A major online study conducted by the digital agency hmmh in partnership with moebel.de, a specialist in the sector, revealed that more than half (54%) of people making a purchase online will visit a store for research purposes before buying an item of furniture. 85% of those who prefer to buy furniture from a store will have conducted research online beforehand. The study clearly shows that close interaction between on and offline retail will play a decisive role in the future of the furniture market and that meaningful information about products is an essential part of this.
Bremen, 11 October 2018 — The German furniture market has grown significantly over the past four years thanks to the strength of the wider economy. However, this era appears to have ended. In 2017 revenues started to fall again and the fight to attract German furniture customers is getting tougher. The digital agency hmmh joined forces with moebel.de to carry out a study. Over 1000 women and men took part in the representative survey and revealed what they look for in a furniture retailer both on and offline.
What do customers buying furniture on or offline want?
The findings from the revenue figures are reflected in the survey responses: stationary trade is the strongest sales channel for furniture retailers. In-store customers conduct research online and offline in almost identical proportions (85% and 88% respectively). The answers highlight the increased significance of a good online presence for stationary trade and the potential that comes with the ROPO effect (Research Online Purchase Offline).
Nonetheless, 54 percent of online buyers state that they visit a shop for research purposes before making their purchase. There is a reason why purely online players are appearing more and more in the shopping districts of Germany's major cities. "This means that having an online and offline presence and intertwining the two channels closely is playing an ever greater role in the furniture business," explains Gerd Güldenast, Managing Director of hmmh.
Why do customers still prefer to buy from a shop? When asked for their top two criteria when making a purchase, over two thirds (68%) of respondents said that they wanted to check the quality and over half (56%) wanted to check the material. Another reason for buying from a stationary shop is the immediate availability of the furniture, as 41 percent of customers are keen to take their purchase home with them there and then.
Across all channels, the appearance of the item of furniture played the most important part in a purchase for 70% of respondents, followed by quality and functionality. It is difficult to get a real sense of these aspects online. This is why the first furniture retailers have started to offer online delivery of material samples. However, high-quality product images and magnified images of the detail, as well as in-depth and attractive product descriptions, can assist online retailers in these areas.
AR as an opportunity to show customers precise visual details
Augmented Reality (AR) solutions offer the chance to better showcase the details of a product, especially in the form of tablet or smartphone apps which can be used to situate virtual objects in a real environment. Even though only 11 percent of those surveyed have experienced augmented reality, nearly two thirds (61%) can imagine using AR when making a purchase in a high street shop. This also applied to online shopping for just under a third of people (32%). 54 percent are open to the use of virtual reality (VR) in a stationary shop, with 38 percent thinking it is a good idea for an online shop.
What do furniture retailers need to look out for in future in order to remain successful long-term?
The digitalisation of online retail is progressing apace. It presents manufacturers and sellers in the furniture sector with the challenge of getting their product information into shape for the future. At the same time, it offers a lot of opportunities. With emotionally compelling descriptions, videos, images and the use of modern technologies like augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR), the furniture sector can reap some benefits from digitalisation and offer customers an optimised buying experience online, too. Furthermore, new platforms and market places and the increasing connectivity between stationary business and online trade offer huge potential.
There are four areas with which leading companies in the sector must get to grips:
1. Optimising product information for excellent data quality as a guarantee of success
Product data offers customers valuable information which may ultimately convince them to go ahead with the purchase. Product information laid out in a qualitatively sophisticated manner signals to the customer that the seller has an in-depth knowledge of the products.
2. Modernisation of PIM systems for networked systems with quick connections
To ensure that retailers can operate successfully in the market, comprehensive information on both products and individual touchpoints must be available centrally. Product Information Management systems (PIM systems) simplify data management, can be used for digital touchpoints like voice interfaces or VR glasses and are a prerequisite for connecting to online marketplaces
3. Automated product descriptions as scalable solutions for large ranges
Automated product text creation is no longer the preserve of science fiction. Thanks to trained Natural Language Generation systems (NLG), variant-specific product texts can be generated in bulk – within seconds.
4. 3D visualisation as an effortless addition to traditional product photography
Virtual product photography and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) mean that product images can be created much faster. Both will transform the online furniture trade, which is driven by visual content: logistics costs disappear and dynamic, context-sensitive creation of photos becomes a reality with minimal additional effort.
hmmh – Leading in Connected Commerce
hmmh is one of Germany's leading agencies in the field of connected commerce. 300 employees work at the company's Bremen (headquarters), Berlin, Hamburg and Munich offices. Founded in 1995, hmmh established online shopping in Germany with its clients Otto and Tchibo. For over 20 years, the agency has pioneered developments in the digital economy and has erased the boundaries between the online and offline worlds. The transformation from multi-channel business to connected commerce requires integrated, flexible and seamlessly networked strategies and processes. To achieve this, hmmh designs intelligent solutions across all business areas. Under the service promise "consult – create – care", the agency offers comprehensive and tailored advice, and supports successful companies both nationally and internationally with everything from strategy and software development to the creation of websites, portals, online shops and mobile applications, as well as networked CRM, PIM and digital communication activities. Clients such as bonprix, Schaeffler, Gerry Weber, hessnatur, Nestlé, Deutschland Card, 1&1 and Gebrüder Heinemann count on the forward-looking ideas and expertise of this leading agency. As part of Plan.Net, hmmh belongs to the Serviceplan Group – the biggest owner/partner-managed and most geographically widespread agency group in Europe, with over 4,000 employees and 37 locations worldwide.
Germany's largest furniture and furnishing portal bundles products from a wide range of providers and brands and presents the selection on moebel.de. Around 5 million visitors each month find their perfect item of furniture quickly and easily. From great-value top sellers to tailored one-offs – on moebel.de you can find 3 million products in over 250 online shops, around 15,000 stationary shops, over 2000 brand websites and over 1000 designers and furnishing experts. In addition to just partnering with shops, moebel.de helps retailers to become discoverable with their own branding and a corresponding profile in the online directory of traders.