3 Ways Homeware Brands are Rethinking “Stores of the Future”

While the coronavirus pandemic initially had shoppers spending less, there was one thing they were not hesitant to splurge on: homeware. Shoppers had the time to take a hard look at the items they owned and weren’t afraid to make investments in their space. In fact, a recent survey from Made.com revealed that 40% of consumers decided to invest in items and decor for their homes during lockdown. 

With increased demand flooding brands like DesignWithinReach, ABC Carpet & Home, Heals, and Jonathan Adler, teams had to quickly adapt to differentiate their online experiences from competitors. Shoppers may not have been able to go into stores, but they now had greater levels of choice than ever before and were ready to buy. 

So how did homeware brands keep customers interested in their eCommerce sites and stay one step ahead?

Stores of the Future: From the Showroom Floor to Your Living Room

Instead of treating online and offline as separate, leading brands now use virtual shopping technology to bridge the gap between the two, helping to recreate human-driven interactions outside of the confines of a physical store. 

Shopping habits underwent unprecedented changes over the last year, and won’t return to ‘normal’ any time soon. Projections indicate that a total return to physical stores may never happen. ‘Stores of the future’ need to be rethought – for good. 

Here’s how leading homeware brands are bringing the IRL experience to their online stores: 

Virtual consultations 

Purchasing a new mattress, couch, or even set of curtains online can be a nerve-wracking experience. Fortunately, product experts can now connect live with these shoppers using nothing but a smartphone. They can demonstrate products and share personalized recommendations all via text, chat and video. In these 1-on-1 virtual consultations, homeware experts show shoppers products up close and even provide video and images to help them get a sense of how a piece would fit in their home. 

Heals, known worldwide for its expertise, personal service, and in-store experience, initially turned to Hero to bring its centuries of design wisdom to online customers for the first time.

Through text, chat, and video, Heal’s design consultants now guide online customers through their shopping journey from initial curiosity to a completed purchase. Directly from the stores, teams provide personalized recommendations across furniture, accessories, and lighting, highlighting specific details and features. Since launching virtual consultations, Heals has seen a 14x lift in conversions and a 57% increase in average order value. 

Virtual clienteling

Brands today have the chance to develop strong connections with online shoppers. Virtual clienteling empowers homeware product experts to build relationships far after the initial contact with a shopper and gives them the tools they need to keep the conversation going through text, email, and WhatsApp. Homeware experts are tapping into virtual clienteling to recommend products for shoppers undergoing long-term home projects, to stay in touch about restocks and sales, and more. 

For Design Within Reach, building close relationships with online shoppers through virtual clienteling has proven to increase average order values. To ensure DWR’s growing number of online shoppers have access to the same level of service and knowledge as its in-store customers, the digital team turned to Hero in early 2020.

They quickly embraced Hero’s virtual shopping tools, racking up nearly 750 new conversations per week, translating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. And Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2020 yielded a basket size of $20,619.62, placed by an online customer shopping virtually with a DWR product expert. 

One-to-many video

Shoppers are constantly consuming content. Now, homeware brands have the chance to cut through the noise while giving associates a platform to share their expertise in new and creative ways. One-to-many shoppable videos allow product experts to demo products, share stories and provide recommendations in easily digestible formats.

Through these bitesize videos, homeware retailers can use store displays or virtual showrooms as a canvas to bring authenticity to their online experience. Brands like Hay of Design Within Reach are already experimenting with giving product experts this platform for content creation. It has emerged as the most effective and personal way to connect and convert shoppers, fundamentally shifting the e-commerce experience to one that is more human.

The ‘stores of the future’ are happening today.

The stores of the future are more accessible than you might think. More and more brands are turning their online stores into virtual stores. E-commerce may be booming, but shoppers still want human-driven experiences – and this is having a significant impact on the way leading homeware brands are thinking about the future. They have added layers of personalization, authenticity, and creativity to their online stores – and it’s working. 

“Hero helps us bridge the gap between our physical and online showrooms. Customers can connect live with design experts for everything from simple product questions to full-on consultations, giving them the knowledge and confidence they need to make a purchase,” comments Anne Catapano, Head of eCommerce, Jonathan Adler.

Check out our customer stories to discover how others are making online shopping more human.

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About Hero®

Add the “IRL” experience to your online store, with the #1 virtual shopping platform. Headquarted in London and New York. Hero is trusted by brands including Levi’s, Nike, Herman Miller and LVMH.