Enabling Omnichannel Commerce: The Next Big Thing in Furniture Retail

Posted by Taylor Haney on Fri, Jun 27, 2014

Another great post as we wrap up our eCommerce theme this month (next month we are switching over to social media!) Big thank you to Morgan Woodruff, Chief Operating Officer of Blueport Commerce for sharing his insights into omnichannel commerce with us. Interested in guest blogging? E-mail taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.

Morgan Woodruff WEB resized 600With a proven track record in developing and scaling organizations, Morgan is responsible for growth, business development and operations as Blueport Commerce continues to expand its furniture retail client base. There’s not a single day that goes by where he doesn’t think about how he can optimize and improve on the business of Blueport Commerce.

As I read the buzz these days about other companies in our space like Wayfair and One King’s Lane and about ecommerce and the future of retail, it’s clear to me how “hot” the home furnishings industry has suddenly become for ecommerce. While I’ve long believed in the 

blueport3

opportunity to bring furniture online in a meaningful way, other retailers (and wise investors) are finally catching on, and shoppers, naturally, are following suit. A recent visit to an investor conference in San Francisco validated much of this thinking – unlocking furniture online is the next big (billion dollar) opportunity in retail.

Is it just enough for retailers to simply offer furniture for sale online like any other industry using a similar ecommerce model? For us, we’d say that selling furniture online requires a different model – and ours is one that enables omnichannel commerce for this $78B furniture industry and seizes its full potential.

Enabling Furniture E-Commerce

Blueport does not aim to disrupt the furniture industry by displacing brick-and-mortar stores with ecommerce, but rather to enable furniture retailers to expand their reach and multiply sales through omnichannel commerce. We’re modernizing furniture retail in an age where next-day delivery for online purchases is the norm and pre-schoolers are operating smartphones before learning to read.

What does this mean for furniture, exactly? For furniture, local stores and local delivery still matter. People still need to touch and feel furniture with great customer service and product expertise. And when it comes to delivery, they want it fast, and they want it to be easy to ship and return. And, when I say ‘furniture’ I mean fully assembled, hard-to-ship furniture, which is fundamentally more difficult to sell online. Unlike other categories, this overall experience won’t and can’t be entirely replaced with technology and UPS.[Goldman Sachs] Furniture retail works best when stores work in harmony with desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Omnichannel commerce through Blueport’s cutting edge technology and services achieves that experience for our furniture retail clients in ways that have never been done before.

Capturing the Omnichannel Opportunity for Furniture

Currently, only 4% of the $78B market[Forrester Research] is online. This makes furniture one of the largest untapped retail opportunities left online. Blueport’s technology is transforming furniture retail – for the 4% of sofas that sell online, and the 96% that don’t,[Forrester Research] and the demand for our expertise continues to grow. Currently, our two omnichannel technologies – Store-Sync and augmented reality, enable a truly omnichannel experience by leveraging mobile technologies to bridge the gap between in-store and in-home shopping.

Solving For Furniture Retail in the Absence of Brick-And-Mortar

What about pure-play/online-only furniture retailers? Our online-only retail site, Furniture.com, acquires new customers and delivers in days. And where we don’t have the luxury of omnichannel with stores, we solve for shoppers’ needs with local inventory, local delivery and the use of technologies like augmented reality to bring the furniture shopping experience into the home. On Furniture.com, we aim to leverage massive retail brands to deliver a transformative online furniture experience, even in the absence of brick-and-mortar.

Overall, as we look at where our business is today and where it’s headed, our mission is simple – to unlock furniture online and show the world that this next big thing has been our “thing” all along.