In January's issue, Furniture News investigated how to meet evolving demand from the younger generations. Here, retailer, sales agent, author (and bed and mattress expert) Jerry Cheshire explains why having a strong online presence is essential for any furniture business that wishes to resonate with younger consumers … 

As younger shoppers are way more comfortable making an online commitment, the importance of a traditional furniture store become less, and many traditional furniture stores are struggling to adapt to the demands of younger consumers.

If we consider ‘Dunbar’s number’, which tells us that before making a commitment to do business, a buyer typically interacts with a brand 11 times, and spends about seven hours on that interaction over four different platforms (statistics later endorsed by Google), store owners must adapt to the digital world, and having a large online presence is now essential.

Digital diet

Different age groups browse the internet differently, and use different social media platforms – mainly Instagram for the younger audience, and Facebook for the older. Your target market dictates which medium you choose. 

As a society, we have become avid content consumers, so it’s the avid content creators who are reaping the benefit of that. Give your prospective customer the content they crave – at least seven hours of it, over four platforms. I guarantee that, if you do, you’ll be ahead of your competition.

Seven hours sounds like a lot until you realise what you already have – a store, a website, printed media and social media profiles. Add to that downloadable PDFs and video content, and soon there’s plenty of content available. You don’t necessarily have to have new content all of the time, you can repurpose your existing content and adapt it to the different media.

Transaction talk

Younger consumers are very comfortable with spending online. It’s where they do their research, and clicking a ‘buy now’ button is the logical next step. It’s easy, convenient and cost effective.

So what happened to ‘try before you buy’? Well, it’s no longer as important, as distance-selling regulations allow for goods to be returned without quibble, and many companies offer a time trial anyway. Sending unsuitable goods back is not in the plan at the point of purchase – it’s assumed goods can be returned if needs be. For most, though, returning bulky goods is simply too much bother. 

Maybe, if an item is being bought online because it’s convenient and it fits the budget, expectations may be lower, so lower-quality goods become more acceptable.

Big and bulky goods like beds, sofas and dining tables are more likely to be tried before purchase than smaller items like chairs, coffee tables or occasional furniture, as they are higher ticket and may command a more considered purchase. You may argue that these still have a place in physical stores in a traditional way, but the new consumer should be given the option of buying it online, in their own home.

Under the influence

People have a tendency to buy what other people buy, so online reviews have become a vital part of the buying decision. That’s why all of the major ecommerce players have them. Add to that the opinions of influencers – celebrities and personalities with a large online following – and suddenly a product or brand can become very popular. 

If you’re not riding this wave, you’re being left behind. You never see reviews if you walk into a furniture store.

Takeaways

So, a younger consumer is happy to buy online provided the item they’re purchasing can be satisfactorily researched, has a ‘buy now’ button and is adequately reviewed or recommended by others. Your showroom becomes one of the four platforms for them to interact with you, but it now needs a very active online presence to accompany it.

In January's lead feature, alongside opinion pieces from other seasoned professionals, you’ll find accounts from retailers, suppliers, and everything in between, describing what their business is doing to meet the demands of younger customers. Read it here.