The global success of online shopping has given rise to the widespread adoption of eCommerce ventures by furniture retailers wishing to capture the potential of this ever-growing market. Largest online retail corporation, Amazon.com, saw its initial success as an online bookstore; however it is no longer quite so exclusive, its catalogue has extended. Amazon now also caters for automotive parts, clothing, electronics, and furniture, to name but a few. While Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay have pioneered the way for eCommerce in Europe there are a multitude of start-ups operating eCommerce-only, selling predominantly beds and mattresses, and now growing fiercely in popularity, furniture and décor goods.
Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA, have found enormous success, particularly in Europe, Asia Pacific and the US, their total sales increased to EUR 27.9 billion in the financial year 2013. Highly popular among the online community as well as the more transient people in larger cities to whom flat pack, build it yourself, and self-service culture appeals the most. Enterprising South African website, Nevada Furniture, have created a business of sourcing IKEA furniture products from overseas and shipping them to local consumers.
The South African market has seen this trend move into more luxury type furniture by high-end retailers, such as Wetherlys, who have just recently launched their eCommerce website developed by Realmdigital. Wetherlys Marketing Executive, Karen Ingram, commented that since going live with their online store it has surpassed their expectations even in its early stages – almost as if in answer to the question of whether South Africans are ready for online furniture retail; she further notes that “customers are driven by value propositions, provided the online offering provides sufficient value – even the most sceptical of online purchasers will take a risk”. Wesley Lynch, CEO of Realmdigital, commented on their development of the eCommerce website, “We’re hoping that Wetherlys’ success in eCommerce sparks other South African furniture retailers to do the same, the world of online commerce offers brands new opportunities and a whole new market.”
There has emerged a shift in décor discovery via digital mood board platforms such as Pinterest; customers are exploring mood boards for interior design inspiration and expecting to find these products available to purchase online. Retailers who have incorporated sites like Pinterest into their marketing strategy are drawing consumers directly to their eCommerce websites, such as the Mr Price Group which has a dedicated Pinboard for their clothing and homeware products, which all link directly to their eCommerce enabled website.
These trends towards digital commerce make it inconceivable that any furniture retail store will continue to offer only a brick and mortar purchasing solution in the years to come. The time is now for furniture brands to go eCommerce and target the burgeoning online community in South Africa.