Industry Forecast: Shopping Trends in Furniture and Appliances

How dealers will adapt to the new retail landscape

By Ziv Fass, package.ai

Over the past 12 months the landscape of furniture and appliance retail in the U.S. has undergone a significant transformation, driven by shifting consumer spending habits, economic influences and competition from pure-play online stores. 

The economic climate for selling furniture is not expected to improve quickly, so retailers need to focus on building competitive advantage, optimizing customer lifetime value, adding efficiencies and cutting costs. As a result, we expect the following trends to dominate retail in 2024.

Last-Mile Operations Will Transform From Cost Center to Growth Engine

Home furnishings and appliance retailers are unique because, unlike other retail sectors, they control last-mile delivery. This offers them a golden opportunity to leverage this investment by focusing on improving customer experience. This has become increasingly important to consumers, with an incredible 80% feeling the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report.

Currently, furniture and appliance delivery is optimized for “landing products.” Customers are kept connected during this process with one-way notifications and driver tracking. This involves no true connection with, or listening to, the customer. 

This year, retailers will look to shift the focus from passive to more active two-way customer engagement during fulfillment. Customers will be able to actively ask questions, message the driver, reschedule delivery without having to interact with a human and engage in conversation with retailers in real-time. 

Increasing engagement during the last mile, when customers’ attention is highest, will help foster a genuine emotional connection and result in a far more positive delivery experience to drive loyalty and positive reviews. 

Improving customer experience also drives revenue. According to a report in Forbes, 84% of queried companies experienced an increase in revenue after improving their customer experience. And the last mile is the perfect marketing window to offer upsell opportunities, such as warranties and complimentary products. This is because engaged customers are more receptive to suggestions and recommendations, presenting prime opportunities for upselling or cross-selling relevant products or services. 

Hyper-Personalized Shopping Experiences Will Drive Revenue

With customer expectations rapidly changing, furniture and appliance retailers are being forced to create an increasingly personalized customer experience.  

Brands that excel in personalization improve customer loyalty 1.5 times more effectively than brands with poor personalization, according to Deloitte. Consumers also expect more tailored experiences when shopping, with 72% expecting the businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests, McKinsey & Company found.

This is why in 2024, retailers will increasingly harness data to offer hyper-personalized customer engagement, marking a transformative shift in the furniture retail landscape. 

Hyper-personalization not only elevates customer satisfaction but also cultivates brand loyalty, driving enhanced sales and fostering enduring customer relationships. This will equip retailers with the agility to adapt swiftly to evolving consumer demands while delivering unparalleled, individualized experiences that resonate profoundly with their customer base.

With furniture and appliance retailers increasing their investment in online engagement there has been a surge in the customer data they can collect. From online to mobile and in-person interactions, retailers must consider not only how they can collect customer data but use it to drive personalization as the default standard for their engagement with shoppers. Those that fail to either capture this data or utilize it will curtail their ability to grow. This is because companies that grow faster drive 40% more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts, the McKinsey study showed.

AI Will Bridge the Gap Between Bricks-and-Mortar and Pure-Play Online 

Furniture and appliance retailers are learning from the successful implementation of artificial intelligence in other sectors, and will use AI to capture the data needed to power hyper-personalization. The data will flow from the use of chatbots to create a constantly connected customer experience. 

The conversational AI deployed by chatbots will constantly extract personal data from customers surrounding their preferences, habits and purchase history. This will enable independent furniture retailers to gain access to the deep customer data previously only available to online stores. Using AI’s ability to learn, retailers will be able to analyze this data to predict customer needs, anticipate preferences, and customize every touchpoint across the customer journey. This will bridge the gap between the bricks-and-mortar and digital worlds. 

According to FurnitureToday, AI will also help furniture retailers meet the broader competitive and economic challenges they face in 2024, which they can achieve by streamlining logistical operations and adding efficiencies to help reduce costs, Forbes said.

Gaining a Distinct Competitive Advantage Will be Vital This Year

The focus on improving the last-mile experience, moving towards hyper-personalization and driving customer engagement will be key in gaining a competitive advantage to ensure continued growth. This will all be made possible by the adoption of AI, which will be the glue that centralizes all these strategic endeavors, delivering the capabilities and data to make them quickly achievable. 

AI is set to fundamentally reshape the home furnishings retail landscape. Retailers integrating AI technologies stand poised to reap rewards such as enhanced customer experiences, streamlined operations, informed decision-making and amplified profitability. With ongoing advancements in AI, its significance within the furniture retail sector is projected to escalate, offering retailers who adeptly harness AI a substantial competitive edge.

Ziv Fass is the CEO and co-founder of Package.ai, a BrandSource vendor partner whose comprehensive customer engagement platform is specialized for furniture and appliance dealers. Learn more about how it can help your business grow in 2024 by booking a demo here.

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