It used to be, if I did something stupid like fall off of a roof, I would head over to the hospital emergency room. It was never a satisfying experience. After going through reception, filling out an intake form with pen and paper (ugh), presenting insurance information, and getting ignored for an hour or more, I was generally attended to by an overworked or inexperienced physician.
Lately, I frequent an urgent care store-front where appointments can be made on short notice. Intake forms filled out, insurance card scanned in — all online, in no time at all. It's only a few minutes wait upon arrival to see a well rested physician who seems to like their job, and care about my health.
My point in mentioning this is that the in-store furniture shopping experience can be more like going to the emergency room than urgent care. Neither are how most people would choose to spend their Saturday afternoon, but one is a much better experience.
Unlike going for medical treatment, furnishings shoppers can comfortably browse the websites of online-only retailers without leaving home. They can view curated selections while sipping chardonnay and watching the latest season of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Prime. No travel, no pressure, no waiting. Still, after hours of looking, the large majority feel they need more help.
So, they visit a store to get the help they can't get online, all the while half dreading an in-store "emergency room" experience. I believe that is a major reason why people say, “I’m just looking”. What they are really looking for is a reason to leave before they waste too much of their Saturday afternoons. They want to buy, but expect to be sold. They yearn for a seamless and satisfying experience, but don't expect to get one.
What can be done? For starters, check out what Jaye Anna Mize of Fashion Snoops has to say in this Furniture World edition about connecting the dots between culture and consumer buying behavior. Then, read what Michael Grossman is doing to give his growing independent store a competitive edge. Review Gordon Hecht’s latest retailing revelations, and peruse Bill and Ed’s ideas on the likely future buying behaviors of millennial shoppers and what that may mean for our industry. And, if you are going to High Point Market, have a great one!
Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.