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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.

Five Tips for a Successful Online Peak Season

Saturday, November 2, 2013 by

The peak season for all retailers is coming upon us rapidly. And with the shortened holiday season this year, it is even more important to have an innovative and aggressive promotion plan set in place to capitalize on peak season e-commerce sales, which by the way are expected to jump 15 percent from last year. While it’s important to be aggressive in your plans, Blueport Commerce has seen several retailers make common mistakes in their execution online. Here are five key tips furniture retailers can follow to ensure a successful holiday online strategy and maximize ROI this peak season.

  1. Have a plan put in place. If you don’t have a digital plan by now, you’re behind. These next few months are expected to account for 20-40 percent of annual retail sales. Preparation is key.
     
  2. Stay aligned with your brand strategy. In order to stay ahead of the game and with the dynamic retail landscape this holiday season, retailers are anxious to try out new promotional campaigns and strategies. While innovation is a good thing, make sure each of your promotional campaigns are aligned with your brand strategy for 2014 and promotes the types of furniture products your shoppers want to buy. Don’t alienate your core group of consumers by veering too far off from your brand.
     
  3. Don’t try to fit too much into peak season. With the rise of mobile traffic and omni-channel shopping, especially in furniture, you should try new things. However, make sure you don’t overhaul your strategy with all new promotions that have not been tested. A completely new plan can have a negative impact on sales. Instead, weave in a few ‘test’ campaigns with traditional strategies that have proven successful in the past.
     
  4. Email is your best advocate. Email campaigns should be as much priority as your other promotions. Optimizing emails for mobile this season is key to ensuring continued consumer awareness of your promotions. Nearly 54% of smartphone users and 63% of tablet users will use a mobile device to check store hours, compare prices and buy items this holiday season.  
     
  5. Don’t forget about January and February. Furniture retailers often see sales peak around January and February in addition to the holidays. Plan for those peak times accordingly in your holiday strategy.
Let Blueport Commerce Help 
 
Transitioning your marketing strategy from in-store to online can be a daunting task. With Blueport Commerce solutions, you are able to align your furniture e-commerce site with your in-store events and promotions. Plus, our full service team is poised to help you with your online promotion strategy, website content, pay-per-click, search engine optimization, and email marketing for your furniture business. Our expertise in the furniture industry ensures you start at the top of the online marketing learning curve, maximizing your ROI this holiday season.
 

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Face Shopping Cart Abandonment Head-On (Part Two)

Saturday, October 19, 2013 by
Last week, we discussed some tips on optimizing your checkout process to help avoid customers from dropping off mid-checkout. While these tips will get you started, shopping cart abandonment is inevitable. In fact, SeeWhy found that among first time visitors to a website, only 0.25% will actually complete a purchase on that first visit. Before you lose all hope, we will show you how to turn this negative into a positive. 
 
 
JUST BECAUSE A CUSTOMER ABANDONS YOU, DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD ABANDON THEM
 
Last week we mentioned 75% of abandoners have some intent to purchase. This is an important statistic for what you do after the cart abandonment takes place. Merchants often make the mistake of assuming the majority of cart abandoners put items in their cart with little intention to actually purchase. Don’t make the same mistake and miss out on the opportunity of bringing potential customers back. 
 
Email recovery campaigns are a great way to remind cart abandoners to come back and finish their purchase. But before you get started, make sure you consider timing and personalization for more effective campaigns.
 
  • Target customers within 24 hours of when they were shopping on your site to maximize effectiveness while the product is still fresh in their mind. 
  • Personalize your email campaigns and include images of the product, that way your customer won’t mistake the email for another promo email they receive daily in their inbox. 
  • Because price was likely a factor for them dropping off, consider adding a promotion or free shipping coupon to sweeten the deal.
REMIND THEM OF WHAT THEY ARE MISSING
 
Retargeting or remarketing is an effective form of online advertising that can help reengage users who not only started a purchase, but also those who previously visited the site. So when a customer is browsing a web page, they will see an ad with your logo on it and be reminded of the purchase they missed out on. For an even more effective retargeting campaign, dynamic retargeting shows real time images of products in the ads that consumers previously engaged with on a web page. 
 
  • Be sure to keep retargeting ads fresh by changing the ad and offer on a consistent basis to increase likelihood that customers will click through at least one of those ads. Some retargeting providers will allow you to generate images of similar products in addition to the products the viewer considered purchasing. This will not only refresh the ad, but also might lead the customer to finding new items they did not consider before. 
Shopping cart abandonment is a reality all merchants face. But by implementing these key tactics we discussed in part one and two – setting cost expectations, speeding up the checkout process, and following up with abandoners—you can help optimize the process and turn this negative into a positive.
 

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.

 

Instagram: Tips for the Furniture Retailer

Saturday, October 5, 2013 by

With 150 million users worldwide, brands are racing to Instagram to generate content and secure awareness with a new audience set. But as with most social media channels, some marketers express concern with the inability to directly correlate time invested to increased sales. Despite these concerns, we at Blueport Commerce think Instagram is not only worth the investment, but when done right can help put furniture brands at the forefront of consumer perceptions. It’s a way to not only increase your brand awareness, but also a way to merchandise and promote your products in a fun and interesting way. 

Instagram is Visual
 
Unlike other social media channels, Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform only. At Blueport, we’ve found that 40% of the population respond better to visuals compared to text, and also that visuals are also processed 60,000 times faster than text. This means that Instagram content has a greater chance of being seen by viewers compared to posts on Facebook or Twitter. This is key for furniture retailers since posting photos daily on Instagram will give followers a daily reminder of your brand, so you can be sure the next time they look to invest in furniture, your commerce website or storefront will be top-of-mind.
 
Define a Strategy: Find Out What Works and Optimize
 
Just like the rest of your social channels, Instagram should have a brand strategy so you can get the most out of your efforts and properly measure your success. Here are a few tips and tricks that you can use on Instagram:
  1. Make it personal. Since Instagram is visual, use it to connect with your customers on a more personal level. For example, give them an “inside look” into your brand. Post images of new products before they are released, share behind-the-scenes photos from a furniture shoot, or show the staff and office culture. These types of posts will help create a strong connection with your followers and generate customer affinity for your brand.

TIP: J.Crew has done a great job of making a personal connection with their customers on Instagram by posting images of designers at work, style inspiration, and behind-the-scenes photos from catalog shoots.

  1. Give customers an ‘in-store’ view of your products. Optimize your merchandising efforts and show quality details to aid your customers in the online furniture shopping experience. Use Instagram to highlight the quality of your products by posting up close images of your products that show off detail and design. This will help earn consumer trust in the quality of your products.

TIP: Invest in a high-quality camera to emphasize the details of your products. The better the image the more likely you will gain consumer trust in your products and you as a furniture provider.

  1. Don’t forget to #hashtag. Hashtags are a great way to increase engagement. Since many users utilize Instagram for discovery purposes, you will increase users coming across your post (and brand) by adding popular, and relevant, hashtags. You can also use promotion-specific hashtag campaigns to help drive visitors to your commerce website, which can help increase consideration and conversion.
TIP: Take the next step in customer engagement by starting your own user-generated hashtag campaign. Invite followers to post their own images of home designs or your products they've incorporated into their homes and ask them to post with the hashtag. Then feature some of the best user-generated content on your account. For inspiration, check out HGTV’s “Love Home” campaign, in which fans share images of their home with the #lovehome and #hgtv hashtags.
 

  1. Always Measure. Make sure you’re measuring user interactions with your content to optimize your Instagram account. While Instagram is still working out ways to provide analytics and measurement, Statigram provides a great alternative, giving you data on your photos and user responses. Statigram will show you which photos are the most engaging, which filters that received the most likes/comments, and how to optimize your hashtag use. You can then apply these efforts to other metrics you are tracking for brand awareness, merchandising and promotion. 

Furniture Retailers take note: innovation is key to any successful endeavor in social media.  As more and more brands join Instagram, it is becoming critical for retailers to get creative with campaigns and content to increase conversation around your brand, promote your products and drive customer engagement. 

 
Now stop reading, sign up for Instagram, and start posting!
 

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.

The Next Generation Of Email and Mobile For E-Commerce: Monetate's E-Commerce Quarterly EQ2 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013 by

Here at Blueport, we’re no strangers to email and mobile, partly because we’ve written many posts on the importance of email (just one example here) and mobile (here). And, we follow Monetate’s insights quite frequently, writing recently about social from their EQ1 report. So needless to say, Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly EQ2 2013: Email Management report peaked our interest. In this report, Monetate (and we) agree that 2013 has been a good year for e-commerce. Same-store website traffic increased by 17.6% in one year and those same retailers experience an 8.16% gain in average over value (AOV) in 2013.

These findings coincide with similar reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Forrester and Shop.org’s “The State of Retailing Online: Key Metrics and Initiatives.” However, despite these positive trends, Monetate raises concerns about the effectiveness of traditional email and mobile tactics in the future. Read on to learn what we found most interesting and share insights for furniture retailers.

Email Is A Fabric Of Customer’s Lives

As our use of technology evolves, email is no longer just a communication tool, it is actually something we can’t live without. Think about taking a week off in a remote part of the country that doesn’t have email and imagine the anxiety it would produce. And this dependency on email is only increasing as new generations enter into the market. Needless to say, email has transformed into a personal extension of our lives.

As a result, and as Bindi Tuli reported last week, 80% of retailers will spend more on emailing. However, Monetate contends that increasing the frequency of email to subscribers does not necessarily increase conversion rates, and in fact broad sweeping email blasts may also increase attrition from frustrated subscribers. So, what can retailers do? As we’ve noted before, personalization and segmentation is key in email. Here are some examples:

  • Consider the time it takes to deploy your email campaigns and when your recipients open your email. They could go directly to your website, or open your email in store, or even near a competitor’s store.
  • Connect your emails with site experiences that will add to conversion. The creative and messaging should be consistent with what they see on their mobile device.
  • Target offers and creative to the moment when a customer opens the email, also known as “open-time personalization.”

Mobile, Mobile Everywhere

According to Monetate, an increase in mobile traffic doesn’t always relate to an increase in Revenue Per Sale (RPS). But before you shed too many tears and change your whole approach to analytics, take a closer look at your key target segments and top performers. As mobile traffic increases, retailers still need to pay attention to improving the purchasing experience for these key mobile visitors– without this change of focus, retailers risk missing out on the growing revenue opportunity of mobile. And, mobile traffic is not going away; in fact it grew from 15.2% to 22.13% this year. Other tips:

  • Use the knowledge you gain from this insight to build deeper relationships with your key target segments and top performing customers.
  • Tailor your promotions according to the preferences of this customer base (like personalizing your emails!)

While the e-commerce industry continues to rise ($327 billion projected by 2016), retailers are only going to need to get smarter to keep up with shopper demand. Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly EQ2 2013: Email Management highlights how email and mobile are two areas that retailers can focus on now to help improve their bottom line and make the e-commerce register ring. 

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.

Ready, Set, Shop! E-Commerce Retailers Rev Their Engines for the Holiday Season

Saturday, September 7, 2013 by

Think prepping for the winter holidays in springtime is crazy? Think again. According to a Shop.org survey, half of the respondents admitted to having planned for the holidays since April or May. As e-commerce retailers well know, it’s not unusual to invest maximum effort into November and December, as just a few combined days of sales for those peak holidays, especially when stores are closed (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day), can often rival sales for an entire week in off-peak seasons. So what are the hot holiday trends for 2013? Blueport Commerce unwraps some of 2013’s hottest e-commerce trends, and how they can be applied to furniture retailers.
 

Mobile Is Calling. Are You Answering?

In the 2013 Shop.org Pre-Holiday Retailer Survey, over half of retailers surveyed said that a mobile-optimized website is one of their most important investments this year. As mobile phone and tablet usage for research and purchase start to rise, furniture retailers need to think about how to capture the mobile consumer (Blueport agrees! See why here and here). Mobile commerce over the 2012 holiday season grew exponentially, with visits to m-commerce websites up 109 percent year-over-year, page views up by 116 percent, conversions up 30 percent, and sales up by a crazy 171 percent. Blueport recommends that retailers ensure that their site renders well on mobile, offers up a store finder in order to drive traffic to brick and mortar locations, and recognizes that when consumers are in stores, mobile phones are used primarily for research – so accurate pricing and feature displays are key.

Product Pages Get a Facelift

How are e-commerce retailers prepping for the holiday on site? Well, according to Shop.org, 51 percent are cross-selling on product pages, displaying customer ratings and reviews (42 percent), and adding suggested items (34 percent). At Blueport Commerce, we encourage cross-selling and upselling as a natural extension of furniture shopping – consumers are most interested in style and are often willing to be led along a journey of exploration, envisioning how a particular piece of furniture will look in a room, but also enhanced by other pieces of furniture and home décor. Presenting product pages accordingly to optimize cross-selling and upselling is key to this journey.

Our clients have found success with customer ratings and reviews – in fact, online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70 percent of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust messages on this platform, an increase of 15 percent in four years. Additionally, customer ratings and reviews allow furniture retailers to be made aware of potential issues with product quality and customer service, escalating this information to buyers, manufacturers and customer service supervisors, enabling them to respond directly to consumers.

Email, Email, Email

Some of the most successful furniture e-commerce retailers attribute a strong percentage of their revenue generation efforts directly to email. Some quick tips for the holidays from Practical Ecommerce include:

  • Ensure you haven’t left any email addresses behind: Go through past campaigns, lists, and databases to make sure you aren’t missing any subscribers that may have been segmented and forgotten.
  • Test your triggers: An abandoned cart email series that fails to trigger can destroy sales during the crucial holiday season.
  • Reward purchasers: Offer repeat buyers segmented offers and thank new customers with an offer for a subsequent purchase.
  • Put a promotional email calendar in place: Even if it has to change last-minute, at least there’s a structure in place to make adjustments.

As an e-commerce provider, Blueport understands the value of the holiday season as a revenue generating engine for our furniture retailers. Setting the foundation for holiday success involves preparation and planning to maximize holiday conversions. ‘Tis the season…even in September!

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.

The Next Level

Saturday, August 24, 2013 by

 

Flying back from a C-level client roundtable, I was struck by how far we’ve come. We’ve worked with this top retailer for eight years. The camaraderie, energy and enthusiasm around the table yesterday were as palpable as when we first dreamed of enabling e-commerce for their brand.  What’s different is the mutual feeling that we’re jointly taking it to the next level.

One of the luxuries afforded by a transaction like ours last summer is capacity. Not just the resources to grow, but the time and space to think about how we do so, and the ability to execute what we think up.  

When you’re bootstrapping, tactical decisions rule the day. In startup mode, most every decision is about an immediate next step. Strategy is an occasional luxury, at best*. But with resources, there’s time and a reason for strategy – you can implement it. 

Since our deal we’ve reexamined every aspect of our strategy, and made some meaningful changes to how and why we do business. We’re ready for the next level, and our clients are excited about the possibilities as the internet is finally beginning to transform their industry as it has every other.

The Opportunity Hasn’t Changed

Furniture online is still in its infancy, one of the last categories to go online in a meaningful way. It’s an $80B category that’s only 4% penetrated online as consumers await a “wow” experience that makes furniture shopping meaningfully easier and better. 

Unlike other categories, furniture retailers are uniquely able to deliver that wow experience, if they have the right technology. It’s one of the few categories where incumbent brick and mortar players can and do win.

Blueport’s role—to help furniture retailers win—hasn’t changed.  But, how we do so has been re-envisioned through the strategic lens of a decade of experience, newly honed and focused. 

The Blueport Roadmap – Beyond the Buzzword

Blueport powers the websites of leading furniture retailers. This isn’t new, but we have the increased clarity and capacity to make our clients’ websites the cohesive web-store journey that can transform a retailer’s shopping experience.  

Omnichannel has all the trappings of a retail buzzword, but to us, it means more. In furniture, showrooms and salespeople are a hugely valuable part of the shopping experience. Our technology platform is built to amplify that value, not bypass it and we see its potential across all categories where showrooms still matter.

As an example, on a Blueport omnichannel website like the new vcf.com, shoppers can visit a store and work with a salesperson to put aside merchandise in a portable shopping cart.  After they’ve shopped around or checked with their spouse, they can complete their order on their phone, tablet or desktop, without having to go back to the store. Conversely, a shopper can start an order online, send it to the store, then stop by the store to touch and feel only the merchandise they are interested in and quickly complete their sale.

It’s a revolutionary strategy and a patent pending system that’s unheard of in any category, much less in furniture. Moreover, it reaffirms that in furniture, showrooms and salespeople play a real role in the sales process while maintaining the same level of engagement and compensation. Not only do we amplify the value of the showroom, we make the store experience better, rather than trying to replace it. And, it’s already driving stunning results for our clients.

Killing it in the Category with Furniture.com

The Zappos moment in Furniture has yet to happen, but we now have the components to spark this moment through our long-dormant, category killer URL Furniture.com.

We’ve spent a great deal of time with online furniture shoppers recently, through market research and even more valuably, visiting them in their homes. We’ve developed a deep understanding on how they view furniture, the personal, aspirational nature of this purchase, and how stores and online play a role.

What’s striking is how ill-suited a typical e-commerce model is in meeting their needs. Said simply, furniture shoppers are looking for the exact opposite of the typical “endless aisle”, third-party delivery experience that typifies most e-commerce. 

We’ve assembled the best retailers in the business, marshaling their ability to source and deliver product. We’re reinventing every aspect of the Furniture.com shopping experience. Together, we’ll finally deliver the end to end “wow” that will create a meaningful online brand in this category. It won’t look like typical e-commerce, but will finally unlock what furniture e-commerce should be. 

It’s a lot of work to do, for sure, but we and our clients are as excited about this aspect of our business as we are our groundbreaking omnichannel platform strategy.  It's a powerful combination for seizing the enormous opportunity in furniture online.

*        *        *

A year after our deal, we’ve gotten a ton done – it’s been as frenetic a 12 months as I can remember. We and our clients have close to 300% sales growth to show for it. 

More importantly, we’ve had the space, capacity, reason and ability to think meaningfully about what’s next. Yesterday was a good reminder of how fortunate we are, and how powerful a combination likeminded, talented partners, a massive opportunity and time to think can be.

 

 

 

* One of my favorite startup CEO’s, in a none-too-subtle dig at my McKinsey background, said “Strategy, to me, is what I think about when I’m on the crapper.” Crass, yes, but she had a point.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Social Commerce: Planting the Seeds for Future Revenue

Saturday, June 29, 2013 by

Want customers to like your furniture retail brand’s official page on Facebook? Think those people who like you are then going to navigate directly to your furniture retail website and purchase a new sectional? Think again. Monetate’s recent findings in their E-Commerce Quarterly Q1 2013 show that social media is not a significant source of direct traffic to e-commerce websites or purchase conversions from those destinations. While it’s tempting for an online furniture retailer to just give up and abandon their social media presence altogether, Blueport suggests ways to refine your social media strategy in order to reap the eventual ROI.

Don’t Discount Social Word of Mouth

Data from Forrester Research suggests that word of mouth is part of 80% of all purchase funnels. And social media is the next generation version of word of mouth, with brand or product mentions creating searches and/or direct URL entries. Unfortunately, social media wasn’t the final URL pre-purchase (last-click), so it gets none of the credit (attribution) for the customer conversion it spurred.

In addition, new research from Google shows that social media is very much an awareness-building vehicle, and less of a conversion trigger. With social media users accounting for only 1.55% of all traffic to a retailer’s e-commerce site, and a conversion rate of less than three-quarters of one percent (.71%), social commerce appears to be a fallacy, at least with regards to last-touch attribution. Per Google, social media is the second “earliest” (after only clicks on display advertising) in the average US consumer’s purchase path. The last step of the process is considered direct URL entry, which accounts for 48% of the last-touch conversions. What does this mean for furniture retailers? Having a social media presence is critical for word of mouth and awareness, even if you can’t tie it back to direct sales. Having this awareness and brand clout can contribute to register ringing success, even if it’s not a linear data point.

How to Make Your Social Pages (Eventual) Conversion Engines

All is not lost though in making your social media pages work harder to increase conversion. According to Monetate’s findings, brand-led direct social commerce tactics are ineffective. Examples of these are social media programs such as Twitter offers or links to specific products on Facebook. Of American social media users, 66% follow brands in social media hoping for exclusive deals and special offers. Two conclusions are that consumers want awareness of deals and offers, but don’t necessarily want to click on them in a social platform, or that e-commerce websites aren’t giving customers what they want for social commerce.

Another theory is the idea of unwanted session interruption, where consumers don’t want to leave the social network they’re on by clicking a link and going shopping online, but would rather mentally flag the product or offer and visit the retailer’s website later to purchase a sofa with a free matching ottoman, when they are finished with their personal social media time. The data would then reflect this purchase as a visit from the direct source, with no credit given to the first or second click influence of social media.

At first glance it appears that social commerce isn’t a big revenue driver. However, all of the posting, sharing, and liking is at least contributing to e-commerce traffic and sales, especially given that Americans spend more time on social media than on web browsing and email combined. Blueport recommends that furniture retailers at least have a presence on Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ Pages, and Twitter, and find a level of activity that’s scalable given their staff’s time and resources. And know that while a pin, post, or tweet may not generate revenue that hour, or even that day, the SEO value and traffic to their branded website makes the effort ultimately fruitful.

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.

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.

E-Commerce Merchandising: For Furniture Retailers Image Is EVERYTHING

Saturday, June 1, 2013 by

In our two-part blog series in May (read part one here and part two here), we shared how mobile is having a true impact on our world for furniture e-commerce. Another area that is of huge importance to Blueport Commerce, even more so than other e-commerce players and retailers alike, is making sure furniture merchandise is so online-ready that shoppers can practically feel the fabric they are touching. Here, we spend countless hours trying to get our merchandise just right. In fact, it’s a critical factor to doing business with us. In short, an image for e-commerce merchandising is EVERYTHING to our business. Here are two catalog imaging guidelines Blueport Commerce follows for our retailers in order to increase conversion rates and post-purchase satisfaction.

1. Properly Color-Corrected Images Increase Conversions

It may seem par for the course online for shoppers to simply expect that when they navigate to any website, what they see is what they are going to get. However, with merchandising furniture catalogs, it must be even more exact. This is because furniture for any shopper is immensely personal and a part of the fabric of someone’s life. And when it’s not accurate, it can influence a shopper’s decision to ever purchase from you again, never mind conversion rates. According to Practical Ecommerce, image quality significantly impacts conversion.

Making sure the online channel is optimized for selling furniture effectively over the internet will aid the overall shopping experience for customers. According to Furniture Today’s consumer report, 44% of consumers have purchased home furnishings online, yet only a fraction of those home furnishings are furniture. In order to clear this hurdle, Blueport Commerce invests hours per collection, making sure that every aspect of our visuals is accurate, from the color swatches down to how the light hits a piece of fabric in a living room set.

2. Omnichannel Catalog Experiences Are Critical for Furniture Retailers

E-commerce merchandising for Blueport’s furniture retailers is also unique from other e-commerce retailers simply because it’s almost never pure play. Many shoppers view the process of buying their piece of furniture as an experience, which almost always involves going to a brick and mortar store. An even better experience is bringing the tactile benefits of a physical furniture store with the online component of convenience to create an optimal way for furniture retailers to go the e-commerce route. In fact, convenience is a major component of a shopper’s decision to buy online, according to a study conducted by Continuum.

Ensuring that images are consistent both in the online channel, as well as the offline channels of flyers, direct mailers and even storefronts is critical for furniture retail success. As we discussed earlier this year, smartphones and tablets are integral to furniture e-commerce platforms and retailers must be able to align and maintain their visual integrity.

For Blueport Commerce, image really is everything for our retailers, both online and off. And because when a consumer is buying furniture, whether digitally or in person, the experience is inherently emotional – consumers fall in love with furniture’s style first, and adjust their budgets and delivery expectations accordingly. By creating a positive and beautiful online experience through both realistic and gorgeous images, e-commerce furniture retailers are enabling more conversions and post-purchase loyalty. 

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.

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?