While migeof furniture retailers continue to make strides to improve their e-commerce capabilities, there remain significant gaps between their intent and execution, according to a 2017 Benchmarking Study conducted by Blueport Commerce.
The study analyzed the websites of 104 retailers across four channels of distribution – traditional, specialty, multi-line and pure-play e-commerce – and also included a survey of retailers to assess the value of 50 individual features related to consumers’ shopping journey.
What it revealed is a significant divide between what retailers perceive as important and what they are currently executing online. For example, surveyed retailers rated the importance of online finance offers as a 72 on scale of 1 to 100, but only 15% actually offer that capability on their websites.
Correspondingly, product reviews ranked as an 80 on the same scale, the highest such feature in the Answer Shopper Questions section of the survey. However, only 38% of retailers surveyed currently offer reviews on their website.
In executing the study, Blue-port evaluated features across eight categories aligned to four key steps along the consumer’s purchase path. The four steps of what is effectively the sales funnel included: Generate Awareness, Nurture Product Interest, Encourage Shopper Intent and Convert.
The eight feature categories aligned to this journey included: Engage Shoppers, Rich Furniture Merchandising, Personalized Shopping, Shopping Across Channels, Marketing and Promotion, Answer Shopper Questions, Seamless Online Orders and Easy Ways to Pay.
Each of the categories included a number of features designed to help consumers at each stage of their purchase path.
The Engage Shoppers category, representing the first step of the journey included such site features as a wishlist, gift registries, idea boards and blog content. All of these scored relatively low with survey respondents with none of the four feature sets rated above 70 in perceived value (on the 100 scale).
Correspondingly, the level of execution in this area is also fairly low, with 64% of respondents currently offering a wish list, 42% blog content, 22% a gift registry and only 3% utilizing idea boards.
When it comes to Rich Furniture Merchandising, the stage at which consumers first begin interacting specifically with product and the area where much of today’s technology discussions are focused, there is also the biggest gap between perceived value and current execution.
For example, while features such as alternate configurations (75 out of 100) and online color swatches (72.7) rated relatively high in perceived value, they scored substantially lower in their availability. Online color swatches were offered by 44% of respondents and alternate configurations by only 14%.
And while features such as augmented reality and virtual reality are widely discussed as meaningful merchandising tools, they were rated the lowest in perceived value and were only available by 3% and 2% of respondents respectively. Even a feature like 360-degree views, which rated a 64.1 in perceived value and has become common outside the furniture space, was available on only 3% of respondent sites.
Another area where furniture sites significantly lag other e-commerce segments is in the area of personalized shopping, which delivers personalized content or products related to the interests of individual shoppers. These include features such as predictive search, product recommendations, recently viewed or account login. Only predictive search was offered by more than half of survey respondents (61%), with recently viewed(29%), product recommendations (23%) and account login (7%) available at only a small number of furniture sites.
The one area where furniture stores are making the quickest strides appears to be in the area which the study defines as Shopping Across Channels. This includes such website features as mobile optimization, responsive design, see store inventory, persistent local store info, geolocation, salesperson recognition, make an appointment to see or buy online cart in-store, and purchase a store quote online.
The two areas where furniture retailers are most advanced are in mobile optimized websites, which 94% currently offer, and in responsive design (meaning the site adapts to the device on which it is viewed), which is avi1able on 70% of store sites.
After that however, the drop-off in cross-channel features is significant, with things like the ability to see store inventory (28%) and geolocation (24%) the only to other areas offered by more than 20% of survey respondents. This is despite the result that both of those features, as well as persistent local store info, were all rated above 70 in terms of perceived value.
When it comes to online marketing and promotion, furniture retailers appear to see little value in online features such as cart promotions, sale pricing, finance offers and email capture, at least in terms of offering those features on their sites. While each of those things ranked above 70 (on a scale of 100) in perceived value, only cart promotion (53%) and sale pricing(51%) were offered by more than half of respondents. The most notable disconnect related to financing where the feature had a perceived value of 71.8 but was only offered on 15% of surveyed sites.
When it comes to Answering Shopper Questions, at least in the digital space, China office sofa manufacturer furniture retailers have yet to adopt the most commonly used technological solutions.