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A Furniture Shopper's Path to Purchase

Research shows most consumers do online research at home before entering a store.

Katie Caron
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path to purchase

Before the rise of e-commerce and social media, a consumer’s path to purchasing furniture was pretty simple. An ad in the local paper or on TV might draw them into a store for a sale or specific product, and they might comparison shop at several showrooms before ultimately making a choice. A furniture shopper could spend countless hours driving from store to store, sitting on sofas and haggling with salespeople before finally finding the right fit.  

Today’s omnichannel retail climate offers more points of discovery for product, and puts power into the hands of consumers to do those hours of research and comparison shopping from the comfort of their home. With the intersection of digital platforms and brick-and-mortar, there’s no one exact path to purchase for any given furniture consumer. But research highlights some patterns in the ways consumers arrive at the decision to make a purchase. 

Where the Path to Purchase Begins

According to research from STORIS, 90 percent of today’s consumers start their path to purchase by browsing online. A Harris poll shows that 69 percent of shoppers say they “webroom,” meaning they research products online before buying them in-store.

According to a Digital Purchase Path study from Luth Research focused on large furniture purchase patterns, 23 percent of online large furniture shoppers begin their search on Amazon alone. This tells us that regardless of where they end up buying furniture, consumers want the type of easy-to-navigate online browsing experience that Amazon offers.

Because consumers are increasingly researching online and know what they want before visiting a showroom, they’re visiting fewer overall brick-and-mortars on their search for furniture. According to PERQ, a furniture buyer visits an average of 1.8 showrooms before making a purchase — much less than 10 years ago. 

A survey from Cayan highlights some reasons consumers engage in webrooming, rather than just buying the product they like online:

  • 46 percent like to go to a store to touch and feel a product before they buy it
  • 47 percent don’t want to pay for shipping
  • 23 percent didn’t want to wait for the product to delivered
  • 36 percent will ask the store to price match a better price they found online
  • 37 percent like the option of being able to return the item to the store if needed 

While the practice of webrooming might be cause for concern, consumers are likely to spend more once in-store than they would online alone. A report from First Insight found that 75 percent of the time, in-store shoppers will purchase more than the product that brought them to the store in the first place.

path to purchase

Making the Purchase

While furniture consumers are increasingly doing their research online rather than visiting several stores, they still ultimately prefer the brick-and-mortar experience for making that final purchase, especially compared to other industries. A study from Morning Consult found that among categories including clothing, electronics and beauty products, consumers said they were by far the least likely to purchase furniture from Amazon. Just 17 percent said they have done so, compared to 52 percent for clothing, 57 percent for electronics/entertainment and 39 percent for grooming and beauty products.

The good news for brick-and-mortar retailers is that consumers still ultimately prefer to buy furniture in-store — the trick is creating a seamless multi-channel shopping experience across channels. 

STORIS points out that 47 percent of Millennials use Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store as a fulfillment method and 51 percent prefer to visit a store that uses technology in its showrooms. And according to research from Deloitte, those who shop via various channels spend over twice as much as those who shop only in-store.

Offering a strong brick-and-mortar experience along with a robust website that allows furniture shoppers to discover your business when they search “furniture near me,” browse what you offer and get a sense of who you are before stepping foot in your showroom is key to being in step with the shopping habits of today’s consumer. 

Regardless of where furniture shoppers ultimately make that purchase, a multichannel strategy is necessary to meet savvy consumers where they are.

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