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Four Essential Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Online Customer Engagement Strategy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 by


Consumers today have more access to information than ever before on the products and services they want to buy. Easy access to the internet provides an instant gateway to price transparency, product comparison, customer reviews, deals, and ultimately – options. Consequently, retailers must not only respond to what consumers want, but, more importantly, distinguish themselves from the rest. In the Age of the Consumer, how a brand engages customers can set it apart from all the rest. We’ve put together the following four questions every retailer should ask themselves to ensure they are achieving the basics of customer engagement in their online strategy.  

Are You Making the Most Out of Social?

Social media fans are more likely to put their money where their “pin” is, according to Business Insider. Additionally, a recent study by Google Insights found that those who regularly engage with brands online are more likely to convert. Encourage customers to virtually interact with your brand and each other along the path to purchase. Facilitate access to social sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to allow your customers to connect with others – to share opinions, reviews, and products. 

How’s Your Mobile Site?

The average American spends 162 minutes (almost 3 hours!) on a mobile device per day. There is enormous potential for retailers to seize the opportunity mobile presents. One third of online visitors to the top-10 retailer sites in 2013 used only mobile devices to shop those merchants online.[1] Building a strong m-commerce presence is a must for retailers. The easier you can make the mobile shopping experience, the more customers will click to buy.

Are You Offering Valuable Content, Other Than What You’re Trying to Sell?

To win in the age of the consumer means to go beyond providing just the product or service you are selling – you need to distinguish yourself through engagement. One way to do this is to provide content that offers intrinsic value – give customers information, advice, tips etc. that is relevant to your product. Selling furniture? Provide a how-to-clean guide for upholstery and leather, for example. You’ll establish yourself as an authority in your retail space and build reliance and trust among your customers.

Are You Being Visual Enough?

It’s well known that the Internet customer has a very short attention span and yes, aesthetics matter. The sooner you can grab hold of your customers’ attention with a visually pleasing web site and marketing materials, the sooner they will stay a while and shop around. Visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text. Keep the power of visuals and ease of navigation in mind when it comes to your web site.
 

In the age of the consumer, retailers and marketers must strive to differentiate themselves through engagement. There are more ways to do this than we can count. If you can remember something from this post – remember these four words: social, mobile, content, and visuals.

  • Social: Make the online shopping experience social by connecting your customer to virtual communities.
  • Mobile: Get in on the mobile game – ASAP. Customers are spending more and more time on their mobile devices and you don’t want to miss out on this prime real estate.
  • Content: Establish yourself as a trusted source of information by offering valuable content that brings meaning into customers’ lives.
  • Visuals: Capture attention with an engaging and clean visual experience. Make the checkout process intuitive and simple.
 

[1] comScore Inc.


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.

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.

Furniture Trend Report: Early Spring 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 by

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

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

    

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

    

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

Our takeaway?

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

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

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

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

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

Our takeaway? 

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

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

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

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

Our takeaway?

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

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

About Blueport Commerce

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

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by

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

                        
The Data Behind Video

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Videos Should Appear Professionally Done

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Three Ways To Bridge The Omnichannel Commerce Gap Between Consumers And Retailers

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by

“To be omnichannel or not to be omnichannel?” Hate to say it, but that’s no longer the relevant question for retailers. (The answer, is "yes, of course" in case you were wondering.) The question is rather, “are you doing enough to allow for the (truly) omnichannel experience today’s consumers not only desire, but expect?” For most retailers, the answer is no. While making the transition to omnichannel can be difficult, it’s certainly a step most retailers have recognized as important.

So, how can you hop on the omnichannel bandwagon? Here are three tips for retailers to begin bridging the omnichannel gap.

The Consumer/Retailer “Omnichannel” Gap

While omnichannel is certainly a priority for the vast majority of retailers, only about a third of retailers have operationalized the basics consumers have come to expect (such as store pick-up, cross-channel inventory visibility, and store-based fulfillment). Why is that? Simply put, enabling an omnichannel experience is much easier said than done. The path to full synchronization of inventory across all channels requires a hefty investment of money, time, and resources. Technology upgrades, employee training, and even a change in organizational leadership remain barriers, preventing many companies from becoming fully omnichannel. As a result, only 6% of retailers surveyed for Forrester’s January 2014 report, Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding The Omni-Channel Commerce Gap*, report no significant barriers to becoming an integrated omnichannel company.

Three Tips To Bridge The Omnichannel Commerce Gap

1. If you have it, flaunt it. Don’t let the physical limits of your brick-and-mortar square footage limit your reach. 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online. In fact, almost 40% of consumers are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a store if physical store inventory is not provided online. Blueport pushes the omnichannel envelope with Store-Sync, which mirrors inventory from anywhere on any device and shows you what’s available at a customer’s closest furniture store.

2. Enable store employees with mobile technology. Consumers have increasingly come to rely on mobile devices to aid their shopping experience, but 61% still value the assistance of an in-store sales associate. Furthermore, nearly 70% of consumers expect the sales associate to have a mobile device on them to – among other things – reference both in-store and online product information and view inventory across stores.

3. Allow consumers to “mix and match” purchase and delivery options. Buy online, pick up in-store. Buy in-store, ship to customer. Buy online, ship from local store. Browse, or shop from any device, anywhere. Just as today’s consumer is hopping back and forth across channels, they are expecting the same agility from retailers. One third of retailers currently utilize their stores as fulfillment and delivery hubs for online orders, and an additional 40% intend to do so within the next 1-2 years.

The shopping behavior of today’s consumer has hard-wired expectations for a seamless omnichannel experience, yet many retailers are falling short of delivering. Rather than playing a game of catch-up, retailers should be actively seizing the opportunity to ramp up channel integration.  

*Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Accenture and hybris software, November 2013


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.

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.

 

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.

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 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 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.

 

Data Analytics: Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital World

Saturday, August 10, 2013 by

 

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

 

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

 

Challenges with Implementing Analytics

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

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

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

Five Stages of Analytical Companies

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

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

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

Where to Start? Key Best Practices

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

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

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

 

About Blueport Commerce

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

Furniture Retailers, Time to Go Back to School

Saturday, August 17, 2013 by


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

Anticipated Spending Trends for 2013 Back to School Shopping

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

Back to School Shopping Trends Google

The Early Research Phenomenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

Did You Know? Things Are Happening Here

Saturday, August 3, 2013 by


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

Furniture.com Makes a Splash on FurnitureToday

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

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

Internet Retailer Defines the Enormous Furniture.com Opportunity

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

 

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.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013 by

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

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

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

Tip #2: Content Should Maximize Reach

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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