Has consumer online research changed the selling game for upholstery? - Furniture Today

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So, it’s a million-dollar question- because you don’t know which one comes first.
At the same time, you don’t know if they’ve been in the store first and if that that triggers them to look online.
When a customer looks at upholstery online, they don’t know how comfortable it is.
I’d say 85% to 95% of my customers don’t know that it’s possible to change out the cushion.
” But most search options online today don’t know this.
Sometimes they totally don’t know what they want, and they see lots of possibilities online.
Previously they might have bought a sofa 10 years ago, and when they come into the store for the first time, they have sticker shock.

Has consumer online research changed the selling game for upholstery? - Furniture Today

HIGH POINT — With the power of technology in their hands, consumers more than ever before research a product online before purchasing. Brick-and-mortar furniture retailers have had to adapt to informed customers who want to preview products online before entering a physical location. Furniture Today interviewed some of the leading RSAs in the country to ask them three key questions: Have your close rates gone up with customers coming in after having researched their upholstery purchase? Are they further along in their journey? How has this changed your approach in terms of qualifying customers? Has online research helped to narrow down customers’ wants/needs, style, price? Their answers may surprise you. Samir Alkishawi, City Furniture 1. A lot of people started looking online first because they were worrying about COVID. But they want to see, touch and feel in the store before they order. A lot of what they see online and what they end up getting is 90% different. A picture is worth a thousand words, but when they see the color, they end up ordering different items. Looking online decreases the time I have to spend with customers because they already know the style they want, for instance, modern or traditional. This helps them to narrow down choices. And it helps me with the amount of time I need to spend with them once they’re in the store. If they come in looking for modern, I will show them only modern items. 2. To be successful, you always have to change your approach to the customers. You have to find out what they are looking for from the beginning: whole house, one room or something else. When you think about (research before purchase), I’ll be spending one hour with this customer vs. two hours. You cut the wall between you and the customers more quickly. As much as people like looking online, they like coming to the store. They welcome to the trip; we’re almost back to normal with customers spending more time in the store. If I’m working with a customer who is doing an entire house — a four to five-bedroom home — I’m spending two to two-and-a-half hours with them. We’re seeing at least 20% to 30% more customers in the store. They are not looking as much online as before. Right now, I see less online shoppers and more in the store. But I do tell them to look online first if they call to make an appointment. 3. You need to know your customer, really. If the wall between you and them will continue, you can’t make the sale. You need to break the wall and help to understand what the customer needs. The more you talk, the less you sell. You need to listen to the customer to be able to sell. David “Smiley” Botchway, Mathis Brothers 1. As far as upholstery, yes, definitely. Some of them will come in and give me an idea of what they want, and then we can look for that on our floor. Sometimes if isn’t from our website, I will show them something similar. The problem right now is inventory is tight, so I always ask if they want to wait to receive the product. I let them know that wait times are longer, and the danger is that prices can go up. Usually, my customers want to put a deposit down on an upholstered piece as they continue their search, just to insure they will have the product. Eight out of 10 customers will go with the original product purchase. For those two out of 10, we continue looking together. 2. I always tell them this: You can’t make a decision online. Better to try it out and test the features and benefits. If you buy something online, the features may not be what you want. You’re better off buying locally where you live rather than at an online site. We can fix it for you. If you are dealing with an online retailer, the shipment costs can be ridiculous if you change your mind, or the product doesn’t live up to your expectations. Even something simple like a bookcase, trying to fix something made out of particle board that you purchased cheaply online, it won’t work. I try to make that clear to the customer. 3. Sometimes they change their mind. I ask what do you like about this and about that? Most of the time I ask them a lot of questions up front before taking them all over the sales floors. For instance, everyone has a different lifestyle and family dynamics. All those things come to play before I find exactly what they want. Maybe they’re building a house, want something inexpensive and will save their money for more upscale pieces later. Maybe they’re a new family and need upholstery that is kid-proof. Maybe it’s a single man, starting out again. The time from start to closing a sale is definitely shorter than before. Fabric is always subject to your own experience so it’s difficult to purchase online. For instance, if someone wants leather, it can be cool to sit in initially. Your body transfers heat to leather and makes it comfortable. If someone doesn’t like that feel, they can try fabric in our store. If they want a plush fabric, I suggest a protection plan. Chadi Chahada, The Roomplace 1. So, it’s a million-dollar question- because you don’t know which one comes first. All the people have cell phones and are looking at things online. Call it research, curiosity or passing the time. At the same time, you don’t know if they’ve been in the store first and if that that triggers them to look online. During the pandemic, that was a more accurate statement. Now it’s different; people like to go out. If they are buying a house or moving, they now start the journey by visiting stores. When a customer looks at upholstery online, they don’t know how comfortable it is. Online is better for case goods as what you see is basically what you get. For seating, the density of foam, whether it’s too firm or soft, it’s really hard to tell online. We have a higher return rate for folks buying online than in the store, for sure. 2. It’s changed. Because right now you have to be careful what information you give. Customers are more educated, informed. You have to be effectual and know what you’re talking about. You will be caught out not knowing what you’re talking about, and you will lose their confidence in you. We RSAs undergo more training and understanding of the products today so when we speak about the product, we aren’t just making it up on the go. From what I see, the time customers spend in the store is less. With technology/kiosk in stores, we moved away from paper, and this helped dramatically to reduce the time. A customer will concentrate on one thing for 20 minutes; they aren’t staying long. People’s attention spans are much shorter. So, you have to be quick qualifying to make sure you keep them engaged and don’t take too long. Over 20 minutes, and they start to lose a grip on the situation. Special order is a different story. 3. It depends exactly where they are on their journey. If the customer is at the beginning of their purchase journey, there’s a lot of noise online. It’s hard to sift through what’s good or bad. Some customers get pre-qualified online for store financing before coming in, and they know how much they can spend. Customers are now more educated. They are less likely or more likely to debate the price depending on the website they’ve looked at. For products on an entry-level website, everything will seem more expensive. It all depends on what Google shows them first. Online shopping has helped to lessen the objection about the price overall because customers are seeing higher prices online. Previously they might have bought a sofa 10 years ago, and when they come into the store for the first time, they have sticker shock. Now, at least, they see what the range of prices are before coming to the physical store if they’ve looked online. Eduardo Fritschy, Furnitureland South 1. For my customers, it’s half and half with online research, especially for upholstery. Most of the vendors for high end have options for cushions, etc. I’d say 85% to 95% of my customers don’t know that it’s possible to change out the cushion. When I start the conversation about changing cushion, it’s a good surprise. My job is to chauffer the customer: come to the store, try out the upholstery and help figure out what is the best for you. But we also have customers who are very directed, who know what they want based on a prior purchase. For instance, if they purchased a Century piece before,they might say, “I like spring down; this is the option that I want.” But most search options online today don’t know this. For those designers and customers who are looking to furnish a whole house, they don’t believe you can buy your sofa, or mattress online successfully and get the product you specifically want. 2. I think it’s about 85% of customers who come to the store change their idea after arriving in the store, in a positive way. A customer sometimes makes an appointment and will come in saying, “My style is classic/tradition, and here are pictures of what I’m looking for.” So, in general, I listen more than I talk. The customer then will say, “I like straight lines/ clean shapes,” which is not really traditional but more contemporary. The shift in what the customer wants in terms of style and colors once they are in the store is consistent. I hear this all the time: “This surprises me; I never had a blue striped chair or yellows, and I like them.” The customer sees 10 chairs online. When they come to the store, it’s a thousand fabric options. In general, the online offering looks different in person. The vendors have very good professional pictures online, but it’s the details you see in the store. You see how this fabric matches perfect with another fabric. In general, in my experience, most customers change ideas in the store because of what they see in the store. Furnitureland South really teaches that when you save the customer time, sometimes it’s much better than saving their money. You identified their style as traditional; you saved them time by not going to the modern gallery. This makes you more professional and confident as a salesperson. In terms of time saved, though, for a seven-bedroom house, it’s going to take three days, no matter what. For these types of clients, we’ll go through the entire store. For young couples coming to store, they are very interested in sustainable furniture. For instance, I can point out that this wood table is from mango trees which grow faster than mahogany. They appreciate the sustainable element of the furniture. With small children, they also worry about performance fabric; they are making an investment in their first sofa When an intergenerational family comes shopping, they ask for certain vendors because they know the quality of it from their parents’ furniture. Older couples normally worry about the quality more than the price. For them solid wood construction, hand-tied springs and fabrics like silk and cashmere make the difference. 3. More the style than the price. Because online they give some idea of the price. If you have a swivel chair and the price point is $1,000 online, but in the store, there may be another vendor with a swivel chair that has different construction that is more expensive. When you listen to what a customer will say — this is for a guest room — they won’t pay the same as one for the living room. A guest will sit in the chair a few times a year vs. a swivel in a living room that’s sat in twice a day and depending on the usage will determine the price the customer is willing to pay. If they stay with the first idea or upgrade from that. You still need to listen to what the customer is going to be using the piece for and in what room it will be used. I think no matter whether the customer comes from online or through the door, I always like to show what we have the best in the store, not the quality but the best for them in terms of availability, or wait times, etc. I never think of my customer for today or for tomorrow but for 10 years, another generation. Not just for today, it’s a relationship forever. Catherine Hardwick, Furnitureland South 1. Sometimes a customer thinks they’re further along on their journey because they’ve looked online at options. Truly, with upholstery, you need to sit in it to have it suit you. A customer needs to decide whether they want to sit on a sofa or sit in it, based on the cushioning they like. You can’t do that online. Customers are better educated on fabrics. For instance, with performance fabrics, they understand the features, having learned online and are knowledgeable about it. 2. If they really do come in with something that they want, having researched it online, I will try to find what they’re brought a picture in and also make suggestions. It can help that at least they think they have an idea. I work on finding the right product that fits them. Sometimes they totally don’t know what they want, and they see lots of possibilities online. But once in the store, the journey goes on a different track. I find that online research works more in case pieces rather than upholstery. For instance, if someone sent me 20 case piece images, when they come into the store, I have their style very clearly in my head and have already priced the pieces and then I could redirect them pricewise, etc. Upholstery is very different; you have to sit in it to understand how it will feel for you, personally. Some people like to sit on a sofa, others like to sit in it. There’s a difference. 3. Often online purchasing isn’t the way to go because the customer isn’t seeing the whole picture. How will the piece mix with other pieces that they can see in the store. Sometimes they have sticker shock when they come in, but that’s more the case if they haven’t shopped for furniture in a long time. I think sometimes a customer will do a little bit of research, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. When they come into the store, there are so many options to test out that the previous research really doesn’t matter in terms of what they’ll ultimately purchase. If they’ve done a lot of research and are very exacting about what they want, that is more of an order placement, but it almost limits them in terms of looking at what we offer. See also:
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