Customer Service By Design: How To Differentiate Your Ecommerce Experience

  •    Author: Mike Jasfer

In Q2 of 2020, American consumer spending was down 34.6% on an annualized basis. Seeing that personal consumption makes up over two-thirds of the GDP, the decline has been a pain point for many retailers, including those in the furniture industry. As Americans are spending more time at home, however, furniture retailers have an opportunity to reach customers who are unhappy with their seating arrangements in a unique way. That’s why ecommerce has become such a useful tool for furniture retailers across the country and, with more stores turning to ecommerce, it’s important to differentiate and elevate your business’ platform.
Like many businesses, furniture retailers have had to turn to online sales to reach customers during this COVID-19 crisis. (For scale, PayPal Holdings Inc. reported a 30% increase in activated customers since the pandemic began.) With so many companies moving their sales capabilities online, it’s important to find a way to stand out amongst competitors. Creating an online customer experience akin to the in-store experience is one critical way to differentiate your brand. The more receptive your customers are to your ecommerce platform, the more you can expand your reach within and outside of local communities, creating room for a larger customer base to grow.
Make it User Friendly
All brick-and-mortar stores are, in theory, “user-friendly.” If customers can look around and get a feel for the products offered, all while having staff available to answer any questions customers might have, they’re in business. However, COVID-19 disrupted this relatively simple customer scenario by forcing everything online. With pandemic hitting as quickly as it has, many ecommerce platforms that didn’t exist before are put together quickly and haphazardly. Ensuring that your ecommerce platform is easy to use puts customers in their comfort zone and removes obstacles in the way of them making their purchase. That means allowing them some of the same experiences that made in-person service in the store so great, like chat capabilities.
 
Provide a Touchpoint
Providing a touchpoint for customers through mediums like online chat gives them the confidence to place their order. Purchasing furniture is a big decision, particularly in a difficult economy, and it can be a hassle to return to the store if something about the order isn’t correct. Personalized chat functions have proven to increase average basket size (our company, BoConcept, saw a 33% increase in average basket size over traditional ecommerce after implementing the feature.) Online customer chats allow the consumer to have any lingering questions answered and, if stores offer personal customizations, permits the retailer to get everything right for the order. Creating an environment that mitigates communication breakdowns as much as possible is critical. With so many platforms offering ecommerce, communications end at the point of sale. Offering follow-up calls after the online order has been made, however, further ensures the accuracy of the customer’s purchase and provides them with the assurance they desire in their investment.
 
Offer 3D Product Visuals
Another way to help your platform standout by recreating the in-store experience is to provide customers with the ability to see products in 3D. Much of what customers prefer about shopping for furniture in person is being able to see the look and feel of the upholstery, wood or paint of products first hand. Allowing for 3D capabilities of products is just the first step to recreating that process — customers can look closely at the products while envisioning what the furniture will look like in their homes. Amazon is one of the pioneers in this field with their AR capability on their app. Whatever the resources, it’s important to allow customers the same creativity in envisioning products in their homes.
 
Develop a Virtual Tour
What so many furniture platforms fail to offer online is the ability to browse their products in a way that is familiar and personal to their typically in-store customers. That’s why virtual showrooms are such a critical piece to redefining the customer experience online. So much of the furniture-buying experience previously entailed the ability to walk around and browse. Recreating this kind of experience online puts customers in a space, virtually, where they can still browse through catalogs while discovering different spaces and styles that suit their home. Virtual showrooms can be an immersive experience comparable to walking through an actual brick-and-mortar store, and give customers the space to see what their homes could look like.
 
Ecommerce platforms can take the customer beyond online ordering. Being online not only allows customers — new and old — to better engage with your products, but also share additional avenues to furniture with a larger audience. Though there are certainly mountains to climb as COVID-19 persists, business owners can still accomplish what they initially envisioned: selling a quality product with great customer service. The move to hosting sales touch points online does not have to diminish that experience; the more customers can engage with the product in an overall positive light, the more likely they are to return to your store for additional furniture needs.
 
About the Author: Steen Knigge, originally from Denmark, immigrated to the United States back in 2003. He is currently Head of Marketing for BoConcept Americas. With a long and successful track record in marketing (Procter & Gamble, Gillette, FilmNet), advertising (Lowe & Partners), Steen also has a solid entrepreneurial experience from creating both a Marketing Consultant agency as well as a successful Scandinavian Lifestyle retail business in New York City. Currently residing in Jersey City, NJ, Steen is a proud father of a budding high-schooler, Nyasha.
 
About BoConcept: Since opening its first franchise in Paris in 1993, BoConcept has become a global leader in the design of bold, stylish furniture, boasting nearly 300 locations in 65 countries around the world. Founded in Denmark in 1952, BoConcept differentiates itself by offering premium quality, modern designs that elevate interior spaces to achieve their full potential. The company remains focused on creating functional furniture for the urban consumer through partnerships with the world’s leading interior designers. Backed by a proven global concept and strong franchise support system, BoConcept’s 15 U.S. locations include a flagship store, which opened in December 2017 on New York City’s famed Madison Avenue. For more information, visit www.boconcept.com. To inquire about franchise opportunities, please visit https://www.boconcept.com/en-us/boconcept/franchise. 
 

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