COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have reshaped how we live, shop, and interact with each other. One of the biggest transitions so far is work from home (WFH), which will only stay, with more and more companies increasingly adopting it the world over.
The pandemic has also affected several industries and pushed them to innovate further. The furniture industry is no different from this standpoint.
The sector witnessed a significant slowdown in sales and operations, especially during the initial lockdowns when consumers were locked in their homes. The remote working culture clearly came as a bummer to the offline furniture business. Even when the markets began to reopen after a few months, consumers continued to stay at home primarily because of the fear of contracting the coronavirus.
However, at the same time, this transition also created a new opportunity for businesses to go digital and start selling furniture online. As consumers shifted to buying furniture online, brands and retailers in this space began to capitalize on these new possibilities.
Rise of Online Furniture
With home spaces emerging as their new work zones, a major part of India’s corporate employees started investing in home office furniture, including study tables, laptop tables, office chairs, bean bags, and recliners, among others. Similarly, a significant part of sales also came from the increasing demand for gaming chairs, as the options for outdoor entertainment had drastically reduced during this period.
Not only millennials and Gen Z have switched to online furniture brands, but traditional consumers have also started embracing these online retail models in the recent past. The Indian e-commerce industry, which was slated to become a USD 200 billion market by 2026, seems to achieve this goal much earlier, as highlighted by the IBEF industry research report.
The Growing Role of a Business Website
To bank on the new growth avenues that online brings to the table, businesses must start paying more attention to their official websites. At a time when Google search is the first thing that consumers engage in before shopping, it’s essential for businesses to make their website their new business card.
To achieve this objective, they must prioritize digital merchandising and strive to establish a robust online presence. Investing in activities like podcasts/webinars, virtual product tours, and 360-view showroom presentations can work wonders. Doing so will not only help them drive awareness around their brand and the products they offer, but it will also make the entire shopping journey more seamless and effective.
The Need for Robust Supply Chains
As online retail for furniture expands across India, businesses must maintain a strong supply chain to ensure quick and seamless delivery of products. They must equip themselves with the right tools and response strategies to tackle any unexpected emergencies or interruptions that could hinder their operations. Aspects like production-capacity optimization, demand management, cross-tier risk transparency, etc., should be looked at with greater precision to prevent unforeseen disruptions. All these factors will ultimately decide which businesses will thrive or be outshined by competitors.
Design-Driven Approach and Quality At Scale
With the deluge of companies and brands across India, retailers must manufacture and promote competitive products that are unique in nature and design, and ensure that no other brand can imitate the same. Apart from this, they should also focus on manufacturing quality products at scale that are easily affordable. For this, it’s highly crucial to provide the MSME sector with the much-needed fillip in the form of initiatives that focus on easy access to funds, skill development, and indigenous crafting abilities. Not only will this ramp up domestic sales, but it will also attract foreign brands to invest in the same.
Retailers must also note that offline experience can never get outdated and will continue to play a vital role in success despite the immense growth of online business models. An online presence alone will not be sufficient for them to ensure success in these times. Therefore, they must adapt to an omnichannel ecosystem to offer the best of both worlds (online and offline) to consumers. Although online has gained impressive traction over the years, and unexpected events like COVID-19 have added to the popularity, businesses must realize that it can never replace the element of ‘touch and feel’ when it comes to buying furniture.
Hence, an omnichannel approach, where consumers can get 24x7 assistance during their online shopping journey, be it related to placing orders or any other query through real-time chat and video call. At the same time, they should also be enabled to experience the product, which can be done through creating more experience stores in the nearby markets that are close to consumers. Providing this kind of blended commerce experience to consumers is of utmost importance for brands to taste success in the post-COVID era.
India’s domestic furniture market is slated to clock at a CAGR of 12.91% between 2020 and 2024 owing to the rapid developments and innovation in this space. The global market, on the other hand, is estimated at USD 1.1 trillion. Comparing them will give you a clear idea of how much growth potential India currently holds. Our furniture industry has an immense and endless growth possibility, especially due to the burgeoning demand for comfortable furniture, which has gained more traction in the post-COVID era.
To leverage the untapped growth opportunities in the times to come, brands must focus on four key factors. One, consolidation of the fragmented market through standardization. Two, connected commerce that combines both emotional and functional elements of the consumer experience. Third, emphasizing domestic manufacturing in terms of both scale and quality by leveraging initiatives like Make in India and Vocal for Local. Lastly, bringing Indian artisanship to the forefront with concerted efforts towards design sensibility on supply and demand sides. Looking at the mindful behavior of today’s progressive Indian consumers, a holistic approach keeping in mind all the aforementioned factors will play a pivotal role and help brands thrive in the post-pandemic world.