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Creating Dynamic Online Furniture Shopping Experiences During the Pandemic


As consumers are spending significantly more time at home during the pandemic, furniture retailers’ ecommerce sales are thriving in 2020. However, retailers offering complex customization services now have challenges in providing a mechanism for rendering and pricing highly customizable products online. Developing an online experience built for online customization drives sales and provides customers a better shopping experience; now and after the pandemic.

Modern consumers love product customization, and the footwear industry pioneered online tools that allowed shoppers to create unique sneaker styles with multiple materials and colors. The ability to customize drives purchases because the person feels they are getting a truly unique product.

Similarly, the furniture industry can offer customization capabilities on their eCommerce sites and allow consumers to test various combinations of materials and finishes to build their ideal item. By having the ability to view the entire catalogue online, consumers can engage in a more meaningful and tactile way of shopping when compared to the conventional in store experience that is limited to inventory currently available on the showroom floor. At once custom renderings allow consumers looking to purchase a couch to compare multiple upholstery options, colors and finishes for the couch legs match with each.

By providing consumers with the ability to build custom furniture online, consumers are engaged in the design process, connect with the product, and own the result.

Virtual Reality

Before purchasing furniture, customers want to see the item, the fabric or finish options, and will often bring home swatches to test color palettes against existing furniture and room design. Retailers can utilize virtual reality (VR) within their eCommerce site to simulate the experience in a digital environment.

If a family is looking to upgrade their nursery for a toddler for example, they can take a photo of the room and upload it to the retailer’s website. Utilizing the catalog and inventory selection, customers can drop images from the retailer’s catalog onto the background image of their room and design their ideal living space. Once the furniture and decor are placed on the virtual rendering of the room, the customer simply adds the room’s items to their cart and places the order. This also presents unique upsell opportunities as customers may start out wanting to purchase a dresser and also end up with some artwork that matches their ideal design. This opportunity is often lost in the transition from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce.

Utilizing VR in the furniture industry helps customers feel more comfortable making custom furniture purchases without having to visit a physical store. This virtual feature is also especially useful as custom items are not eligible for return and most shoppers lack the design experience to truly envision the final piece.  Showing shoppers an accurate rendering of their custom piece online reduces purchase anxiety and hastens purchase decisions. These online systems also integrate with inventory, product catalogs and pricing systems to eliminate customer frustration around out of stock items and delays in pricing custom pieces.

Collaboration Tools

During the pandemic, people have become accustomed to socializing, working, and ordering food through digital channels. Custom furniture retailers can capitalize on this trend by incorporating collaboration tools in their eCommerce functionalities.

An idea board allows potential customers to create and share their unique room design concepts with friends, design partners or across social media. Once the board is shared, friends and family can comment and make suggestions, which helps encourage purchases.

Collaboration tools allow shoppers to work with in-house or third-party interior designers during the design process and to see real-time pricing as they customize. These tools can also simplify the process of custom orders, which can present challenges for some traditional Order Management Systems (OMS).

Not all retail is created equal on an eCommerce site, and custom furniture purchases are one of the most challenging because of the higher price point and product permanence. Investment in customization, virtual reality, and collaboration tools for eCommerce sites will help furniture retailers navigate the uncertainties of the coming months and strengthen their online presence long term. These functionalities not only come close to mirroring  the in-store experience, but enhance the furniture shopping process to help attract customers and increase sales conversions while also shortening the sales cycle.


About Matthew Carroll: Matthew Carroll is president and CEO of Ignition Commerce, responsible for corporate strategy, product positioning, marketing, business development, and the management of all strategic relationships including technology providers Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware) and Oracle Commerce (formerly ATG). Prior to the founding of Ignition Commerce in 2007, Carroll served as SVP of Business Development for Accretive Commerce where he determined strategy for general and client specific business acquisitions and managed new client sales cycles. Carroll has spent the entire 30 + years of his professional life working within the retail and apparel industries, and the past 20 focused on providing eCommerce solutions, services, and infrastructure for retailers and branded manufacturers.