Marilisa Barbieri, Business Consultant, Luxury & Digital Transformation
For the first time in four years, home furniture companies are opening more stores than closing them, according to Business of Home. If retailers once used e-commerce to figure out the best locations in which to set up new stores, now they use retail stores to build brand awareness and grow e-commerce sales.
There’s a gap in the home market between mid-market retail and design trade, and many brands are competing to fill it. For landlords, it is an opportunity to diversify their tenants and improve the lineup of their portfolios.
But how do brands blend in-store shopping with the online experience? What new approaches in distribution and sales strategy are emerging? And how does retail technology shape the way consumers will shop in the future?
A Mix Of Channels To Blend The Online And In-Store Retail Experience
Home furniture brands are opening more and more brick-and-mortar locations to blend the digital and offline experience. As the price of lead generation and conversion online has grown exponentially, brands are looking for alternative ways to drive attention.
The strategy I see most companies choose is a mix of physical and digital channels. They are exploring different combinations of retail, wholesale, B2B, shop-in-shop, pop-up, partnerships, e-boutiques and e-commerce marketplaces.
The key is to combine e-commerce with a few prestige brick-and-mortar locations, or several small stores, and use beta testing locations with product options aided by visualization technology.
Shop-In-Shops: Multiple Branded Spaces Within A Store
One medium for distribution is through directly owned stores, both offline and online. This channel best preserves the brand qualities and perception through controlled distribution. But retailers are always looking to innovate the shopping experience, and one new trend is emerging: shop-in-shops. The store within a store can be in an online marketplace or in one of the dealer’s physical locations.
The shop-in-shops are branded spaces within a store with specific business objectives: From selling products in a small or temporary space to engaging clients in a brand experience and capitalizing on the traffic generated by the store as a whole.
The store within a store is an attempt to regain control over dealers by creating visual merchandising in their retail locations according to the brand guidelines. Shop-and-shops help minimize licenses or franchises and retain control of where and how companies sell their products.
Three Retail Technology Trends Transforming Retail
Digital transformation in retail technology is shaping the way consumers will shop in the future. According to Luxe Digital, three major technological accelerators “will radically influence the future of luxury retail” and help create a seamless online-offline experience. They are augmented reality, predictive replenishment and voice commerce.
If augmented reality enhances the retail experience, predictive replenishment technology, such as AI-powered subscription models, can virtually assist customers during the high-end shopping experience. Voice commerce will transform conversational retailing by allowing for a purchase to be completed in a conversation stream instead of by clicking on a website. Installing AR smart mirrors will allow consumers to interact with high-end products. And artificial intelligence assistants can offer personalized high-end shopping recommendations.
Distribution strategy impacts sales, profitability, competitive leverage, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Most importantly, it portrays the language of a brand and reinforces its perception.
Furniture companies are increasingly looking into creative mixes of online and offline channels and are transforming the in-store space with innovative technologies. Retail boutiques have become lead generators for e-commerce sales, and their impact extends beyond four walls.