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Enabling Omnichannel Commerce: The Next Big Thing in Furniture Retail

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 by

As I read the buzz these days about other companies in our space like Wayfair and One King’s Lane and about e-commerce and the future of retail, it’s clear to me how “hot” the home furnishings industry has suddenly become for e-commerce. While I’ve long believed in the opportunity to bring furniture online in a meaningful way, other retailers (and wise investors) are finally catching on, and shoppers, naturally, are following suit.  A recent visit to an investor conference in San Francisco validated much of this thinking – unlocking furniture online is the next big (billion dollar) opportunity in retail.  

Is it just enough for retailers to simply offer furniture for sale online like any other industry using a similar e-commerce model? For us, we’d say that selling furniture online requires a different model – and ours is one that enables omnichannel commerce for this $78B furniture industry and seizes its full potential. Have we piqued your interest yet? Read on to learn more.


Enabling Furniture E-Commerce

Blueport does not aim to disrupt the furniture industry by displacing brick-and-mortar stores with e-commerce, but rather to enable furniture retailers to expand their reach and multiply sales through omnichannel commerce. We’re modernizing furniture retail in an age where next-day delivery for online purchases is the norm and pre-schoolers are operating smartphones before learning to read.

What does this mean for furniture, exactly? For furniture, local stores and local delivery still matter. People still need to touch and feel furniture with great customer service and product expertise. And when it comes to delivery, they want it fast, and they want it to be easy to ship and return. And, when I say ‘furniture’ I mean fully assembled, hard-to-ship furniture, which is fundamentally more difficult to sell online. Unlike other categories, this overall experience won’t and can’t be entirely replaced with technology and UPS.[1] Furniture retail works best when stores work in harmony with desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Omnichannel commerce through Blueport’s cutting edge technology and services achieves that experience for our furniture retail clients in ways that have never been done before.

Capturing the Omnichannel Opportunity for Furniture

Currently, only 4% of the $78B market[2] is online. This makes furniture one of the largest untapped retail opportunities left online. Blueport’s technology is transforming furniture retail – for the 4% of sofas that sell online, and the 96% that don’t,[3] and the demand for our expertise continues to grow. Currently, our two omnichannel technologies – Store-Sync and augmented reality, enable a truly omnichannel experience by leveraging mobile technologies to bridge the gap between in-store and in-home shopping.

Solving For Furniture Retail in the Absence of Brick-And-Mortar

What about pure-play/online-only furniture retailers? Our online-only retail site, Furniture.com, acquires new customers and delivers in days. And where we don’t have the luxury of omnichannel with stores, we solve for shoppers’ needs with local inventory, local delivery and the use of technologies like augmented reality to bring the furniture shopping experience into the home. On Furniture.com, we aim to leverage massive retail brands to deliver a transformative online furniture experience, even in the absence of brick-and-mortar.

Overall, as we look at where our business is today and where it’s headed, our mission is simple – to unlock furniture online and show the world that this next big thing has been our “thing” all along.


[1] Goldman Sachs
[2] Forrester Research
[3] Forrester Research


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

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omnichannel is Not Just About Stores and E-Commerce

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

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

Our takeaway?

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

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

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

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

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

Our takeaway? 

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

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

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

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

Our takeaway?

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

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

About Blueport Commerce

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

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by

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

                        
The Data Behind Video

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Videos Should Appear Professionally Done

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mobile: The Key Omnichannel Takeaway From 2013 Holiday Sales

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 by

Back in December, my colleague Erica Blute wrote about how retailers selling online were in a jolly mood raking in sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly EQ42013: Holiday Roundup* shows similar results with about an overall 33% increase in the number of purchases made on retailers’ websites between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, and about an $166 Average Order Value (AOV), a 14% increase in AOV from last year. Cyber Monday was the highest grossing online shopping day in history at over $2 billion in sales and the highest conversion rate of the year at about 5%, up from 2012’s spike of about 4%. Why are these numbers so important to look at even though we are clearly in the post-holiday shopping season? The answer – mobile. Once the sleeping dragon in omnichannel strategy, mobile e-commerce is becoming increasingly appealing and awakening to its full potential. Read on to learn more.

Shopper Behavior Sets The Demand For Mobile

One in three online purchases were made on a mobile device (phone and tablet) this year versus one in five just last year. Needless to say, shopper behavior is setting the standard for omnichannel strategy, forcing retailers to deliver an engaging mobile experience. Here are the numbers:

  1. Mobile commerce orders grew 102% year over year
  2. Mobile is responsible for almost 40% of Black Friday online traffic
  3. Traffic stemming from tablets jumped from approximately 90% and 66% for smartphones from last year on Black Friday and about 73% and 53%, respectively, on Cyber Monday
  4. Though traditional online traffic (desktop/laptop) still reigns supreme overall, it declined by nearly 6% on Black Friday and nearly 10% on Cyber Monday

                                            
Retailers Wrestle Revenue With Mobile

Mobile engagement is paying off. Shoppers have caught on and the proof is in the numbers. Revenue from shoppers on tablets increased by about 153%, followed by smartphones at about 109% and desktops and laptops at about 34%. AOV for tablets was about $153, $129 for smartphones and about $164 for traditional. AOV for tablets in particular was up approximately 17%. Interestingly enough, overall AOVs show that shoppers converted better across all channels and devices through the entire holiday season. 

                               
Two Key Takeaways

  1. For retailers, mobile is no longer mutually exclusive to omnichannel – it is a fundamental pillar of overall omnichannel strategy and efforts.
  2. There’s no doubt about it – tablets and smartphones are an integral part of the shopping experience. Retailers must focus on optimizing messaging for mobile in order to expect greater traffic, open rates, engagement and ultimately conversion.

Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly EQ42013: Holiday Roundup has shown us the importance mobile plays for retailers’ omnichannel strategies. To learn more about how Blueport’s platform enables omnichannel excellence for our retailers, check out our video on Store-Sync.

*Bonus: The Monetate report also educates readers on appropriate benchmarking, metrics and analysis and it’s worth a good read. 


About Blueport Commerce

Blueport Commerce is the omnichannel solution for the furniture industry. Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture this 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 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. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Three Tips to Help Your Brand Stay Relevant With Your Consumer

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by

The power of a brand experience can define a retailer’s growth. When a consumer visits an e-commerce website, his or her first impression is on the brand, and whether it and its products reflect the style they are seeking. If you do not engage consumers with your brand upfront, you risk losing them when it comes time for them to make a purchase. This is the very reason why our own in-house brand, Furniture.com, refreshed their website design late last year, including re-vamping the blog, Pursuit of Home. Another online retailer Wayfair operated under the brand name CSN Stores up until 2010 as relatively unknown brand in its space. The company was growing steadily but its re-branding was a risk that helped the company reach a broader consumer base. So what can retailers do to make sure their brand stays relevant with their consumer? Blueport shares these three tips:

 

1. Know Your Consumer

Keep tabs on how your brand is showing up on search results and how consumers are reaching your brand. You will not only want to look at how consumers get to your brand, but also how long they are engaged on your site. If a consumer can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they will drop out and you will see your rankings decrease on Google. Furniture.com did extensive consumer research, to help define both the site look and feel as well as how products are marketed to consumers. Consumer research also drove CSN Stores re-brand to Wayfair. They noticed that consumers were shopping more by brand rather than by product, and as a result their vertical-specific sites via CSN Stores were losing rank on Google and consumers could not find products as easily.

2. Don’t Worry About The Short-Term Consequences. Think Long-Term.

Initially it’s expected that websites take a hit in traffic or search rankings when something is changed, such as the brand or the overall experience that can surprise repeat visitors. But over time this dip tends to follow a bell curve for the retailers as theoretically the changes would enhance consumer relevance over the long-term. Wayfair, for example, was initially penalized by Google upfront for the redirects they had to use. If you do have to make a change, don’t be concerned about the short-term consequences of those changes. As long as you are confident the changes you are making are ultimately best for your core consumer, make the change and stick it out.

3. Don’t Forget About Your Stores

Many of our clients are fortunate in that they have built brand loyalty over time through their stores. While it is important to focus on your e-commerce efforts, don’t lose sight of your store experience. Your brand should be a cohesive experience from engagement to purchase. Your in-store sales efforts are key to making a lasting impression and driving consumers to your web presence when they ultimately decide to make a purchase.

Overall, don’t wait until it is too late to make changes to make your brand more relevant to your consumers. Most retailers don’t make changes until a drastic change is needed to turn sales around. Making small changes to enhance your brand along the way will help avoid this retail pitfall. And, if you find that your brand name or look and feel needs a change, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. Ultimately, it is all about staying relevant with your consumer. So find out who they are (if you haven’t already), drive them to your store or website by learning how they shop, and create an engaging and positive experience that will keep them coming back for years to come.


About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture omnichannel 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 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. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Five Favorite Highlights from the MITX E-Commerce Summit: Part II

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by

In part I of our MITX E-Commerce Summit wrap up, we discussed how redefining a customer experience can be huge for online retail, the importance omni-channel plays in e-commerce and how data-driven personalization requires attention, flexibility and speed. In today’s blog post, we highlight mobile and 2014 trends we learned from leaders in e-commerce. Read on to learn more.  

Highlight #4: Mobile Enables A Clearer Path In The Customer Journey

In the panel, “The Rise of Mobile,” e-commerce executives, including Blueport’s Carl Prindle, discussed how adoption of mobile has impacted the customer journey. CVS Caremark, for example, notes customers often open their branded app while shopping in-store. For PayPal, being everywhere for everyone differs among the many different sized businesses who use PayPal, and how their consumers behave, whether it’s through mobile check-ins, logins, app usage or other methods.  

At Blueport, we use mobile for three purposes:

  1. Real-time availability in stores and online through geo-location
  2. Mobile as a marketing platform to close the consideration funnel
  3. Camera functionality to be used in a unique way, such as augmented reality

Overall, the mobile path is different based on each business and its customers – those that choose a path best suited for their customers is a step in the right direction. There’s still a lot of unknowns in mobile, so businesses shouldn't be afraid to come up with a story, try it, test it quickly and if it doesn't work, move on and try something new.

Highlight #5: 2014 Trends In E-Commerce

E-Commerce is expected to grow from $260 billion to $370 billion by 2017. Just ride the wave, right? Not exactly. VP, Principal Analyst from Forrester Sucharita Mulpuru discussed some hard truths and myths to pay attention to in 2014:

Truths:

  1. The biggest threat to e-commerce is not Amazon; it’s the Postal Service. Postal Service debt is expected to reach $15 billion in 2014, and will likely increase the cost of shipping parcels, squeezing retailers trying to offer free shipping.
  2. Peak e-commerce volume can’t be sustained through other shipping methods. During the 17 peak holidays in 2013, daily package volume was 46 million packages. The problem? Shipping hubs couldn’t keep up with the demand and there isn’t enough ROI to sustain additional hubs throughout the rest of the year.
  3. The SECOND biggest threat is Amazon. Amazon has a break even business model even with offering Prime for free two-day shipping.
  4. Every Day Low Pricing (EDLP) dies. People showroom – 35% use phones to research prices in stores and 37% plan to research more in the future. On average, prices through Amazon for products were 30% cheaper. Unsustainable, yes, but proves the value of EDLP for other retailers

Myths:

  1. Everyone's investing in mobile. Digging into the numbers, just 27% invest more than $1 million in revenue to mobile today. In spite of this, web revenue by device is 21% (13% for tables, 8% for smartphones). Consumers are still spending more than retailers are investing, so a relatively conservative approach to mobile investment is not such a bad idea.
  2. Big data is your savior. Finding valuable insights isn’t easy when there’s 280+ exabytes of data in the cloud. Use existing solutions to drive value; there’s not many new unfounded solutions out there.
  3. Bitcoin is the bomb. Bitcoin’s value is not totally clear to customers yet. It’s disruptive, but not immune to competition. It is a form of anonymous payment, but customers have concerns about security.

While we could go on forever, we could only share our five favorite highlights from the summit from part I and part II. Videos from the whole event are expected to be posted on the MITX YouTube channel soon. 


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 Favorite Highlights from the MITX E-Commerce Summit: Part I

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 by

On Thursday, January 30th, 2014, Blueport Commerce sponsored and attended the sold out MITX E-Commerce Summit at Google’s offices in Cambridge, MA. Leaders in e-commerce, including Blueport Commerce President and CEO Carl Prindle, discussed the latest in e-commerce, mobile and marketing. In part one of our two-part post, we discuss three out of five of our favorite highlights from speakers on the customer experience, omni-channel and data-driven personalization. Read more in next week’s post on mobile and 2014 trends in e-commerce.



Highlight #1: Creating Customer Experience In A Dog Eat Dog E-Commerce World

Faisal Masud, EVP of Global E-Commerce at Staples opened up the summit with his keynote on “Connected Commerce at Staples: Redefining Customer Convenience.” In this session, a key trend began to emerge around creating a great customer experience with the e-commerce landscape and customer demand constantly changing. Despite Staples’ success as the second largest internet retailer with $25 billion in sales, it has still spent countless hours and will continue to devote time to understanding its shoppers and delivering them an optimal experience around selection, price and speed of delivery. 

Highlight #2: Bridging The Gap Between Customers And Retailers With Omni-Channel

One thing about omni-channel that became abundantly clear in the panel from Accenture Interactive titled “Seamless Customer Experience – The Key To Brand Differentiation” was that there’s a gap between what retailer’s think they are delivering as omni-channel and what consumers expect.

In this panel, speakers discussed the report, “Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding The Omni-Channel Gap,” where 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online, while 50% expect to buy online and pick up in-store. Many retailers in turn haven’t caught up to this level of demand.

For furniture retail, we challenge that omni-channel is not just about buying online and picking up in store but about seamless end-to-end experience in-store, online and through mobile. Check out our omni-channel enabled platform offering, Store-Sync.

Highlight #3: Machines Are Taking Over Data…Well, Almost

In the incredibly engaging panel on “Data-Driven Personalization,” representatives from Joss & Main, SapientNitro and Evergage talked about key things they are all doing to tackle data and use it to personalize their experience to customers. The key takeaways?

  1. Data has a shelf life so act quickly
  2. Make a map of persona intent – if you know who your customers are and can understand their intentions, you can use that data to increase conversion
  3. Remove noise from the signals (read: there’s lots of data out there) to help you make informed decisions.

Why are these highlights some of our favorites? For one, we live and breathe the customer experience, omni-channel and data for our furniture retail clients each and every day. Read next week’s blog post about our two final favorite highlights on how mobile enables a clearer path in the customer journey and 2014 trends in e-commerce. And, check out YouTube, as videos from the event are expected to be posted soon. 


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.

Three Tips To Optimize Paid Search Campaigns

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by

Paid search is the key to acquiring new customers and staying top of mind. But knowing where to begin can be quite overwhelming, especially given the constant changes in paid search. Here are three tips that we‘ve learned at Blueport Commerce to help optimize paid search for our in-house brand, Furniture.com.

Tip #1 – Understand Key Performance Indicators

It is helpful for furniture retailers to first understand how to better measure the success of paid search campaigns through key performance indicators (KPIs). One KPI I look at frequently is the conversion rate of paid search campaigns. This helps me to understand what types of keywords led to orders and in turn where to best allocate my Pay-Per-Click (PPC) budget.

Tip #2 – Use the Keyword Planner In Google Adwords

The Keyword Planner in Google Adwords is a great tool to help you build out your keywords. You can use it to search for keyword and ad group ideas. All you have to do is enter a keyword relevant to your business and it will generate hundreds to ideas for you. One caveat is that not all the ideas will be applicable to what you’re selling, but the amount of keywords it provides makes building out your campaigns and ad groups a breeze. For furniture retailers, it can be easy to fall into the trap of having every possible keyword that covering a customer’s search. It’s a good rule of thumb to have a mix of all types of keywords, from broad-based keywords like “sofa” to more long-tail keywords like “gray 2 piece modular sofa.”

Tip # 3 – Audit Your PPC Account

It’s a good practice to audit your PPC account periodically to make sure everything is in order. Going through a checklist to make sure your account is set up for success will likely help you to catch low hanging fruit and continuously improve your account. Here are a few common things to review:

1) Account structure – Is your account structured properly? A proper account structure lays the foundation for your account, so it’s useful to check things like campaign structure and whether it still makes sense. I’ve found that for furniture retailers, it is a good idea to structure campaigns by product categories. For example, you would have a separate campaign for sofas and a different one for mattresses. This structure gives you more control over your PPC budget and allows you to allocate more budget to campaigns that are performing better.

2) Location – Are you targeting the right locations? This is an important one as it’s easy to forget to include new locations to target if your business expands. For example, if your furniture business is primarily based in the Midwest, it may make sense to target your ads in the Midwest instead of across the U.S. This way you will focus your PPC budget to reach where your target customers are located.

3) Ad scheduling – What settings do you have for time of day and day of week? Are you only showing ads at certain times? Does this still make sense for your business? While every business is different, you may not want to limit your ads to show at only certain times if you are also selling online. Unlike a brick and mortar retail store, your online store is always open and so it probably makes sense to have your ads live throughout the day/night.

Paid search is a necessary part of your marketing campaign. With these tips in your back pocket, you can be sure your paid search campaigns will bring your store’s website to the top of the ‘search’ fold.


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.

Marketing For Omni-Channel

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by

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

Use Data To Your Advantage

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

Bridge The Gap Between Mobile, In-Store And Online

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

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

Omni-Channel’s Impact On Marketing Furniture

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

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

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


About Blueport Commerce

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

Free Shipping…The New Norm?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

First and Foremost, Location Is Key

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

Second, Don’t Be Afraid To Over-Communicate

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

Third, Get Creative About Your Promotions

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

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


About Blueport Commerce

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

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

Saturday, January 4, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Blueport Commerce

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

The Rapid Decline Of Email

Saturday, January 4, 2014 by

Email is and has always been the pillar of communication from retailers to consumers. But according to Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly, a rapid decrease in email performance has retailers questioning email campaign efforts. Studies show email referrer traffic is down nearly 20% from last year, and number of sessions (or active visits on site) from email has dropped 25%. While average order value from email increased by nearly 8%, it is a crawl compared to the 20% increase for search. These findings suggest consumers are calling on retailers to change the way they’ve been communicating through email. Blueport shares four steps retailers can take to break through the clutter. 

1) Being Relevant Is Key

Consumers are pushing more and more for consistency and relevancy in retailer communications. Ensuring a personalized experience will help your email stand out above the rest. Consider every factor from location to device that could impact a purchase and be sure to target those nuanced behaviors in each individual email. A relevant and personalized experience is especially important in furniture retail, where consumers are shopping more infrequently for those longer term, durable house goods. Engaging consumers from every touch point, including email can help impact a purchase.

2) Speaking Of Devices…

It is important to consider the device your consumer is on, whether it is a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Imagine your customer receives an email about a couch sale on their smartphone, they click on the link to find slow load times and difficulty navigating. Ensuring a consistent experience from email to website, no matter the device, is essential in keeping your customers engaged throughout the process. Monetate suggests looking back on past data to find out which are the most common devices your customers are using. Then, focus your efforts on optimizing that device.

3) Take The Next Step In Personalization

With dynamic marketing, sending emails based on location and time opened is a pinch. So next time a consumer is close to a store, send an email about in-store sales to usher them in. Or perhaps target a customer that was in-store browsing a couch with a free shipping coupon to help sweeten the deal. These types of tactics will help re-engage consumers and target relevant offers accordingly.

4) Keep It Fresh

Consider different approaches to communicating with your customers. Internet Retailer reports on a new app, Flipp, that publishes circulars similar to the Sunday papers. Consumers will often scan this app when shopping in-stores. Consider supplementing email campaigns with fresh offers like these to reach a more robust audience base.

It is a competitive world trying to reach the attention of consumers, and the amount of emails in the market has led to a decrease in email efficacy. Take these necessary steps to refresh your email communications ensuring they (and your brand) stay top of mind.


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.

Making Omnichannel Shopping for Furniture a Reality

Saturday, December 28, 2013 by

It’s been a record breaking holiday shopping season so far. E-commerce came out on top with mobile shopping reaching new heights. But probably the most touted buzzword for the 2013 Holiday shopping season, omnichannel, has retailers racing to create a consistent experience across all shopping channels. And they should—omnichannel shoppers are more likely to spend compared to those shopping through one channel. Not to mention, 84% of shoppers note that the most important aspect of an omnichannel strategy is a consistent customer experience across all channels. In the realm of furniture where omnichannel consistency is more important than ever, Blueport has a groundbreaking solution.

Quite simply, for most furniture shoppers, stores still play a critical role in the shopping process. Computers, tablets and smartphones are often used to research, find deals and even make a purchase. Introducing Store-Sync, part of Blueport’s comprehensive online furniture platform, where omnichannel is not just a buzzword but a reality in the furniture shopping experience. Store-Sync is a revolutionary new technology for retail, which, for the first time, champions the role that in-store shopping provides and bridges online convenience automatically. This in turn, drives both in-store and online traffic.

Store-Sync is the easiest way to shop for furniture ever, marrying local stores and sales staff with the online convenience today’s busy shoppers expect.

Watch the latest video on Store-Sync to learn what all the buzz is about. 

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.

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly…At Least For Online Retailers

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

While extending store hours to open Thanksgiving night may have rallied the crowds, it was Cyber Monday that brought in the record breaking numbers this year. According to the NRF, consumers spent 3.9% less on Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday) compared to last year. There are several possible reasons for these results, including shoppers holding out for a better deal on Cyber Monday or the sheer number of days of discounts cannibalized revenue traditionally saved for in-store Black Friday only sales.

Whatever the reason, stores may have been packed, but many shoppers chose buy online. And now it seems the traditional distinction between brick & mortar Friday and online Monday has blurred into a week-long omni-channel shopping extravaganza.

Blueport Commerce takes a deeper look at the learnings from the Thanksgiving sales season, how they stacked up to expectations and what it means for the year to come.

Numbers are courtesy of IBM’s Cyber Monday Report 2013 and Black Friday Report 2013.

Cyber Monday Blew Black Friday Out Of The Water

It pays to be the last day of this discount season. Consumers, worried that they would not reap the benefits of Thanksgiving sales, flocked to the web on Cyber Monday to cash in on the remaining discounts. Cyber Monday online sales set record highs this year with a 20% increase in sales compared to 2012 and nearly 32% higher compared to Black Friday sales this year. Additionally, Cyber Monday shoppers were quick to the punch, checking out their online cart at a 12.6 higher rate than Black Friday shoppers.

In the home goods category, Cyber Monday sales increased by 26% and by 17% on Black Friday compared to 2012.

Mobile Did Not Disappoint

If you follow the Blueport Commerce blog, you’re no stranger to the rise of mobile. Bindi Tuli identified a few mobile strategies here, I touched on Mcommerce here and here, and Kate Putnam talked about mobile in Monetate’s e-commerce quarterly here. Needless to say, we anticipated the rise of mobile encroaching on site traffic and overall sales. And the data did not disappoint. 

Mobile traffic accounted for over a third of all online traffic - that’s up 45% from 2012. Mobile sales also gave online a boost this season topping 17% of total online sales. Despite the mobile rise, it appears mobile traffic and sales decreased on Cyber Monday compared to Black Friday as shoppers headed back to work. 

Consumers Are Keeping Shopping Social

When it comes to marketing through social channels, Facebook brought in the dough. Facebook referrals converted sales at four times the rate of Pinterest on Black Friday and 38% higher than Pinterest on Cyber Monday. While average order value was higher on Facebook compared to Pinterest, on Cyber Monday it was 6% higher on Pinterest than Facebook among customers who converted on Black Friday, despite lower overall conversion sales.

If sales did not meet your expectations, don’t fret. The good news is, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were just the start of the holiday season, especially for Furniture. Shoppers are still in the giving mood this month and many retailers are continuing promotions throughout December, January and February. So, take the learnings from last week (Tip: was free shipping a bust? Try a percentage off promotion) and adapt your promotions accordingly to capitalize on what is turning out to be a blockbuster online shopping season. 


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.

There’s Something In The Water At Furniture.com

Saturday, November 30, 2013 by

There’s a saying in Brooklyn, New York that Brooklyn bagels are the best because of their water. Well there is definitely something in the water here at Blueport Commerce. No, we don’t have better bagels. But we do have a vision for the future of Furniture e-commerce.  

Blueport Commerce has recently re-branded our in-house brand, Furniture.com. You may be thinking to yourself, “this is fantastic!” or, “hm, I didn’t even notice” or your feelings are somewhere in between. For us, it is a monumental step to greater things - A gateway to better serve our customers and how we will ratchet up the opportunity for selling furniture online in a big way. Intrigued yet? Here’s why you should be:

Tapping Into The Potential Of A Category-Killer URL

For years we’ve recognized the potential Furniture.com has as a domain and have invested a lot of time and effort in realizing that potential. The Furniture.com re-branding effort is only the beginning of the road to success, coming on the cusp of what is sure to be a promising season for e-commerce. We hope our new brand helps customers say to themselves “This is a place where I want to shop.”  Our customer is and will always be our focus, and it’s up to us to deliver on the promise of providing an exemplary experience for buying furniture online, unlike any retailer now and in the future.

Creating A Brand That Serves Our Customers Even Better

Now that we have a new brand to stand behind, we’re focusing our efforts on the entire site experience for our customers – this may mean simple changes to our checkout process to implementing new tools like augmented reality or completely reinventing the experience of shopping for furniture online. We want our customers to not only consider shopping with us, but love going to our website and buying the great products we sell.

(Really) Seizing The Opportunity To Sell Furniture Online

For large furniture retailers, Blueport Commerce offers something unique. We not only provide a full e-commerce solution, but also own and operate Furniture.com to give furniture retailers an opportunity to drive incremental sales online. We bring our experience and technology unique to furniture to create a targeted customer experience online. Our ability to tie-in our platform with even the oldest inventory systems allows for a seamless integration and an omnichannel customer experience. Retailers, in turn, bring their assets to bear in fulfillment. And, for our clients with branded sites on our platform, the stores are an integral part of doing business online. We love show-rooming for that reason. 

While our new brand is a monumental step, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what selling furniture online can offer. But the combination of our recent efforts and efforts over time will make the difference, so keep a close eye on us. With a little blood, sweat, tears, a solid model, and of course the water, you can be sure we will seize the billion dollar opportunity furniture e-commerce presents.


 

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 Proven Guidelines For Creating A Successful Online Customer Experience

Saturday, November 23, 2013 by

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

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



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

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

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

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

3) One Form Of Communication Does Not Fit All

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

4) Creating A “White-Glove” Experience

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

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

What You Need To Know About Mcommerce, Part Two

Saturday, November 16, 2013 by

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


Responsive design for your mobile site is key.

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

Track your progress via mobile specific analytics.

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

Be a part of your consumer’s research.

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

Target your customer through mobile.

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

Stay ahead of the curve with SMS marketing.

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

What You Need To Know About Mcommerce, Part One

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

                                     

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

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.