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Huge Disconnect In the Furniture Industry May Bring Down Retailers

Hey FAM, it’s Ray Allegrezza.

This week, I take a look at the findings of a study called “The Future of Retail,” conducted jointly by NetSuite, Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor Bob Phibbs. Judging from the study, it appears there is a huge disconnect between what shoppers say they want and what retailers think their customers want.

Plus, don’t miss FAM stories about market traffic and the many questions that come with it and the unexpected connection between mattresses and outdoor furniture.

#WIMTY — What It Means To You

I was going to devote this column to the recent spikes in Covid in Asia and what this will mean to the supply chain and the flow of products, but I simply couldn’t do it.

For me, if Covid were human, it would be that guy who crashes your dinner party and simply refuses to leave.

So, rather than give this damn virus any more power by writing about it, I invite you to join me in this week’s column as we look at the findings of a study called “The Future of Retail,” conducted jointly by NetSuite, Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor Bob Phibbs.

The survey polled some 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia to determine the age-old question of what consumers want.

Assuming the consumers were truthful in their responses, it appears there is a huge disconnect between what shoppers say they want and what retailers think their customers want.

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Let me share some specifics. The study concluded that even with heavy investments by retailers to enhance the customer experience both in-store and online, they may have failed to impress consumers.

While 73% of the retail executives polled thought the overall ambiance and environment in retail stores had become more inviting over the past few years, only 45% of consumers agreed. Even more alarming was that just under 20% of the consumers polled said it had become less inviting.

There were also night-and-day differences regarding the level of engagement RSAs should have with consumers. Here, a whopping 80% of retailers said that consumers would feel more welcomed if in-store personnel interacted with them more. Consumers did not agree. Almost half (46%) said that was not the case and an additional 28% of the consumers polled said more interaction with salespeople would leave them feeling more annoyed.

The retail-consumer disconnect was also evident when the topic of chatbots was on the table. Here, the vast majority of retailers (79%) said they were confident that chatbots are meeting consumer needs. Some two-thirds of consumers disagree and said that chatbots are more damaging to their shopping experience than they are helpful.

When the topic of using social media to engage and build stronger relationships with consumers was brought up consumers and retailers were once again on decidedly different sides of the fence. While just about all the retailers polled (98%) gave this strategy a thumbs up, only 12% of consumers agreed.

Another bridge retailers need to cross to get closer to customers has to do with personalization, especially if they hope to succeed with millennials.

Here, while 63% of millennials said they would pay more for more personalization, only 11% of the retailers polled admitted that they and their staff were not equipped to provide that.

This chasm between retailers’ and consumers’ expectations regarding in-store experience is troubling, especially as the survey concluded that 80% of consumers do not believe they are receiving a personalized shopping experience either in-store or online.

And while many brick-and-mortar retailers lose sleep over losing business to online competitors, the survey concluded the overwhelming majority of consumers agree that there is a need to visit a brick-and-mortar store to make a purchase, they want to shop at stores that can streamline and simplify the shopping experience.

While online shopping continues to make steady gains with consumers and has certainly gained additional ground due to Covid, the study concludes that the physical store is not going away, providing those retailers implement ways to keep the in-store shopping experience simple, painless, and seamless.

The consumers polled confirmed that the characteristics that attract them to online shopping are essentially the same they look for in their in-store shopping: ease of shopping, the ability to use mobile devices to shop, and the availability of kiosks to allow them to shop for items that may not be in the physical store.

Today’s consumer has more shopping options than ever. Winning retailers, regardless of their store format, will be those merchants who focus on not just meeting the shopper’s expectations, but on exceeding those expectations.


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FAM Furniture Stories

Walking around High Point Market last week, exhibitors told FAM editor Alex Milstein that traffic was way up, new introductions (if they had any) were well-received, and dealers were ready to buy. But does higher foot traffic mean a better market?

There are many similarities between the mattress and outdoor furniture industries, but there’s one unexpected connection that goes beyond product and can help retailers of both categories be successful.


In Case You Missed It

Nationwide Marketing Group’s new partnership with digital payments innovator Zip gives customers access to a transparent and straightforward four-payment installment option, providing the freedom and flexibility to stretch their funds further. There little to no cost to retailers above current processing fees and easy implementation with their current system, but participating retailers will be paid immediately, as Zip absorbs substantially all the risk for the installment payments. Site on Time is now set up to allow members to process online orders with Zip, and Retailer Web Services (RWS) expects its integration with Zip to be completed later this year.

Article, an online modern furniture company, announces over 45% revenue growth between 2020 and 2021. The company, which has been profitable since 2015, attributes the growth to its expanded catalog of stylish home furnishings, its convenient shopping experience, and its value relative to competitors – all of which will continue to fuel Article’s success in 2022. Aamir Baig, co-founder and CEO of Article, said, “Investments in our fulfillment network, growth of our Vietnam office, and executive hires are among many recent company milestones that support our pursuit to build the easiest way to create a beautiful space. We anticipate the year ahead will be challenging for a number of reasons. Tailwinds created by the pandemic are subsiding and global supply chain disruptions are likely to continue for the immediate term. I’m confident we will continue to capitalize on the opportunity in front of us through the team’s collective determination and expertise.”

mDesign Home Décor, a $275M+ private e-commerce business that designs and manufactures over 11,000 affordable storage, décor and furniture pieces, announced that an assortment of home furniture and organization products will be available at Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), one of the largest home furnishing stores in North America. The partnership marks mDesign’s first-ever availability at a brick-and-mortar retailer. NFM will offer a selection of furniture, soft storage and organization products including drawer storage units, wall mounted shelves and rolling carts.mDesign’s products are currently available at select NFM store locations, including Dallas, TX, Kansas City, KS and Omaha, NE.

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