Home run: how social proof can deliver online homeware sales

In the early days of eCommerce, who could have imagined that shoppers would buy homeware online? Surely people would want to view and touch the real thing before buying high consideration items like furniture, mattresses, rugs and cast-iron roll-top baths?

It turns out around a quarter of UK consumers have bought furniture and household goods online, unseen and un-sat on. And worldwide, online furniture sales are expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 10 per cent between 2019 and 2023, when the market will be worth $289.3 billion.

From the comfort of their own living room, the 2020 homeware buyer has a huge choice online, from high street retailers like John Lewis, Next and M&S and the newer online-only players like Emma. The traditional furniture-buying mould is well and truly disrupted and in the UK alone, some $7.8 billion was spent online on homewares, furniture and decor in 2019. But of course, buying a new bed or a statement mirror will never be as straightforward as clicking on the latest ‘Frozen’ lunchbox or a pack of replacement batteries. Marketing and selling homewares brings a special set of challenges, for retailers and customers. 

Many people still want to feel the fabric, sit on the sofa, lie on the bed and be sure it’s going to be suitable before they place their order.  Furniture and decorative items can be big, bulky or heavy – often all three at once – and, although most of the online stores have a replacement or return policy,  items are comparatively expensive to ship, hard to handle and tricky to manoeuvre into place in the home. There’s also the practical difficulty of returns – you can hardly drop off your unwanted king-size bed at your local newsagent for collection. And not only do retailers want to avoid the financial costs of returns but also the risk of damage and degradation to those items in transit.

Making the wrong decision carries costs for both consumers and homewares retailers – especially those selling online-only. It’s why retailers want to do all that they can to deliver a great customer journey and to make their shoppers confident that they’ve made the right choice. 

Using social proof messages throughout the journey can help overcome these concerns. Acting like a store associate, social proof messaging surfaces real-time product information and helps to engage the consumer, answer questions and reinforce why the item is right. It reassures other shoppers by indicating that other people have also viewed it, have rated the piece, and that other people have purchased the item of furniture online.

One of the trickier aspects of buying homeware online is that it can be hard to visualise what it might look like in your own home. Unlike a physical showroom, where furniture is usually staged and accessorised in room sets, items sold online are often pictured on their own. Social proof supports sales by reflecting peer behaviour. It displays evidence that other buyers are pleased with their homeware purchase, that it fits into their home and lifestyle. It gives the purchaser confidence that they won’t be making an expensive mistake.

Customers in the market for, say, a new bathroom suite or kitchen units can be overwhelmed by all the choices available. Social proof messages that point out best sellers or trending styles can guide them to a short list. Further messages sharing rich product information can help customers narrow down their choices and encourage them to make a final decision to purchase. Very, JD Williams, Littlewoods and Matalan are leading the UK retailers that already put social proof messaging to work in this way for their homeware ranges. And, if you needed proof of its effectiveness for selling tricky, bulky items, dedicated beds retailer Bensons for Beds saw a 3 per cent conversion rate uplift using our messages. Similarly, Victorian Plumbing tracked a 2.4% conversion rate uplift with Taggstar.

Ultimately, social proof supports homeware retailers with the reinforcement that ‘it’s OK to make big purchases online’. It assures buyers that this is a normal, legitimate, trusted way to buy large key pieces for their home. And along with that come all the other benefits of social proof messaging – greater customer engagement, more informed buyers who make better decisions, which in turn lifts conversions, sales and customer satisfaction for the retailer. 

To find out more about using Taggstar to support your homeware sales, contact us today.

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