Upping The Ante In Furniture Retail
Furniture retail in India is in a transition mode today. Unbranded or unorganised players who ruled by diktat for decades are now challenged by brands who are strengthening their presence in the market with assured quality, better customer service & deliv
Indians are increasingly becoming ‘house proud’ today. With the availability of quality furniture and design-inspired home decor products growing rapidly, new home owners are tempted to not only dec-up their living spaces but refresh them regularly. The sudden turn around in the home furniture and furnishing market in India came about with the boom in online marketplace over the last decade. Online furniture and home decor stores such as Pepperfry, Urban Ladder, HomeLane and Fabfurnish propped up and changed the way people shopped for their homes. The online players lured the shoppers with myriad design options, customisation, easy of payment, home delivery and installation. At the same time, offline retailers spruced up their offering to tap the customer.
However, selling furniture as a commodity was not (is still not) enough to woo the Indian home maker anymore. Brands and retailers in the category realised the importance of selling furniture as a lifestyle, an aspiration and a dream that shoppers were looking for.
Break Down The Walls
Online has gone offline, and some in the offline format have boarded the online route. Its simple… you got to go where you’re consumers are. High rentals, space crunch and the inability to display the extensive offering in catalogue pushed many companies to the online channel. But over the last couple of years, these players have opened their physical stores or experience centres, catering to the consumers’ need to ‘touch and feel’ products before buying them. Look at two leading players in India – Pepperfry and Urban Ladder. Pepperfry today has 21 stores and slated to take the
count to 46 in a few years time. They have also rolled out the franchisee rollout model recently.
On the other hand, Urban Ladder opened its first experience centre in Bangalore and plans to open 10 more by March 2018. Ashish Goel, CEO & Founder, Urban Ladder, explained, “The company plans to build multiple experience centres around the country, which will be the hub for new product ranges and collections.
The experience centre will be distinctive on three front: cohesive catalogue experience, seamless buying process and inspiring visual merchandising.” The centre will also be the hub for new product ranges and collections. The company plans to invest $10-$15 million over the next 18 months to build its offline presence.
A comparatively smaller player Woodbox, who also entered through online marketplace, has recently opened a studio in Mumbai. Rohit Mehrotra, Partner, Woodbox, told, “Though it’s challenging to open offline spaces specially for furniture category as it generally requires bigger space, it’s a must today. Innovations online is certainly a crowd puller but showrooms are the places where purchase decisions are made.”
Get The Real Picture
Colours, patterns, textures, height, width, length…phew… it’s a bit complicated to buy your sofa or bed than picking up a dress online. Easing the customers’ decision to purchase a piece of furniture, online players have adapted various technology to upgrade the experience. Pepperfry was one of the first few companies in the country to leverage augmented reality to bridge the gap between virtual and physical purchase through the launch of a highly interactive mobile app. Sanjay Netrabile, Chief Technology Officer, Pepperfry, explained, “Our customers can virtually place products from the Pepperfry catalogue in their homes to see how a particular piece fits with the rest of the set-up and make an informed decision. They can also change the colors of the walls to check which pieces work better with the ambience using the app.” Pepperfry’s See it in 3D is a next-generation visualization tool that allows a user to see an item in 3D, and interact with it meaningfully, without the need for any special software or plugins. See it in 3D is a product created using the latest 3D rendering technologies that the web has to offer.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are increasingly finding their place in furniture retailing in India. Urban Ladder’s experience centre will soon have the complete experience of products through AR & VR
gear technology. Goel of Urban Ladder said, “Our stores at present offer the option of using an app through which shoppers can customise furniture, browse for different looks, try various combinations for creating an entire room concept.”
Meanwhile, premium furniture retail chain,
Dash Square, recently launched the second
Homestore launch in South India
(Bangalore). For first time in India, Ashley
Furniture brought its
VR experience at this showroom. The VR tool lets shoppers design a new room with the brand’s furniture and virtually stand in the newly designed space while shopping at a store location. Speaking on the same, Amruth Sampige – Managing Partner – Dash Square, said, “It definitely helps and supports the sale due to the framework we present to the end users for actually knowing the kind of theme they are working with and the decision making
becomes so simpler.”
Setting the Stage
With consumers being more conscious about decorating their homes today, retailers and brands are creating a larger picture with the help of visual merchandising elements. A Frenchthemed living room or the desk of an evolved reader, VM not only tells the story but sells it too. By using interesting props and home furnishing elements, the furniture stores can create themes, combine products in a more relevant manner, promote new launches and also nudge the shopper to explore more products. Shonak Agarwal, Director Skipper Furnishings, “When any customer selects the products, our designing team
create the entire mock up rooms or window displays and customize it according to the requirements of the clients. Being in the business of space styling, our stores must help customers visualise how they can write a new story by creating a mix and match with our upholstery, wooden flooring options, wallpapers, different fabrics, mattresses, blinds which they can get all under one roof.”
All in all, shopping for furniture has never been this fun in India. But the game doesn’t end here, retailers and brands have got to up the ante as shoppers are evolving by the minute now! And not to forget emergence of new brands and big box international retailers entering this space.