Furniture Market Shifts Online, New Business Models Emerge

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Furniture is one of the last markets to see a strong industry-wide push towards online shopping. Cheap furniture is one of the most-sought after consumer products, yet also one of the most elusive. Online retailer giants such as WayFair.com, Amazon,  and Overstock.com have now provided access to lower-than-ever before seen furniture prices. Local furniture stores offer little variety, take eons for special orders, severely lack in home-delivery services, and enact obscene markups. In this modern age of online-availability, many people are beginning to ask themselves what value local furniture stores actually provide. It’s great to see your furniture before you buy it, but most local furniture stores don’t even have that much selection. Cheap furniture has been synonymous with low-quality throughout the ages, but now cheap furniture really only means affordable furniture.

Buying Furniture Online

Today, there are few products that can’t be had for a shocking discount by buying through online retailers. Most brands now offer direct to consumer sales through their own websites, and even cheaper shipping alternatives through their seller accounts on sites like Amazon. The sad truth (if you’re a local furniture seller) is that local furniture stores are about to become extinct. What we’re seeing emerge, are a new collective of businesses that specialize in helping consumers with the furniture shopping process—rather than the actual purchase. For instance, there are 10+ major furniture retailers online where the price of any given piece of furniture may be cheaper than on another. To compare the price of a new bedroom set, seeking to get the lowest price, you’d have to search all of those sites, get the prices, account for shipping, and then check availability. This is a burdensome process, and is very overwhelming for most buyers.

What we’re seeing now is the rise of the new ‘middle man’ in the furniture market—among a handful of companies that specialize only in helping buyers find the lowest price. Sure, coupon sites are no new business model, and sites like RetailMeNot have been around since the invention of the internet. What we’re seeing now though, are furniture-specific shopping comparison sites that help sort through marketplace options and aggregate prices. Amazon may have the lowest price on many items, but their shopping experience is woefully unorganized when it comes to furniture. Their entire organizational structure is based on the willingness of sellers to provide accurate descriptions and categories for products, and gets managed by the same departments that manage health supplements. Amazon is still the biggest internet retailer, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. However, their broad-sweeping catalog offers very little personal touch—especially to those looking for a shopping experience when picking out new furniture.

These new business models offering consumers an easier shopping experience in their search for cheap furniture prices—while still buying the best brands—focuses on a type of marketing known as affiliate marketing. For example, directfurnituresets.com is a decent example of one of these types of sites that have emerged. They don’t actually sell you anything, but rather provide you with a well-organized listing of deals on furniture that can be found around the internet. This type of affiliate business model relies on commissions from furniture retailers—often directly from manufacturers—which pay these businesses a commission for every sale that is referred to them. Think of them like new-age salesmen which instead of walking you around the floor of your local furniture store—walk you around the entire internet! The value is clear, and more and more people are finding these types of furniture websites extremely valuable now. It marks the evolution of the marketplace, now harnessing the power of technology to help connect buyers and retailers. Companies such as Direct Furniture Sets are emerging to help usher in a new-type of ‘local’ furniture stores. Probably the single best example of these types of sites is Wayfair.com, which sells ‘A Zillion Things Home’ direct to consumers. They have contracts with manufacturers, low overhead (as far as inventory goes) and are able to help assist the shopping experience.

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