A few weeks ago I had the privilege to sit with Anne Flynn Wear from FurnitureToday; discussing the evolution of eCommerce in home furnishings. Having begun our furniture eCommerce journey almost 20 years ago this month, it was a great opportunity to share.
Here is a link to the Furniture Today article –
And – here is the entire Q&A:
“Jesse, please share some of the most common topics or tips you-give to retailers you meet with“?
Set expectations. Now plan strategy around those documented expectations.
How many retailers view a website with a cart as “doing eCommerce”? It is a scary question and the results are even more frightening. As a retailer, you must understand that while eCommerce is exciting and full of adventure, it is a business like any other business. If doing eCommerce was as easy as having a site with a cart – then every retailer would be doing (successfully) eCommerce – and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Its like priorities. If everything is important – then nothing is important. There is no eCommerce “Easy Button”. It is a business. You must treat it as such.
Sales is a numbers game. Maximize where you are strongest!
Retailers need to focus their omnichannel sales efforts. Sales is a numbers game. Period. Do we care where the cart rings? (Sure, we do for all things strategy – but a sale is a sale for this conversation). We can go and spend days talking about the ins and outs of all things sales (and marketing) – but it really boils down to traffic and conversion. You bring them in, throw selection and price and value at them, and hope to convert! Sounds so easy, right?! (Insert emoji of choice) Retailers need to focus on maximizing their conversions – starting with the mix of products they focus on. This applies to retailers doing eCommerce AS WELL AS retailers hope to build leads from their site. So as a retailer, please give this pause. Here is a bold statement. For fact – you will NOT be successful selling “Furniture” online, or “home furnishings”. None of us have the capital to play that game (time and money). It’s way too broad! I could even make a case for “lighting”, or “rugs”, or “mattresses”. Still broad but getting closer. Run a report for 2018. Which categories of products drove your business (not just top line, but both sales and margin)? For this discussion let’s say that report said you did extremely will with dining furniture; great revenue, strong profits. Naturally, you have lines that support this. Now what do you think would happen if you focused all web efforts to growing the audience for dining furniture? Again, remembering that 70% (or more) begin their furnishings journey online but most still come in-store. So here is my suggestion. On your website make sure you have a deep wide assortment of dining (again insert your category based on your report). Now, anyone that comes to your site can “should” easily find dining and all the dining you have access to. Because you have made it that way! So, if you have 8 tables in store, have 80 online. 6 styles of chairs in-store, show 60 styles online. Buffets & sideboards, same applies here. Wider, deeper. You might even have to add a few vendors to strengthen your dining offerings. I used a multiple of 10X, that is not a magic formula – but you get it. Relevant wide and deep selection. Think about Amazon. Next, you must flag all products that you have in-store and on-display. That online consumer who wants to go see something – better know exactly what you have and where it is located. Next –pricing your dining. All of it. This exercise will force you to focus. Now take these learnings and attack what is second the list. Don’t ever stop!
And since the Superbowl is near – a couple “blocking and tackling” items – not necessarily ecommerce specific; but so important!
Be true to thy self!
Too many retailers have a severe case of dual personas. For example – in-store they have built a reputation (value-proposition) of being a high(er) end – high(er) touch design retailer; all in efforts to set themselves apart. However, they are a victim of having a website for nothing more than saying they have a website. Worse yet, someone sold them a website touting millions of products and eCommerce riches and the retailer bought the magic beans. Wave the surrender flags now. Retailers must know and own (with consistency and tenacity and perseverance) for the long haul who they are across all touch-points – especially making all things web reflective of that mission and vision. If and when you master and maximize that across all channels (Omnichannel….) with your core business “philosophy” then by all means, please go nuts and plan the takeover of Amazon! But until then, focus all efforts in support of who you are and what makes you great.
Know who you are. Show it! (Brand brand brand).
Retailers have spent generations defining who they are in-store. Carrying my point from above a bit further; retailers have defined value propositions and differentiators. The who, what and the why. They have selected lines. They have defined services. They have a look and feel that seems to do the trick. However, you visit their website and it is a complete disconnect. As a retailer your website should be a true digital representation of your primary showroom down to the fonts, colors and imagery! 70+% of consumers begin their home furnishings journey online. Most still buy in-store. Do not deliver mixed messages. It’s a killer.
Finally, “Shop yourself”. Often! When is the last time you experienced your entire omnichannel experience as a customer? Start to finish. It is an eyeopener. Don’t wait. Make it a routine exercise.