldn’t be more excited about what’s ahead!

 

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.

Data Analytics: Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital World

Saturday, August 10, 2013 by

 

News from MITX: How Care.com and Constant Contact Are Making It Work with Analytics

 

Last week, Blueport Commerce attended the MITX Summit The Science of Marketing: Using Data & Analytics for Winning. While there, we received some great insight on how to manage our data and analytics better. Here are some of the issues and solutions shared in a session by speakers from Care.com and Constant Contact, many of which are applicable to what furniture retailers can do to tackle analytics.

 

Challenges with Implementing Analytics

In the session Leveraging Data and Analytics for Your Marketing Strategy, Dave Krupinski, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer from Care.com and Jesse Harriott, Ph.D., Chief Analytics Officer of Constant Contact and author of Win with Advanced Business Analytics, discussed the opportunities companies have with analytics and the challenges they face. Krupinski reported from Gartner that 70-80% of business intelligence projects are not successful. He believes that these challenges are organizational, specifically around:

  1. Weak executive sponsorship
  2. Failure to align analytics priorities with corporate priorities
  3. Analysts need to balance a combination of science and business – the best are those with consulting backgrounds
  4. Weak alignment from the technology support function
  5. Lack of formal data governance
  6. Weak alignment with existing analytical resources

Six challenges can seem like a mountain of issues to overcome before an analytics function can run like a well-oiled machine. However, to ignore them doesn’t achieve the full potential that insight and wisdom around analytics can bring.

Five Stages of Analytical Companies

In addition to recognizing and overcoming the above challenges, companies need to identify and understand where they sit among the following five analytical growth stages:

  1. Analytically Impaired
  2. Localized Analytics
  3. Analytical Aspirations – centralized analytic support
  4. Analytical Company – executive sponsorship
  5. Analytical Competitor – where everything is clockwork, you have full alignment and are using analytics to drive real value for the business

Krupinksi self-admittedly noted that Care.com was only in stage three, “Analytical Aspirations” and had a lot more work to do in the space of analytics, so the company hasn’t figured it all out just yet.

Where to Start? Key Best Practices

When it comes to analytics, Harriott shared five key tenants to avoid just reporting on data, and champion the insights gleaned from it in the following ways:

  1. Establish Meaning
  2. Develop Context
  3. Be Predictive
  4. Create a Bias Toward Action (generate revenue, save costs)
  5. Enable Communication

For furniture retailers, e-commerce analytics can seem daunting, but like most businesses there’s always a starting point. For furniture retailers looking to tackle analytics and take advantage of all the available data out there, they can start in the following ways:

  1. Recognize any operational challenges impeding analytical growth
  2. Understand what analytical stage the company is in
  3. Take steps to correct challenges
  4. Use the data that’s appropriate once it’s available to create meaning, context and action

There was so much covered in the MITX Summit The Science of Marketing: Using Data & Analytics for Winning we couldn’t imagine scratching the surface in this blog post. However, MITX will be posting videos on its YouTube channel soon. In the meantime, we’re going to get back to improving our own analytics…

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.

Furniture Retailers, Time to Go Back to School

Saturday, August 17, 2013 by


In the world of retail, “Back to School” is a well-known phenomenon, typically commencing in mid-July, and continuing through early September, attracting attention from parents and students alike, whether for pre-school or graduate school. Items generally associated with this time-based trend are pencils, notebooks, laptops, backpacks and clothing. However, furniture retailers should be prepared to learn their lessons from this rite of passage: 94% of back to school shoppers are influenced by promotions, and total back to school and back to college spending in the US is expected to reach $72.5 billion this year.

Anticipated Spending Trends for 2013 Back to School Shopping

The tone of most current articles about back to school spending in the US focus on the fact that almost every category will see a decrease in spending, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The average American family will spend nearly 8% less this school season than they did in 2012, per an NRF survey of 5,635 consumers in early July, spending an average total of $635, compared to last year’s $689. The lone exception? Dorm and apartment furnishings, where a 4% spending increase is anticipated. The most respondents in the survey's history, 17.2%, will shop at home furnishings or home decor stores (up from 16.4% vs. last year). So how can furniture retailers capitalize on this predicted increased store and web traffic?

Back to School Shopping Trends Google

The Early Research Phenomenon

According to the Google/Ipsos MediaCT Back To School Market Research Study (July 2013), the internet is the number one resource for back-to-school shoppers to research, with 62% of shoppers going online to look at items. Compared to in-store (52%), mobile (34%), and TV (33%), the internet is a stronger research tool and price comparison engine. And within mobile, 66% of shoppers will use their mobile phone to locate a nearby retailer, 64% will compare prices and 43% will search store item availability. Point taken: a mobile site is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must for all furniture retailers.

And when does this research start? Well, 43% begin their research by mid-July, and 65% begin purchasing by mid-August. And with 65% of shoppers influenced by “Back to School” sales, the time to start promoting has already come.

Tips to Capture the “Back to School” Market in Furniture

Blueport Commerce and Furniture.com are no strangers to taking advantage of “Back to School.” Check out these tips below to capture the “Back to School” market in furniture:

Smaller Means Bigger Sales: Feature furniture such as cocktail tables, futons, bar stools, home accents and twin-sized beds. Dorm rooms and college apartments are notoriously small, and large sectionals and entire living room sets aren’t practical. Think about pieces that are light, can be transported easily and fit in tight spaces.

Multiple Items, Lower Ticket Prices: Merchandise your site around lower-priced items. Very rarely are college students looking for high-end, top-quality pieces – in fact, they are more likely to buy items they know may only last a few years. Deciding to feature lower-priced items provide value buys for students.

Keep Kids Top of Mind: Run a seasonal sale on kids’ furniture. Oftentimes, parents are already conditioned to spend money on back to school items like backpacks, notebooks and tablets – so why not entice them to think about a new bunk bed set or kids’ bedroom?

At the end of the day, the average US family will spend $634 on school-age children and $836 on back-to-college students this year. With store and website traffic to furniture retailers increasing, be sure to optimize your selection to seize this timely influx of revenue.

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.

Did You Know? Things Are Happening Here

Saturday, August 3, 2013 by


Recently, we issued a press release, also picked up by The Wall Street Journal, announcing how top furniture retailers are joining forces in the upcoming relaunch of our very own Furniture.com. Blueport Commerce helps our retailers sell furniture in two ways. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omnichannel 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. As our CEO Carl Prindle says, “Furniture has been called the last remaining $1 billion e-commerce opportunity online.” Check out the highlights from our news from the last two weeks.

Furniture.com Makes a Splash on FurnitureToday

In an article written by FurnitureToday, Cliff Engel reported on the recent news about Furniture.com. Specifically, it was formally announced that Schottenstein Stores and Rooms To Go have taken an ownership stake in Furniture.com, which will relaunch later this year. Other highlights include:

  • Schottenstein is the owner of Columbus, Ohio-based American Signature Inc., a current platform and Furniture.com client of Blueport Commerce.
  • The retail stakeholders in Furniture.com, along with other large players – Leon's in Canada, Salt Lake City-based R.C. Willey, and others that have yet to be named – will serve as "anchor tenants," on the revamped site launching in the fourth quarter.
  • The plan is to marry the scale and strengths of these major retailers – their buying power, product expertise and delivery and service capabilities – with the e-commerce technology strengths of Blueport and the power of Furniture.com's domain name.
  • Furniture.com is typically a number 1, 2 or 3 result when consumers search for "furniture" on Google and other search engines.
  • Furniture.com also will allow retailers to sell different merchandise that may not be a perfect fit in their stores, as well as expand into new geographical territories.
  • Jeff Seaman, CEO of 130-store Seffner, Florida-based Rooms To Go, said he was "thrilled to announce our investment," adding, "Furniture.com represents a unique opportunity in our industry for large furniture retailers to coexist and take advantage of national economies of scale in a new, quickly growing retail channel."
  • Once its current retailer lineup is included, Furniture.com will be able deliver to 65% to 70% of the US population, and that number will grow as the company adds more retailers.

Internet Retailer Defines the Enormous Furniture.com Opportunity

A separate article, written by Amy Dusto for Internet Retailer, announced how retailers Value City Furniture, American Signature Furniture, Rooms To Go Inc. and Leon’s Furniture Ltd. will each invest in Furniture.com’s website. Furniture.com is set to seize the massive opportunity ahead of it in the following ways:

  • Using backing from Mistral Equity Partners to reinvest in Furniture.com.
  • Only taking orders from consumers who live in areas served by retailers that work with it. Says CEO Carl Prindle, “Our retail partners handle all logistics and deliveries, leveraging their local inventory and furniture delivery expertise,” he says. “This leads to a far better shopping experience, as the shopper's furniture is nearby, will be delivered and set up by furniture experts and can be serviced easily if needed.
  • Selling to customers in the United States and Canada. Through the retailers, it can deliver up to 72% of the U.S. population and that percentage is growing each month, Prindle says. The site takes a share of revenue from each delivered order.
  • Penetrating the underserved markets. The 39 housewares/home furnishings retailers in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide last year accounted for just 4.04% of all U.S. sales in the category, which totaled $138.9 billion. But that shows there’s plenty of potential growth because it “hasn't yet gone online in a meaningful way,” Prindle says.

Clients and Blueport employees alike are thrilled to formally announce how we’re capturing the opportunity for furniture online. Stay informed by visiting our news & press releases, following us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and liking us on Facebook.

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.

 

How Can Retailers Tackle Gender-Based Selling?

Saturday, July 20, 2013 by

It turns out that we at Blueport Commerce love talking about gender. In April, we discussed gender differences in furniture shopping and we have a recent guest blog post  we’ve just completed for MITX. It’s clear that consumers are behaving differently when they shop, but how are retailers responding? In this follow-up post, Blueport examines what retailers are doing to take advantage of gender differences and what others caution can be a risky endeavor. 

Gender-Based Selling 

In order to stay ahead of the competition, some retailers are turning to gender-based selling. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “His and Hers Shopping Rules,” notes that women are most affected by personal interactions with sales associates, and men are most affected by pragmatic factors. As a result, retailers are taking note by:

Women

Men

  • Allowing women to enjoy the experience with friends, hunting for a good deal, and enabling interaction with sales associates.
  • Encouraging women to envision how retailer products will look – in the case of furniture staging furniture with fabrics, matching accessories, etc. will allow women to visualize products in their homes easily.
  • Leaving men alone to shop in one area, and making it easy for them to make a decision with all information in one place.
  • Encouraging men to search online for the information that they need to make a decision.
  • Using colors to appeal to masculine sensibilities and style. It's a good thing that blue is in style this year for design.

Not all retailers subscribe to gender-based selling, but those who do are finding success. Nordstrom notes that their approach overall isn’t gender-specific, but it does make changes based on the behavior it sees from male and female shoppers. Similarly, Lowe’s began displaying finished projects, like kitchen vignettes to appeal to a female-friendly need to envision how they look at home, and lowered their racks in some areas to be less intimidating for female shoppers.

Not All Gender-Based Selling Is Created Equal

While some retailers meet success with gender-based selling, there are a few pitfalls that retailers need to plan for and avoid. Specifically:

  • Gender-based selling for retailers can be time consuming and expensive, due to training costs and high sales associate turnover rate.
  • Selling by gender is not always brand agnostic. Retailers must consider their own brand attributes and offering to determine the positive effect differentiating between genders.
  • Gender is not always so cut and dry. It can be a risk to apply a label that assumes differences in gender while adhering to strict gender stereotypes. Read: hot pink couches with ruffles will likely not be a bestseller among most women. Furthermore, there are benefits to selling that appeals to a mutual style that is gender-neutral, so retailers should avoid putting their eggs in one basket until they are sure of their gender-based strategy.

How Can Furniture Retailers Take Advantage?

At Blueport Commerce, we recommend many different strategies for pricing and promotion to drive incremental sales for our furniture retailers online and to encourage store visits. For our retailers that want to take a gender-based approach, having a strategy in place to execute it effectively and with consistency across channels is important. Furthermore, furniture retailers should pay careful attention to avoid stereotypical pitfalls and instead tailor furniture collections to the behaviors of female and male shoppers, such as kitchen vignettes and conveniently located merchandise for a single room. No matter the strategy, we continue to take a look at new trends in the marketplace, and even though we are loving the gender conversation, stay tuned for further marketing trend conversations in the future.

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.

 

Achieving an Ideal Customer Experience Is Like the Stanley Cup of Retail

Saturday, July 6, 2013 by

Back in the day, retailers only had to focus on getting shoppers into their stores. Now, people are shopping online, in store, and everywhere in between. They demand (whether they know it or not) their own experience to convince them to buy retailers’ products. Retailers must innovate and optimize the customer experience in order to drive business growth. Some succeed and many others don’t quite get there. Here’s what we’ve found enables our furniture retailers to get close to the Stanley Cup of retail customer experience.

Customer Service Is the Ultimate Power Play

Customer service in the current retail age is not just about ensuring a call center is staffed 24/7 for phone inquiries. The combination of technology innovation in e-commerce and consumer behavior dictates that customer service be all about the ability for customers to call, email, chat, interact on social media and beyond, all at a moment’s notice. One slip in the supply chain of customer service can cause catastrophic results for a retailer and impact consumer brand loyalty. Social plays a large factor in customer reputation as well. It’s hard work, but the right strategies to turn a detractor to a promoter in social can make a big difference in the bottom line. UPS has their own Twitter handle, @UPShelp just to handle customer support, concerning questions on tracking numbers, delivery dates, lost packages and all things related to shipping. To avoid any privacy issues, UPS responds using the direct message feature and an email address just for Twitter users, twitter@ups.com. Furniture retailers can take advantage of the opportunities that technology and social media can provide when it comes to optimizing the customer experience.

 

A Team Approach to Outreach: The Absence of Channel

More than ever before, consumers are shopping across multiple channels: online, in store, social, and mobile. The Pew Research Center found that 46% of smartphone owners used their device to look up reviews while shopping in store. Retailers must ensure that their experience delivered to the customer is consistent and relevant. Therefore, activities and data should be integrated under one umbrella, rather than across multiple channels. Often, strategies are defined by a channel, i.e. “we need a mobile strategy” rather than a channel agnostic approach. To that end, store to online integration is a key part of this omnichannel approach, allowing shoppers to get what they need whether they are in your store or shopping online, such as pick-up centers or digital kiosks, or the ease of cart integration both online and off. We focus on the omnichannel frequently when it comes to our furniture retailers, allowing customers to shop easily online and in store.

Global Readiness

Because e-commerce has a much broader reach than any store, the potential for global sales can be realized in a matter of months.  Retailers must be prepared to do business in global markets and build their e-commerce systems to scale at a global level with simplicity and cost efficiency. This includes the areas of language, currency, tax and regional requirements like trade compliance. Furniture retailers take note: while store locations may only expand domestically, opportunities lie in the years ahead for furniture e-commerce abroad, particularly in Europe, so having a solid global readiness strategy is imperative to taking a slice of the GDP long term.

Implementing an ideal customer experience can be daunting, but with the right attention to strategy, service, and scalability, retailers can gain a competitive and financial edge. 

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.

Insights from the eTail 2013 Retail Technology Spending Report

Saturday, June 15, 2013 by

In an effort to uncover technology spending habits, eTail surveyed over 100 retailers in a number of verticals in apparel, sporting goods, consumer electronics, travel and hospitality, mass market retailers and specialty retailers. Among the key trends of interest to us are what retailers plan to spend the most and least on in the next year, and what primarily influences their purchasing decisions. Furniture retailers take note: efforts in the online channel win best in show.

Retail spending over the next year

It’s not surprising that retailers surveyed in the eTail Retail Technology spending report are taking advantage of online opportunities to spend their hard earned dollars.



Here are the numbers:

  • 58% of retailers are planning to spend on online video
  • 55% on content management/e-commerce platforms
  • 40% on merchandising and visualization

In addition, 60% of respondents are planning to spend more in the next year on SEO, SEM, personalization, mobile (site design) and social engagement (earned). Areas that didn’t make the cut and that retailers will certainly spend less on were CRM systems, display advertising and media (paid advertising).

For Blueport’s furniture retailers, enabling their e-commerce platforms is top of mind for business success, but merchandising and promotions in unique ways (like with online video) go hand in hand with the effort.

Influences on Purchasing Decisions

When it comes to deciding on what areas will most benefit retailers, there are several influences in purchasing decisions. The ones that are most paramount to us are:

  • 36% of overall spending decisions are based upon a management decision
  • 12% mobile site design decisions are made based upon time to market
  • 25% mobile apps are based on competitive pressures
  • 15% of content management solutions are based on ease of execution

So what does this information mean for furniture retailers? 36% of content management/e-commerce platform and global technology decisions are also based upon a management decision. Furniture retailers who are looking to take advantage of enabling their businesses for e-commerce not only have to compete with overall spending decisions at the management level, but also the decision to enable their platforms for e-commerce. And, as we’ve discussed time and again, mobile plays a large factor in retailer success. An overwhelming majority of retailers surveyed answered that mobile would see the most growth in the next year.

No matter where retailers are planning to spend on technology in the next year, the front runners are clearly in many aspects of the online channel. And, at Blueport Commerce, we’ve got our furniture retailers covered on their e-commerce platforms, merchandising, mobile and content management needs.

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.

Furniture Retailers: Listen Up! If You’re Not Investing in Mobile, You’re Behind…Part II

Saturday, May 18, 2013 by

 

Part II of Five Key Insights from MITX’s The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing

We hope you enjoyed reading part one of our two-part series about MITX's "The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing." In part one, we discussed how important it is for furniture retailers to catch up and invest in mobile intelligently and discuss how consumer behavior already dictates shopping on mobile devices. In part two of our two-part series we uncover the unique brick and mortar opportunities furniture retailers face when it comes to mobile: location, data, and advertising Return on Investment (ROI).

3. Location is the largest area of innovation for mobile e-commerce.

If furniture retailers can crack the code of location through mobile, the opportunities are endless. Retailers can tailor shopping experiences at the location level and gain greater insight on shopper behavior. As we learned in the MITX session “The Future of Location Based Marketing,” location-based marketing and tracking is not yet mature for retailers, and more needs to be done in integration with Point of Sale (POS) systems, carriers, and providers. However, it’s been done before, and furniture retailers should take note and get ahead of the curve. For example, Starbucks is a leader of the location pack, with location-based offers and their digital wallet. And, as visitors to the Google developers conference this week found out, location will play an even bigger role in the next generation of search.

4. Data, data, data!

In order to succeed in online e-commerce, furniture retailers MUST take advantage of insight that data offers, and this is just as true with mobile. Retailers can and should capture, analyze, and target their customers at a scale that will work for their business through mobile and at every level from their online e-commerce experience down to their brick and mortar store. This data should give deep insights and allow for optimal performance, though a big caution to being too “big brother” when using data insights for pricing and promotion.

5. But, there’s no money in mobile. A paradigm shift is needed. Advertisers, get creative!

It’s a known fact that within the current mobile infrastructure, businesses have been afraid to dip their toes into the mobile waters due to the low ROI, especially for advertising revenue. However, businesses and advertisers alike can and have been getting creative to help move the needle. The Weather Company in particular offers its advertisers branded backgrounds, providing 40 sets of creative weather conditions including their brand, and in turn they get the whole mobile screen footprint. Innovations with video, mobile rich media, and out of banner experiences serve to enhance the mobile opportunity for advertising while giving shoppers to choice to opt in. Furniture retailers can take advantage of these opportunities as well – offering unique ways for manufacturers to advertise their product through mobile to achieve greater revenue streams beyond merchandise conversion.

While many companies, retailers and non-retailers alike, are already taking advantage of the opportunities for mobile now, furniture retailers can, and should, get their skin in the game. As we learned at the MITX Summit  “The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing,” consumer behavior is dictating the need for mobile, now and in the future. Furniture retailers who can effectively navigate mobile and make it easier for shoppers to buy from them have an opportunity to see ever positive returns and grow their businesses exponentially. Now excuse me, I have to go check my phone...and tablet.  

Miss part one yesterday? Read it here.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Furniture Retailers: Listen Up! If You’re Not Investing in Mobile, You’re Behind…Part I

Friday, May 17, 2013 by

 

Part I of Five Key Insights from MITX’s The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing

Earlier in May, Blueport Commerce joined MITX and other members at their Summit, titled “The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing.” One thing came through loud and clear – if companies aren’t dedicating efforts to mobile, they are already behind. In the words of keynote speaker Cameron Clayton, President of the Digital Division for The Weather Company, “I hate to say it but if you don’t step up [to mobile], the audience will change their brand preference in a second and you are already behind.” Being already behind on mobile can be daunting. Blueport Commerce breaks down five key opportunities for furniture retailers. Put down your phones and tablets and read our two-part series on what we found. 

In part one of our two-part series, we uncover what it means to invest in mobile and debunk the common concern that consumers just aren’t shopping on their smartphones and tablets.

1. Spend Money on Mobile

First and foremost, furniture retailers should be dedicating their budget to mobile. Clayton says, “If you aren’t spending 7% of your budgets on mobile, you’re doing it wrong.” For furniture retailers, it’s not just about throwing money at mobile, but doing it in an intelligent way. For Victor Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer of Nexage, traditionally mobile has been divided into channels and the future is really content that will cross channels, making the very idea of a mobile channel irrelevant. All activities should fall into a 100% mix, including mobile. For PayPal Chief Operating Officer, David Chang, it’s important to understand your audiences and how that fits into your business, mobile, and beyond, and align your efforts accordingly. For Chang, multichannel integration and offers are critical for PayPal’s business success, especially for mobile. Furniture retailers have a large opportunity to focus on mobile the right way, the first time; as a part of their overall pricing, marketing, and promotion strategies within their e-commerce technology. By planning and optimizing for mobile in advance, furniture retailers can ensure the shopping experience is optimal no matter the device.

2. Shopping Concerns Debunked

Newsflash: We all already shop on smartphones and tablets. In the words of Hilary Dionne, Senior Marketing Manager of Customer Insights and Analytics at Zmags, “Couch Commerce” is a common behavior for shoppers, especially on tablets. For furniture retailers, embracing the multichannel opportunities mobile can provide will open doors for shoppers to purchase. In addition, mapping the optimal path to purchase is critical on any device, especially on mobile. Isaac Mosquera, Director of Mobile for ShareThis, emphasizes the opportunity that the mobile experience plays in the purchasing, along with how easy it is to interact with your company. Location also plays a role in mobile for e-commerce as a key way to be innovative. Furniture retailers can take advantage of these tips and tricks to optimize their businesses for shopping in mobile, especially when it comes to selling furniture online.

Furniture retailers have a huge opportunity now and in the future to invest in mobile as part of their overall efforts, not just as a channel. And, the truth is, consumer behavior demands the ability to shop on multiple devices on smartphones and tablets alike. For more information on how furniture retailers can take advantage of mobile, look out for our part II of this series!

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?