How millennials and AI are reshaping the home furnishings industry
By Karen Veenstra, STORIS
What lies ahead for home furnishings?
According to two respected industry observers, there are new forces at play in the furniture business that can help retailers prevail over any current doldrums … if they seize the opportunity.
According to Bill McLoughlin, editor-in-chief of FurnitureToday, a leading industry journal, and Donnie Surdoval, senior VP of product strategy at STORIS, a retail software resource and BrandSource Gold Provider Partner, shifting demographics and the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) are the keys to home furnishings’ future.
While high interest rates, lingering inflation and a post-pandemic malaise still hang over home furnishings, McLoughlin believes the industry’s long-term prospects are bright.
“The pandemic effect is still with us and will continue to be felt in one way or another for several years,” he said, necessitating a new approach to the marketplace that aligns with the country’s changing population and shopping behaviors.
“Study the demographics,” McLoughlin said, pointing specifically to millennials, who now represent the largest consumer segment and are entering their prime furniture purchasing years. “They are moving out of their parents’ homes, starting families and setting up their first households,” he explained, and tapping into this vast consumer base is essential to furniture dealers’ success.
STORIS’s Surdoval noted that millennials consider additional factors beyond price when making purchasing decisions. “There is less price elasticity with consumers now,” he observed. “They consider their shopping experience, credit offers and whether [the merchandise] meets their aesthetic.”
This, he said, is a good thing. “In a sea of bad news, there are positive things going on. Millennials have become our biggest pool of consumers, and this shift allows the industry to respond with strategic price adjustments and to redirect consumer attention to these factors.”
Adapting to these trends to remain relevant to consumers “must be the pivotal driver of change for the industry,” Surdoval said, which requires an enhanced customer experience and greater operational efficiency.
To that end, purpose-specific AI applications can help streamline operations and enrich customer experiences, he said, while McLoughlin went even further to suggest that AI could ultimately prove as significant as the internet in its impact on society.
While the furniture industry has been historically slow to adopt new technologies, both experts believe that investments in AI will help retailers better embrace the coming millennial wave.
Karen Veenstra is a marketing specialist at STORIS, a BrandSource Gold Provider Partner that offers home furnishings dealers a wide range of retail software and services, including POS, e-commerce, mobile POS, CXM, inventory management, merchandising, kiosk, business intelligence, supply chain management, accounting and other retail functions.