Online Retailers Breaking Down the Furniture Barriers

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Brick-and-mortar furniture dealers, like their major appliance cousins, have enjoyed relative asylum from the onslaught of online retail.

The very nature of these cumbersome products has provided a formidable barrier to entry in the guise of high and costly return rates and the challenges of last-mile delivery.

But according to a new report from Coresight Research, e-tailers are beginning to storm the barriers by investing heavily in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and other digital tools to provide experiential shopping online and help shoppers make more informed choices.

As a result, the market research firm projects that nearly one quarter (25 percent) of all U.S. furniture and home furnishings sales will migrate to the web in five years. To buttress its projection, Coresight points to Amazon, which already operates three private-label furniture brands and is “scaling up its presence in the furniture and home furnishings space.”

But in an ironic endorsement of brick-and-mortar retail – and to help drive down return rates – online retailers like Wayfair and Casper are finding merit in establishing a physical presence to augment their online businesses, Coresight said, putting added pressure on terrestrial dealers.

A summary of the report, “U.S. Furniture and Furnishings E-Commerce: Digital-First Retailers Bid for Greater Share,” is available online; a subscription is required to access the complete version.