17.–23.01.2022 #immcologne

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Furniture retail is going digital

Click and collect and the future of omnichannel

Browsing and buying online, collecting offline: Click and collect, also known as buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), has become firmly established in the furniture trade. This system allowed customers to keep ordering furniture conveniently online during the numerous lockdowns and collect it later in store. Reserving online and paying on collection (reserve and collect) was another welcome way for consumers to support local retailers. This sales channel has the potential to benefit the furniture industry even more in the future.

Click and Collect Package by Yu Hosoi on Unsplash

With click and collect, customers buy online and then collect the items in store or from one of the retailer’s pickup points. (Photo: Yu Hosoi auf Unsplash)

Click and collect: benefits and challenges

New situations call for new strategies. The pandemic and several lockdowns that saw retailers forced to close created a need for alternative sales channels. While e-commerce racked up huge growth, many small, local stores feared for their survival. The solution: the click-and-collect model – a concept that still has plenty of potential now that the shops have reopened.

Customers can browse the whole range and gather all the information they need – from the comfort of their own homes and free from the constraints of the store’s opening hours and busy times. Once they have put all the products they want in their basket and checked out, they can collect them all in one go, saving on delivery charges and supporting their favourite local store to boot. Customers often have the chance to try out products in person, ask any questions or even return the items if they have some doubts. Click and collect therefore combines the benefits of digital offerings with a bricks-and-mortar shopping experience.

Physical retailers can expand their range of services into the digital world with click and collect, but without sacrificing customer retention and expert advice. Customers can easily try out an item of furniture and pick up an extra in-store impulse buy while logistics labour hours and costs are minimised. Especially for small stores who cannot or do not want to keep up with the aggressive delivery charges policies of the pure-play e-retailers, click and collect can be a profitable happy medium. Offline and online channels dovetail in an overarching omnichannel strategy that pays off quickly despite the essential investment in digital infrastructure.

A sales model for the future

E-commerce sales are soaring in the furniture industry – and the upwards trend continued during the pandemic. After the end of lockdown, the trend will slow down, at least in the short term. Instead of shopping online, people want to get out and enjoy shopping in person again. This applies in no small measure to the interiors industry. After all, the firmness of a seat in an item of upholstered furniture or the haptics of a wooden table are not so easy to convey online. For click and collect to work in the long term, the services retailers offer should combine the best of both worlds and take the changes in customers’ needs into account. The following factors will be crucial to successful multichannel or omnichannel sales:

  • Flexibility: Online shops are open 24/7, so collecting the items ordered should be at least as flexible as possible. Introducing contactless collection points or extending the warehouse’s opening hours could be solutions for giving customers greater freedom.
  • Convenience: A convenient buying process is a top priority in e-commerce, but post-purchase communications should also be painless. Being easily contactable on Messenger and by e-mail and telephone is as important as providing clear information and setting up an intuitive pickup process.
  • Fulfilment: Logistics processes must be adapted to the diversity of customers. This applies both to digitalising the back office and to developing analogue offerings for older target groups. From smartphone payments to telephone advice all the way through to invoices by post, all the possible methods need to be taken into consideration.
  • Speed: Warehouse logistics has always been a critical factor in the furniture trade. With click and collect, the expectations of customers and retailers are rising even further. The availability of items should be spot on, but without exceeding the warehouse’s capacity. Modern inventory management and digital interfaces are indispensable.

Logistics behind Click and Collect by Tiger Lily on Pexels

In the furniture trade, warehouse logistics has always been a complex process that should run smoothly – this is becoming even more critical with the rise of click-and-collect sales. (Photo: Tiger Lily auf Pexels)

Omnichannel is an opportunity for the furniture trade

Digital offerings for customers and retailers are becoming more and more diverse. In the jungle of marketing activities and sales channels, the added value for customers remains the key question: Do they simply want to collect their furniture or can I as a retailer offer other benefits? Which of my store’s USPs would it make sense to recreate online? An online digital showroom must be planned with expert sales advice in mind. Well-prepared information and direct communication with specialist advisers remain key purchase arguments. It is no surprise that the e-commerce giants are opening up physical showrooms in major cities and that eBay is setting up a marketplace for local retailers .

On the other side of the coin, small shops can expand their range of services with tablet and online configurators and offer benefits to local customers. Any store offering a wide range of convenient delivery and collection options will reach new visitors and build a base of loyal customers on various channels. This makes click and collect a crucial element in any diversified furniture retailer’s strategy.

When they are introducing the concept, local stores can benefit from the lessons that the big players have learned. In our interview, Amazon expert Gregor Arentz shares some exciting insights into digital furniture retail.