Driven by the pandemic and the lockdown, e-commerce has witnessed tremendous growth in 2020, and the trend seems to continue well into 2021. The Indian e-commerce market is valued at $25.7 billion as of FY 2020, having grown at a CAGR of over 35 percent, and is expected to reach $99 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 27 percent over a period of 2019-2024. While factors like increased broadband connectivity, smartphones, and the rise of the digital economy, offer strong supportive infrastructure, the innovations on part of e-retailers, using emerging technologies like AI and augmented reality, have further helped push newer categories on the e-commerce platform, contributing to the growth.
And the furniture is one such category that has witnessed massive growth in the online space, over the past few years, with the pandemic accelerating the move. While the Indian online furniture market currently constitutes only 3 percent of the overall organised furniture sector, it has been growing at the rate of 30-40 percent YoY, for the past five years. The year 2020, saw some remarkable developments by key players that further fuelled the growth. As per reports, Pepperfry's online business has risen to 120 percent of pre-lockdown levels, indicating amplified use of e-commerce options. In November 2020, Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd. (RRVL), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries (RIL), acquired a minority stake of Urban Ladder Home Decor Solutions Pvt Ltd for Rs 182.12 crore. Godrej Interio, one of the leading furniture manufacturers and retailers, launched its own e-commerce operation in March 2020, to take on the likes of other furniture e-retailers, like Urban Ladder, Pepperfry, and Ikea, with an aim to cater to over 2,000 + pin codes across the country through its online sales.
Further, with the advent of international players, the furniture market in India is expected to get more organized and move towards omnichannel business model, with an innovative expansion of categories on the rise.
Listed here are some key factors on how e-commerce is set to play a role in this growth:
One of the key factors driving the shift of furniture retail from traditional brick and mortar stores to the online space is the technology-empowered innovations made possible by modern eCommerce platforms. From well-listed and segmented products based on color and function and area of the space to the use of augmented and even virtual reality, online retail is now offering consumers a near-perfect and immersive buying experience. There are apps and portals offering consumers, for example, the options to set up a complete home/ office through AR and VR, helping them visualize and select the best piece for furniture.
Driven by data-based analytics and well-researched consumer buying patterns, online retailers are able to offer personalized solutions to consumers, based on their preferences. Customers can now request specific fabric and color of furniture upholstery to match the home décor, or even choose sustainable/ green furniture designs, based on their individual tastes. Personalization in terms of functionality as well as the age of the consumer etc. can also be made, through easy online interactions with virtual assistants and online consultations, leading to a personalized buying experience.
Impactful Consumer Engagement
Through digital advertising, social media campaigns, and virtual assistants for personalised customer service, online retail has been leveraging AI and data analytics for effective, relevant, and impactful consumer engagement. Apart from offering clients personalized customer service and customized shopping options, online retail has also been instrumental in helping modern consumers compare, evaluate and make the best choice of furniture, keeping in mind the locality, budget, functionality, etc., making the purchase most relevant and value-driven.
One of the key factors that are driving the growth of e-commerce, is the expert Hyperlocal logistic network. From efficient and timely deliveries with options to track shipment, to easy returns/ exchange policy, value-added services like furniture assembly, and dismantling by last-mile service providers, have all been instrumental in the expanding reach and popularity of online furniture retailers. COVID times also highlighted the assured ‘no contact’ delivery features by these e-retailers, which further ensured consistent growth.
Apart from online purchases and easy deliveries, returns, or exchange of furniture, online players are also high on offering several value-added services. From offering innovative ‘rental furniture’ solutions, a sector that is also steadily rising, to flexible payment options, servicing and maintenance of furniture, and customized interior décor consultations, a lot of online furniture retailers are going all out to please and engage with the new-age consumers, adding value to the smallest of purchases.
Considering the above factors and the already steady rise of furniture e-commerce, it is apparent that the future for Indian furniture retail is no longer set to be confined to the traditional modes but will, in fact, take up an omnichannel approach and will witness substantial growth across metros as well as tier II-III towns of the country. Driven by the millennial consumer, the Indian online furniture retail is set to evolve into holistic and comprehensive furniture and interior market, offering consultation, discussing design trends, offering personalization and annual look books, etc., transforming the way India purchases and uses furniture.