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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Friday, June 21, 2013 by

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

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

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

Origins and a Marketing Problem

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

Step 1: Know Your Customer

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

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

PetFlow.com Facebook Sample Post

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Brand Ubiquity

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

Insights from the eTail 2013 Retail Technology Spending Report

Saturday, June 15, 2013 by

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

Retail spending over the next year

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



Here are the numbers:

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

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

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

Influences on Purchasing Decisions

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

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

Social Commerce: Planting the Seeds for Future Revenue

Saturday, June 29, 2013 by

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

Don’t Discount Social Word of Mouth

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

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

How to Make Your Social Pages (Eventual) Conversion Engines

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

Best Buy – Taking Steps Toward Reclaiming Their Name

Saturday, June 8, 2013 by

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

What Best Buy Did Wrong

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

What Best Buy Is Doing Right

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

Online Improvements: Search, Mobile, and Services

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

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

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

Price Matching and Ship From Stores

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

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

Steps in the Right Direction

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

E-Commerce Merchandising: For Furniture Retailers Image Is EVERYTHING

Saturday, June 1, 2013 by

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

1. Properly Color-Corrected Images Increase Conversions

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

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

2. Omnichannel Catalog Experiences Are Critical for Furniture Retailers

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

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

Saturday, May 25, 2013 by

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Payments

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

Shopping for Furniture Online Is on the Rise: See How Shoppers Are Riding the Wave

Friday, May 3, 2013 by

While many of us avid shoppers can attest to the immense benefits of shopping online, it may be a surprise that shopping online for furniture is just climbing the crest of its opportunity for retail e-commerce. According to Google/Compete [note: link loads PDF], for shoppers, the path to purchase is all about the right method, products, price and selection that will influence how they buy furniture online. Here’s how furniture retailers can take advantage of the furniture shopper path to purchase.

Online Is a Tool for the Entire Furniture Shopping Pipeline

While furniture shopping is averaging just an increase of 5% unique visits year-over-year, shoppers are behaving all over the map. Furniture retailers have a huge opportunity to capture shoppers at all stages of conversion online. For example, only one in four furniture buyers purchase online but those that do purchase online tend to spend more than those who purchase offline – the average price paid by furniture purchasers who shopped online was $657 versus $600 for those who didn’t. Two-thirds of these buyers who purchase in-store access the internet for furniture information. That’s 66% of shoppers who are just trying to learn more to help their ultimate purchase, whether online or in a retail store!

Omnichannel Is Right On

Marketing to shoppers through omnichannel efforts is not just to satisfy e-commerce buzzwords – omnichannel is a true tenant of what makes furniture retailers reap the benefits of selling furniture online. In-store buyers rely heavily on retail sites while shopping – 76% of them on furniture store sites. These buyers also cast a wide net while shopping online, with 63% of purchasers visiting multiple furniture brand sites prior to purchase.

In addition, shoppers have specific requirements for furniture that influences purchase, among them style (82%), material (81%), durability (81%), and size (80%). With all of these considerations being made by shoppers both online and off, it’s critically important for furniture retailers to engage shoppers wherever they are in their purchase cycle and through multiple channels.

Mobile Continues to Catch Waves

Mobile and tablets are still increasingly important sources for online furniture shoppers. 13% use a tablet to access furniture information, while 12% use their mobile. While these numbers don’t yet represent the majority of those studied, trends still suggest that mobile and tablets are poised for growth in the coming years for e-commerce. In addition, Blueport’s brick and mortar retailers can count themselves as sites that furniture shoppers visit:

  • Furniture-only retail sites (39%)
  • Home furnishing sites (40%)
  • Online-only retail websites (41%)
  • Department store websites (44%)

Furniture retailers that can take full advantage of online commerce, while integrating with their brick and mortar stores and mobile, are poised to seize the billion dollar opportunity ahead of them. And Blueport Commerce is riding the wave right along with them, by helping furniture retailers implement a full-service solution that meets the unique, localized needs of selling furniture online.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Social Influence. The Next Step for E-Commerce?

Friday, March 29, 2013 by

Going beyond social networking to social influence is critical to success for retailers in 2013. According to Econsultancy, using social media to its full potential influences consumer purchases, and goes beyond just brand promotion: it takes advantage tools to succeed and increase conversion in the social sphere. Follow these tips to move the social needle away from being part of the crowd to being the crowd-source. 

Tip #1: Location, Location, Location

Here at Blueport, we preach a localized e-commerce experience for furniture retail that allows shoppers to get their pieces just that much quicker while maintaining quality and a fair price. Online, shoppers behave similarly when they shop around a brick-and-mortar store. If something doesn’t stand out to them or they just happen to not pass by that area of the show room (in this case, a website’s landing page), there’s a lost conversion opportunity.

For social media influence, location is important. People interact and share information when the opportunity presents itself, so make social media work harder for you and make it easier for people to talk about your brand and merchandise. How? Strategically locate your social media channels all over your website to allow for greater interaction and influence for your brand and merchandise. Victoria’s Secret has been able to garner the highest Facebook presence because its landing page connects to more social media and works with multiple devices.

Tip #2: He Said, She Said Matters

Although the days of lunch room gossip are long over, no one said we still didn’t crave being in the know. Thankfully, today social media can fill the void and stay ahead of what on trend chevron pattern John Stamos has in his dining room. 63% of social media users feel consumer ratings are the number one source of information about e-commerce products,, and consumers discuss specific brands casually 90 times per week. Retailers can tap into this natural communication, but optimize it in the online space.

 

Tip #3: Give Shoppers What They Want

58% of Facebook users expect exclusive offers, events and promotions when they become fans of a Facebook page. 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions. As if that weren’t enough, 70% of active social media users shop online and 47% of them are more likely to be heavy spenders on clothing, shoes and accessories. How can furniture retailers take advantage of this influence online? Specific, exclusive offers help, but it’s also about communicating your brand promise, tailoring your merchandise to your fan demographic and using the data captured to provide insight into your merchandise selection.

Social influence for e-commerce is all about spending just the right amount of time with a few other tips and tricks to make the most of what is offered. Oh and by the way, we’d love to hear from you: @blueportdotcom on Twitter, BlueportCommerce on Facebook and also on LinkedIn. #longliveecommerce

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?