Home and garden is one of the most popular categories in ecommerce, accounting for 12.4% of all stores; and one subset of that category, furniture, is a growing niche in the ecommerce space.
Customers are becoming more comfortable with purchasing furniture online, rather than going to a showroom. Buying directly from a brand can save money and gives customers a much broader range of styles and customization options.
Furniture can be a profitable niche because of its considerable markups, but it can also be challenging for merchants. Whether it be difficulties with sourcing products on time or the high costs of shipping furniture, there’s a lot for merchants to consider; not to mention the even higher costs of returning furniture if the customer decides not to keep it.
If you want to run a profitable online furniture shop, you need to put policies and technologies in place to provide a great customer experience through every interaction. When it comes to returns, it’s important to build a policy that customers can feel confident in while ensuring they cannot take advantage of your generosity.
By putting streamlined processes in place that outline what customers can do if they aren’t satisfied with their purchase, you’ll be able to reduce the number of returns and deliver higher customer satisfaction.
Here are some tips for reducing the number of furniture returns your business has to handle – and how to generate more revenue from those returns that do come in.
Use AR technology and detailed product views and descriptions to showcase your furniture
Augmented reality (AR) technology enables customers to visualize your furniture directly within their space. By pointing your branded app at their living room, for instance, they’ll be able to see the exact dimensions of a sofa they’re considering, and understand how it would fit into their living space.
This technology converts more customers in the first place, encouraging them to go ahead with a purchase they might not have been sure about before. But it also plays a significant role in lowering the return rate: Merchants who use AR visualization strategies have seen a 40% reduction in return rates, according to a Shopify study.
Along with AR visualization, you should use high-definition photography and videos to showcase what your products look like up close, showing them the grain of the leather or the accent patterns on your chairs. Enable customers to zoom in on any product detail so they get a clear picture of the entire product.
In your product descriptions, make sure that you include dimensions, materials, and what the material care requirements are. Take note of any variations that may occur that might make the product look different from the photograph.
You can also incorporate customer reviews on each product page, where customers can write their feedback on the product, and include photos of what the piece looks like in their own living space.
It can also be helpful to showcase complementary items, which can help you sell more products while helping your customer build a consistent style. Developing mood boards that showcase different items in themed collections can help inspire your customers and encourage them to buy more products.
Offer a fair, but not overly generous, shipping and return policy
When it comes to online purchases, customers are getting used to free shipping as the default. In a Consumer Reports survey, 41% of online furniture customers said that free shipping or delivery was the main reason they chose a particular retailer, so it’s in your interest to keep this standard in place to remain competitive.
However, depending on the level of service the customer wants once their delivery arrives, they may end up spending extra to complete their set up. If a customer wants “white glove” delivery, where the package is unboxed and set up rather than simply left at the door, that can add to the cost of the transaction—and this fee is never refundable, even if the customer decides to return the furniture. That’s one incentive against seeking a refund unless the product is actually damaged or defective in some way.
Furniture retailers aren’t as likely to offer free return shipping as many other types of merchants, either. Unless the furniture is damaged, most merchants will charge a shipping and/or restocking fee to send back the item.
And unless the customer has kept all of the original packaging and can pack it as it was delivered, merchants might also charge a repackaging fee to ensure the item is correctly packaged and shipped.
Some retailers are more generous, but they might also have limits to avoid customers taking advantage of their policies. For instance, the ecommerce furniture shop Poly and Bark offers customers one free return per item type per household, within 100 days of purchase.
That can stop customers from trialing different products in their home with the intention of sending most of them back, while still helping them feel confident that if they make a purchase in good faith and decide to send it back, they won’t be on the hook for return shipping fees.
Incentivize product exchanges
Customer returns are an all-too-common part of life in ecommerce, so return requests will inevitably happen. Often, especially if your product displays aren’t up to par, the customer will decide the product looks better online, or that it just doesn’t match their aesthetic.
Whether or not you charge return shipping, the customer will likely have to deal with the hassle of repackaging the product or paying for repackaging, and may be subject to a restocking fee – but the cost to you, as the merchant, is far greater. That’s because a product return often signifies the end of the customer relationship, putting an end to recurring revenue generation from that customer.
So, when a customer tells you that a product isn’t working for them, you can process a return if that’s really what they want – but by making the effort to incentivize exchanges instead, you can increase retained revenue and extend the life of that customer relationship.
That means, while you might charge a return shipping or restocking fee to process a return, you can waive these fees if the customer has chosen an item for exchange instead.
By using an automated returns management solution like Loop, you can create a workflow that offers customers a series of questions when they are processing a return about why they’re returning an item.
Based on their responses, it can offer alternate product suggestions from your real-time product inventory. If the customer didn’t like the color of a chair, your solution can showcase the chair in a different shade. Or, if they didn’t like the product altogether, you can recommend a similar product in a different style.
The waived return fees may incentivize customers enough to consider an exchange instead of a return. But if the customer is still leaning towards returning the item, it can also make sense to offer bonus credit that can be applied towards the cost of an exchange.
By doing this, you’ll be able to both preserve revenue in the short term and in the long term. A satisfied customer who is happy with their item exchange is much more likely to buy from you again and refer your brand to friends and family, helping you to both retain your existing customer and acquire new customers at a low cost.
By providing high-quality images and product data upfront, your customers will have a better sense of what to expect from your furniture shop, helping them to avoid unexpected surprises.
Setting sensible shipping and return policies can help you ward off buyers who like to “shop around” before committing to a purchase while still providing confidence to customers that they won’t be stuck with a product they hate.
And by using an automated solution like Loop to manage the returns and exchange process, you can reduce your reliance on customer support representatives to manage these requests, saving costs on labor. At the same time, you can automatically optimize for exchanges that will help your brand retain revenue and help you win back customers who might otherwise churn.
Want to learn more about how Loop can help you optimize the returns process for your furniture store? Touch base with our team. Home and garden is one of the most popular categories in ecommerce, accounting for 12.4% of all stores; and one subset of that category, furniture, is a growing niche in the ecommerce space.