In today’s tough market, retailers need to offer hybrid shopping experiences to succeed

Here we are, just about at the halfway mark for 2024, and when I ask my peers how they think our sector is doing, “stuck in the mud waiting on the tow truck,” seems to best reflect their opinions.

Truth be told, I must agree with them, especially considering speed bumps that include inflation, lackluster consumer demand, ongoing issues with the supply chain, a tight housing market and more.

Ongoing inflation, for example, is hitting consumers every time they pay for necessities including food, utilities, gas, rent and/or mortgages.

Looking just at the increased cost of groceries, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that food inflation surged by 23.5% between February 2020 and May 2023. However, these price hikes have also impacted categories like housing, utilities, health care and transportation that also carry a higher price tag.

With their resources being siphoned for necessary items such as these, it’s not hard to understand why discretionary items like home furnishings are taking a back seat.

To minimize this, retailers are often looking at creative consumer financing options to entice shoppers to buy furniture.

Recent studies indicate that shoppers representing every demographic group are looking for alternate payment options for their big-ticket purchases.

Specifically, members of Gen Z and millennials indicated they are far more likely to purchase when given installment loan options.

Other studies, including a recent study from McKinsey & Co., suggest that as many as three-fourths of buyers who finance big-ticket items such as furniture, determine to do so early in their buyer’s journey.

And according to Citizens Financial Group,  76% of shoppers are more likely to buy if a simple, seamless POS experience backs their payment plan.

Another area that can be a two-edged sword, especially for brick-and-mortar-only retailers is being able to successfully compete in an omnichannel market.

Online furniture retail has turned the market upside down, both for retailers and shoppers.

Within the past few weeks, Vogue, the New York Post, Esquire, House Beautiful and others have all posted stories online that give the names of what each publication has deemed to be “the best online furniture stores.”

Here are just a few of the links: Vogue, New York Post, Esquire and House Beautiful.

Trust me, this is just a small sampling of similar stories posted by Architectural Digest, Country Living magazine and others.

Based on all the studies I’ve seen, including a recently released 3D Cloud Furniture Shopping Trends Study 2024, consumers clearly are not only beginning their furniture buying process online, they are also purchasing online as well.

Clearly, while the majority of furniture purchases continue to be done in-store, a nuanced, hybrid shopping experience that blends in-store shopping as well as online shopping clearly reflects the future for retailers hoping to thrive in the months and years ahead.

So, while we may (at least for the time being) be stuck in the mud, there are things we can and should do until the tow truck shows up.

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